They’ve gone through thousands of gallons of paint
Some people retire and take it easy. They might play golf, travel or babysit the grandkids.
Not many start working a hard, physical job. Or start up their own business.
Steve Frederickson and Gary Armon are not your average retirees.
Both men recently retired from the Blue Earth Area School District. Frederickson was a teacher and Armon a school counselor.
Now, they are painters. Their company, F & A Painting of Blue Earth, LLC, keeps both men very busy.
Painting is not something new for either man. Both have been painting most of their lives.
In fact, both started their painting careers when they were in the eighth grade.
“I started when I was in eighth grade in 1968, working for my older brother,” Frederickson says. “He was doing it during the summer to help pay for college.”
Armon also started in eighth grade, working for his uncle, Ted Armon, who had started Armon Decorating.
“He had two crews out painting,” Armon recalls. “My first summer all I did was scrape houses. They finally let me do some staining on kitchen cabinets.”
Both men continued painting through high school, college – even during grad school. They both did painting every summer, some weekends and a lot of holiday vacation periods.
Then, in 1977, Frederickson and his wife, Sue, moved to Blue Earth, where Frederickson and Armon first met.
“Dick Maher, David Sparks and I had started a company called MAS Construction,” Armon says. “We were all teachers at the time. We did a lot of shingling and painting during the summers.”
Frederickson joined the crew in 1979. Then in the mid-1980s, MAS Construction disbanded.
Both men went back to painting on their own.
“I kind of quit it for a while in the late 1980s,” Armon remembers. “But, Steve kept right on with it.”
Frederickson says he stayed with it the next 15 years. Sometimes he had help with the work, including his own son, Jay.
Frederickson and Armon continued to talk about getting back together, and forming a painting company.
In 2006, the talk turned into reality and F & A Painting was born.
“We decided on F & A for the name because Steve was more active in the painting business than I was, so I?let him have his name first,” Armon says with a smile. “Maybe someday we will switch to A & F Painting.”
Frederickson jokes that they didn’t want to use A & F because it might be confused with Abercrombie and Fitch.
“Actually we did have a little trouble with the F & A Painting name,” Armon says. “Turns out there already was an F & A Painting in the Twin Cities area. Who would have thought it.”
So, they made their “official name” F & A Painting of Blue Earth, LLC.
For the past five years, Armon and Frederickson have been painting together every summer and many weekends and school vacation periods.
“We have had some help,” Frederickson says. “Steve Fernholz has worked with us, some high school students, and my son Jay.”
But, now that they have gone full time, it is mainly just the two of them.
“We still have Jay help us out, painting or hauling,” the two admit. “We call him ‘Horse,’ because he is so strong.”
Frederickson says one of the reasons he decided to retire early from teaching was knowing that their painting business was waiting for him.
“We decided we would go into this full time,” he says. “So far it has been successful.”
The two say they have never lacked for work. They get calls all the time, from Blue Earth, Winnebago, even Fairmont. They have never advertised, until this week in the Register.
“There just are not that many painting crews around anymore,” Frederickson says. “I think we can stay busy. We are running an ad to promote our interior painting work.”
Before retiring they mainly did exterior painting during the warmer months of the year. Now that they are full time painters, they have started doing a lot more interior work.
“We have painted many houses, barns, corn cribs and sheds,” Frederickson says. “We did interior work as well, just not so much.”
Now they have been busy all fall and winter with interior painting.
“We will give quotes for a full complete job, or an hourly rate, whatever the customer wants,” Armon says.
And, the two always advise people to go with a good quality paint.
“Most people realize they are better off with the good paint and don’t want to go cheap,” he says. “In the long run they are better off, because it can go on with one coat, and take less time. Plus, if it is an exterior paint, the quality paint will last for many years.”
Both men say they love to paint. They figure that between them they have gone through thousands of gallons of paint.
“It is also a real people business,” says Armon. “It is doing something to help out our customers.”
The two say there is a real tangible satisfaction that results from their work.
“There was satisfaction in teaching, too,” says Frederickson. “But that was more seeing long range results, seeing students do well later on. This is more immediate. We finish a job and we can see the results, see that we have improved something and made it look a lot better.”
The two say they plan on painting as long as they can, at least for five more years.
“I think I?will keep doing it until they put me in St. Luke’s,” Frederickson jokes.
Even then the two would probably keep busy repainting their rooms at the Blue Earth nursing home.