Scaling back after 25 years of interior and exterior house painting in Suffield, Jerry Hunihan had a message for town residents. “My wife Lee and I thank you for the business. Suffield is an awesome town, a great town for our two sons growing up, and was very good to us.”
Hunihan, who now lives in Stuart, Florida, moved away about 10 years ago. He still drives back each summer, catering to long-time customers and what he calls “strong referrals.” He admitted that as he ages, he can no longer paint the exteriors of the two- and three-story Main Street homes which were once his staple.
“Along with my partner Billy – who was indispensable – we painted two to three dozen homes on Main Street,” he said. “And there were churches like Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s. We were very, very fussy, and from the get-go, we wanted to be the best painters in town.” About 80% of his business came from Suffield and surrounding towns with the remainder coming from West Hartford, due to referrals.
From Sandy Hook to Florida
Hunihan grew up in Sandy Hook, Conn., and started painting there after high school in 1980. He traveled to Miami, where relatives lived, to continue painting in the winter. Soon he opened a painting and waterproofing business in nearby Hollywood. His specialty was waterproofing stucco building exteriors, although his primary work was repainting condominiums. There he learned the importance of customer service and also developed the skill of power washing for proper paint preparation.
How he landed in Suffield
Hunihan sold his business in Florida when he and his wife Lee decided to move north again. Lee manages their business office. Searching the Hartford Courant classifieds in 1996, she found and they bought a small farm on Phelps Road. Six years later they moved to Hill Street.
He launched his Suffield painting business in 1998. “The exteriors of many homes on Main Street were plagued with peeling paint,” he said. “Homeowners complained that paint jobs didn’t last for more than three or four years.”
Improper preparation was the problem. ”Cleaning wasn’t vigorous enough,” he said. “The secret to getting 10 to 15 years of life out of an exterior paint job is careful power washing to strip away poorly adhering paint without damaging the wood.”
Hunihan said that while referrals played a large part in his success, he also advertised in The Suffield Observer – and nowhere else – since the paper’s inception.
As our interview ended, he repeated what he had said numerous times throughout, “Lee and I are so grateful to the good people of Suffield for our success.”