From the Beloved Baltimore Home Improvement Company, Nueslein Painting and Contracting, LTD.
On a hot sunny morning in July, I had a chance to sit down and chat with Edward Nueslein Jr., and his son, Edward Nueslein, III, on the porch of their family home in Lutherville, MD. These two men are the current proprietors of Nueslein Painting and Contracting, LTD.
The business originated in 1946, founded by Ed Nueslein, Sr., a former bookkeeper turned tradesman. In 1988, Ed Nueslein Jr. inherited the company from his father and in 1999, Ed Jr.’s son, Ed Nueslein III, joined forces in the family business. This is their story–their past, their present, and a glimpse into their future.
Ever so often during our conversation, a little blonde haired beauty named Harper Nueslein (six years old), pops out on their back porch from her air-conditioned activity to check on her father and grandfather. She anxious waits for adult availability to take her on a walking trail behind the property that leads to a large patch of blackberries and raspberries. It’s a brief glimpse at perhaps the next rising Nueslein entrepreneur.
Since its conception, Nueslein Painting and Contracting, LTD. has been thriving solely by word of mouth marketing. They proudly yet humbly hold an extensive roster of loyal clients who year after year employ their services and refer them to their neighbors and friends. Although remaining an important fixture in the foundation of NP&C, this coming year, Ed Jr. will honorably pass the torch of “boss” over to his son, Ed III. Ed III hopes to both continue the legacy of precision and care that his father and grandfather fostered in their business models as well as help the company blossom and grow.
One of his primary initiatives is to take NP&C online to all their loyal clients and potential new ones through several forms of media – both informative and interactive. Ed hopes that a new website, Facebook page, and Instagram account for NP&C will at the very least “help better explain who we are before we even come out to give an estimate.”
This is a company that strives to be friendly and warm, while continuing to be the utmost professional, honest and direct with their clients. They hope to educate and inspire their customers while helping them amplify or simplify through their home renovation projects.
I began by asking them to recite the past, starting at the very beginning, in 1946, when Ed Nueslein Sr. first picked up a brush.
Q: Tell me about the origins of Nueslein Painting and Contracting. What was the client demographic and types of labor? Who was doing the work and how did they evolve into that position?
Ed III (Ed Nueslein III): “My grandfather started the company, [turning to his father…] and what did he do before that, Dad…? Oh right, he worked as a bookkeeper for Esskay Meats before WWI. Then after returning from service in the U.S. Navy, from what I understand, he took classes in Home Improvements and learned the business.”
Ed Jr. (Ed Nueslein Jr.): “He started painting in 1946.”
Ed III: “We don’t recall his MHIC number, but we do know he was one of the early ones.” [There are currently thousands of MHIC licensed contractors in Maryland.] “And Dad, didn’t you tell me he started doing jobs for free at first?”
Ed Jr.: “Yes. He lived on Hoffman Street in East Baltimore–that was the community where he lived and worked.”
Ed III: “And before he could afford a work truck, he had to carry all of his equipment to each job. It was just him. Ladders, stages, pulleys, block and tackles–all of it–to each two-story brick home or store front. I think we have saved some of that old equipment.”
Ed Jr.: “I started working for him when I was about Harper’s age [Harper is Ed’s daughter, and Ed Jr.’s granddaughter, age 6], and if I could run back to the house and get him a brush, putty knife, or hammer…I was worthwhile keeping. He was a very strict German man, so if I could do anything to save him a step, I was worth a meal that evening. He rented an old garage from Mr. Otto and every day I came home from grade school I had to stop by there to see if anything needed to be done–perhaps wood primed for the next day’s building project.
But the smartest thing my father ever did was move to Lutherville. You see, he had an old Studebaker, and every Sunday after church he offered to drive Mr. and Mrs. Myers, an elderly couple from their congregation, out to Lutherville to visit with their daughter. Frankly, he didn’t want to just sit in her home during their visits and cramp their style, so he would just drive around the neighborhood and explore. One on of those explorations he found a little piece of land with horses on it. It was a partial piece of a large property, and he purchased the pasture for three thousand dollars, and that would be where he built our home. And once we moved there my father would buy ten thousand blotters promoting his business and have me and my brother disperse them all over the county–he would drop us off in Rodgers Forge, Orchard Hills, and other places in the area.
He retired in 1988, at age 70. Ed [points to his son] had just started going to Calvert Hall.”
Ed III: “I started working full-time for my dad in the late nineties after graduating Towson University, though I worked during college 2 or 3 days a week depending upon my course load, as well.”
Q: Who is Nueslein Painting and Contracting LTD now?
Ed III: “We are a boutique interior and exterior painting and contracting company catering mostly to the residential homeowner, but we do a bit of light commercial work, too. We take pride in the fact that there has always been a Nueslein on the job every day and that way we keep an eye on everything that is going on to the best of our abilities. In other words, the person who comes out to give you an estimate is the person who helps you with paint selection, lays out drops clothes, puts up ladders and starts doing the work. That Nueslein is there for the customer and any questions or concerns they might have along the way. Even as we continue to grow, every job will always involve us being there at the most critical times.”
