Primed for Longevity
Family-owned Mercury Paint covers clients’ needs for over 70 years with durable, high-performance products
Few companies can say their products are prominently displayed across one of the world’s largest, most vibrant cities. But that is exactly the case with Mercury Paint Corporation, New York’s largest independent paint manufacturer. The Brooklyn-based firm has covered tens of millions of square feet of space in the Big Apple with its broad range of paints and specialty coatings, including commercial and residential structures, educational institutions, hospitals and hotels, industrial facilities and municipal buildings. These durable, high-performance products are also seen on most of New York City’s bridges and other transit infrastructure.
Producing and selling over 1.5 million gallons of paint annually, Mercury Paint is well-known for its fast turnaround times and custom solutions for virtually any application—from heavy-duty industrial maintenance coatings to fine-quality architectural finishes.
Mercury Paint’s products are visible on everything from scaffolds and parking lots to iconic landmarks such as the Cyclone roller coaster and Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. Customized formulas, like the temporary blue pavement paint used to guide runners in the annual TCS New York City Marathon, are another specialty. Other signature projects include the historic Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, a 44-story luxury apartment complex called The Max in Manhattan, a 21-story high-rise on Roosevelt Island’s nine-building Riverwalk rental complex, and The Shed, a striking new arts center housed in The Bloomberg Building in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards development.
The diverse list of product applications goes on and on, supporting the fact that Mercury Paint is indeed a trusted, go-to coatings manufacturer and distributor for a broad client base. A closer look at the company’s culture and evolution reveals a special blend of adaptability and strategic expansion, which has enabled the family-owned business to remain top of mind with customers for generations.
The Family Connection
Joseph Berman and his sons, Ben and Daniel, established Mercury Paint in 1947, just two years after World War II ended. Suburbanization and increased port activity had jumpstarted the economic vitality of New York, making it an opportune time to start a business guided by the founders’ shared commitment to quality and exceptional customer service. To this day, these key values are paramount in fueling the firm’s growth and success.
In the late 1980s, the next generation of leadership joined the ranks—Jeff Berman and Fred Tichner, currently President and Vice President, respectively. Both men were recruited by Daniel, who is Jeff’s father and Fred’s father-in-law. Fred’s son, Wyatt, is also a member of the company and represents the fourth generation in the family business.
Mercury Paint’s impressive longevity is remarkable, especially considering that roughly 12% of family-owned businesses remain viable in the third generation of operation and just 3% make the transition to the fourth generation, according to the Conway Center for Family Business.
For Mercury Paint, the family connection has made it a more steadfast and team-oriented operation, as well as nimble and strategic in weathering tough economic downturns, volatile market shifts and various other obstacles. Over the last three decades the current leadership has witnessed the New York City marketplace transition from having 60 independent paint manufacturers to just three—including Mercury Paint. According to Fred, these other businesses exited the industry for various reasons, including acquisitions by larger companies or their inability to remain environmentally compliant.
Jeff adds, “We have repeatedly adapted and restructured our business model to accommodate the changing times, both past and present. With the industry consolidation, we have distinguished ourselves from the large, national brands dominating the market by providing quick turnaround times and products that offer long-term durability and performance.”
Multiple acquisitions have also enabled the business to maintain a steady foothold in the competitive coatings industry. Jeff shares, “In the last decade our company has purchased Brooklyn-based Pyramid Paint Products, Bronx-based Amsterdam Color Works and Yonkers-based Sapolin Paints. We also acquired New Jersey-based National Paint Industries about two years ago, which serves about 400 independent paint and hardware stores.”
In recent years, Mercury Paint executed an exclusive, long-term manufacturing and distribution agreement with PPG Paints, the world’s largest coatings manufacturer in terms of sales as reported by Paint & Coatings Industry magazine last year. This partnership has been key in boosting brand awareness for Mercury Paint.
“Although we are a recognized local manufacturer, in the past we found it difficult to be specified by the internationally recognized architects who automatically default to national brand manufacturers such as PPG,” Jeff explains. “We have enhanced our company’s reputation through our relationship with PPG Paints, which has given us exclusive distribution rights in the New York City, Long Island and Westchester County areas. This makes us more competitive and has allowed us to do more high-profile projects where their products are specified.”
