Small Biz Saturday: Tribble Painting Company makes changes for post-COVID-19 shutdown painting

Tribble Painting Company primarily serves the Ann Arbor-Plymouth-Canton area. (Tribble Painting Company, Inc.)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Operating since 1992, Tribble Painting Company has become synonymous with exterior and interior painting in the Ann Arbor area.

According to owner Todd Tribble, who started painting in 1985, the company has completed over 10,000 paint jobs around Ann Arbor, Plymouth and Canton over the past 30 years.

For Tribble, his love of painting came after working on the outside of a family friend’s home when he was 18. He said he didn’t know much about painting at the time but liked the client interaction, the hands-on aspect of the industry and being able to see results at the end of the day.

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Usually, the painting company completes around 500 jobs a year but that has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tribble said that about 40% to 45% of estimates for the company take place between March and May, which was exactly when the COVID-19 shutdown occurred. It was also when Tribble Painting Company started to schedule work for the season.

“It had a severe impact on us,” said Tribble, stating that in the painting industry, business that is lost isn’t made up later in the year.

The company does both exterior and interior painting. (Tribble Painting Company, Inc.)

According to Tribble, responses from clients have been mixed because of the pandemic. Some customers canceled or postponed estimates and jobs, while others have been excited to start new projects.

“But we’ve seen everything from A to Z,” Tribble said. “We’ve had people cancel exterior estimates -- meaning that they didn’t even want us walking around the outside of their house by ourselves -- we’ve had interior clients wanting us to start their projects as soon as we could after the order was lifted, and everything in between.”

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A drop in estimates wasn’t the only effect of the pandemic. Tribble wasn’t able to hire as many seasonal workers as he typically would and had to lay-off employees.

Luckily for Tribble Painting Company, there is now a pent up demand for painting. With more people working from home or unemployed, they are noticing changes they want to make to their spaces while they can.

The surge in demand has helped Tribble bring back his all 20 of his employees, nevertheless, some changes had to be made to how the painting company would work on jobs.

Company vans now have portable sinks for workers to wash their hands before and after every job. Each employee has their own set of tools and any shared tools go into a bucket to signal that they need to be sanitized. Employees at Tribble Painting Company wear masks, have a health check each morning and are provided more gloves and sanitizers for cleaning high contact surfaces.

Workers on the Tribble Team at Tribble Painting Company. (Tribble Painting Company, Inc.)

The company has had to re-think how employees interact and move, which might slow down some painting jobs. According to Tribble, the painting company doesn’t want to send large groups of workers into client homes.

“We are thinking about the crew sizes we’re sending into a home in a different way than we used to. We used to like to be really efficient for people. We could come in and get it [painting] done really quickly. We’d send in more people. We’re in-and-out of your hair, “ said Tribble. “But now we have to temper that, or balance that, with what impact we are having by bringing new people into your home.”

Previously, a large team could complete a painting job quickly, but smaller, socially distant teams mean slower completion times.

Overall, Tribble feels fortunate. Current customers offered to give large deposits during the shutdown to make sure the company could pay its bills and it has seen an influx of new customers.

“I feel very fortunate to live in the community that we do live in. We’ve always tried to be an active part of the community and I feel like people are really reaching out to us and wanting to support us because we’re local,” said Tribble.

Tribble Painting Company is at 7885 Jackson Rd.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.