Q: For the most part, for many years, the business existed and thrived by word of mouth marketing. That is quite a testament to your personal touch and an honor to be able to stay in business for as long as you have simply by those means. And after reading through hundreds of client testimonials, I see how that is possible with many clients returning to you all year after year and referring you to their neighbors and friends. What does that mean to you all?
Ed III: “It’s great. I have a smile on my face when I hear that. I think my father takes great pride in that as well considering he had saved every handwritten letter from our clients going back to 1989 (when he took over the company). And we continue to do so, not for our egos but as a reminder of why we do what we do.”
You all have certainly made a lot of Baltimore families very happy.
Ed III: “We are only human, but you try to do the best job you can every day. If we ever notice a mistake, we always come back and make sure it is taken care of, and I think people respond to that.”
I noticed in reading through all your client testimonials that you [Ed III] have inherited your meticulous nature and attention to detail from your Dad. A number of the letters point to the fact that people were not only moved by your craftsmanship of their particular project, but by all the small things you did in addition to the commissioned work.
Ed III: “One thing I always noticed about my father is that he got to the job earlier than everyone else. He would grab the newspaper from the sidewalk and take it up to the front door or at the end of the day, if the family still wasn’t home and the trash had been removed, he would return the can up to the house. The small things.
In essence, we are trying to treat their home as if it were our own as long as we are there – that is something I hope to continue.”
Q: What are the primary jobs of NP&C? And what are some other services you all can perform relative to other contractors?
Ed III: “For the most part, we are a full-service general contractor, but our expertise lies in interior and exterior residential painting – that is the way it has always been. We handle most smaller scale renovation projects. As opposed to a potential client doing a google search and sifting through thousands of contractors they need to do a single job, which is like looking for a color in a fandex, we can do it for them! So say for example a customer would like to put up shelving in their garage, and they would rather keep their weekend open or just not bother tackling the job themselves, we can do that with the relationships we have with our many trade associates. Or, say someone says, ‘I want a new bathroom.’ That involves at the very least three different trades, maybe four or five – so we serve as the general contractor overseeing that project for the family. We do all the scheduling, make sure all supplies are on the job before the work has begun and that all the contractors are lined up so that folks will be getting the best product they can get. We are also happy to help guide folks in picking out fixtures and furnishings, so it is a group effort.
We have had long standing relationships with our trade associates, some for multiple decades, but we are also meeting new trade associates every day to build out our capabilities and fulfill certain roles. We are not here to reinvent the wheel, just make it smoother.”
Q: Because most of the business world is transitioning to allow customers to engage with businesses in many ways (face to face, phone, email, websites, mobile, social media) and you are in the process of doing the same, what do you hope this innovation will bring to the company and your customers?
Ed III: “Well that is the way everything is going so I figured we better jump on board now! Really, I just hope that the website, Facebook page and Instagram help us better explain who we are before we even come out to give an estimate. I also hope it contributes to broadening our referral network and make it easier for our clients to introduce us to their friends. Not to mention for communication purposes, trade associates and customers alike, we are all connecting virtually. Don’t get me wrong though–face-to-face and telephone communication is still the most important means of communication to our company. That was impressed upon me by my father.”
Ed Jr.: “Communication is really important. People want to be sure that their job is on your mind and if you are constantly calling them ahead of time to set up arrival times, notifying them of supply shipments, etc., they will be thankful for that. Their job is important to them and when you call them with updates you are letting them know it is important to you too.”
And that is certainly becoming a lost art of in this day and age of contractors scheduling arrivals times between 8-12 and 1-4 etc. They may get to you, they may not….
Ed Jr.: “We need the truck on the road every day. We have one, not thirty. We only have eight hours every day to make a living – so we have to have the truck on the road everyday.”
Q: Thank you all for chatting with me today, gentlemen of NP&C! Lastly, what is the future for Nueslein Painting and Contracting, LTD.?
Ed III: “In the immediate future, I will be taking on a more expanded role in the footsteps of my father. I hope to keep developing systems and bring a few more individuals on staff.”
(Ed Jr. gets a business call and walks away temporarily.)
Ed III: “And we are still working on a Saturday morning!” He smiles big. “I am going to see where I can grow with the company – enhancing back office systems and positions, and expanding our footprint a bit. But the one thing I do not want to lose in that is putting out a product that our customers are really happy with.”
Ed Jr. reemerges from his phone call, and wraps up our conversation that morning with some sincere comments about his son and the future of the business, their legacy and his work over the years.
“I enjoy every minute of the day,” Ed Jr., says.
He then reminisces, saying that every morning he was excited to get in the truck and head off to a hard day’s work making families in and around Baltimore happier in their homes. And, at the end of the day, that he was equally as happy after climbing tall ladders in the scorching Baltimore heat with paint chips falling down his back to hop back in that truck, to head home to his family.
And, with that, both Ed’s head back inside heeding the request of their most important client, Harper Nueslein, asking the men to help her put together a jigsaw puzzle, play an intense game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, and build a fort out of pillows and blankets.
— Story by Kat Jacobs