“We can produce more than 7,500 gallons a day and offer next-day delivery on orders, including specialized small-batch products, which is really our niche.” Jeff Berman, President, Mercury Paint Corporation
High-Level Operations and Service
Today, there are six main brands sold through the business: Mercury Paint, PPG, National Paint, Amsterdam Color Works, Talon Paint and Sapolin. Mercury Paint’s reach is broadened further through partnerships with a host of independent retailers across New York City, which sell its private-label Harco, General Coatings and Sampson Coatings brands.
The company operates out of two locations. Its headquarters in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn encompasses more than 80,000 square feet of space and contains a flagship distribution store, a manufacturing plant and a wholesale distribution warehouse. It also has a 10,000-square-foot distribution facility and outlet in the Bronx.
Mercury Paint’s leadership takes pride in having the facilities, manpower and procedures in place to provide swift turnaround times on customer orders—emblematic of the company’s namesake, Mercury, the mythical Roman god of speed.
“We can produce more than 7,500 gallons a day,” Jeff confirms, “and offer next-day delivery on orders, including specialized small-batch products, which is really our niche. With this approach, we have captured additional market share among municipal and private-sector contractor customers.”
“We take paint to a whole new level,” Fred adds. “We custom-design, formulate and manufacture coatings for virtually every application imaginable, including paint that can withstand temperatures of over 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and even photoluminescent paint that will glow in the dark.”
Another hallmark of the company is its environmentally friendly product line, which is designed to meet and exceed rigorous industry standards. “We have an in-house program called Go Green NY, which is our companywide commitment to reducing the impact of our products on the environment. All of our coatings meet the most stringent volatile organic compound (VOC) limit regulations and are free from lead, mercury and other heavy metal hazards,” Jeff says.
He notes that Mercury Paint has become a recognized leader in the development and manufacture of sustainable products that preserve and protect the environment. “We are actually in the process of formulating and developing products that are compliant with the future 2021 VOC regulations in New York state,” he says. “This is just one example of how we strive to stay ahead of the curve in our industry.”
The Value of a Loyal, Dedicated Team
Mercury Paint’s growth and evolution are also dependent on attracting and retaining high-quality talent. When Jeff and Fred first joined the business, there were just 30 employees. Now, there are more than 100 loyal and dedicated team members, many of whom have been with the company for decades.
“Most of the people working here have been with us 10, 20, 30 years or longer. We really have a one-of-a-kind company,” Fred says. Jeff agrees, adding, “We’re like a family here. We’ve been through the Great Recession, Hurricane Sandy, widespread blackouts that shut down our local and surrounding communities, and now we’re going through the coronavirus pandemic—and most of our employees have stayed with us. It says something about the loyalty of our team members and their willingness to work through difficult times together.”
Mercury Paint also has a great relationship with Teamsters Local #202, a local affiliate of one of America’s largest, most diverse unions. Jeff proudly notes that all of the company’s products are manufactured by Teamsters Local #202 employees.
“We are a New York-based company,” Jeff emphasizes. “We make it a priority to hire people from our local community. We don’t just contribute to the local economy—we provide vital jobs that support families and people’s livelihoods.”
Fred adds, “We also offer jobs to people who might have a tough time getting hired elsewhere.” For years, Mercury Paint has worked with The Doe Fund, a New York nonprofit organization, to provide employment for formerly homeless individuals. The company even extends ‘second-chance’ opportunities to people who have been previously incarcerated, providing them with the support and confidence necessary to become productive members of society.
This spirit of generosity goes even further, with Mercury Paint also making regular financial contributions to The Doe Fund to advance its mission of breaking the devastating cycles of homelessness, addiction and criminal recidivism. Other important charitable causes include the American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Red Cross.
“Finding ways to give back to others is extremely important to our team,” Jeff says. “It’s just part of who we are.”
Vision for the Future
With the support of its talented and dedicated workforce, Mercury Paint aims to continue growing through strategic acquisitions and partnerships and maintain its position as New York’s largest independent paint manufacturer.
“We have been family-owned and operated since our inception in 1947, evolving over the years by being nimble and strategic in our operations and growth,” Jeff states. “Through it all we have retained our foundational commitment to quality and customer service, strengthening our position as a leader in the coatings industry by building relationships with our clients, trade partners and the community at large.”
He concludes, “We’re not just a store or reseller—we’re a highly experienced manufacturer and distributor that specializes in formulating and creating products for specific applications. Ultimately, it is our vision to continue providing superior products that are innovative, environmentally friendly and competitively priced to meet the needs of our customers for generations to come.”