Chip Meade Leads Family-Owned Anchor Paint

Contributing Writer

PAINTING THE REGION: Chip Meade, CEO of Tulsa-based Anchor Paint company, works hard to keep his company at the fore-front of painting manufacturers.

D. J. MORROW for GTR Newspapers

Spring’s renewal presents a perfect time to refresh your home and your home’s style, and one of the easiest ways to accomplish that is with a fresh coat of paint. But did you know you could do it with paint made in your own “backyard”?

Tulsa has long been known to be home to industries such as energy and aerospace. But few residents may know the city is also home to the largest paint manufacturer in this region—Anchor Paint.

Begun in 1962, this three-generation family business has a firm grip on the paint industry—whipping out an average 5,000 gallons of paint a day.

“A lot of people don’t realize we make the paint right here in Tulsa,” says CEO Chip Meade.

The company was formed by Meade’s mother, Wanda Fowler, her husband, Emerson Fowler and his brother, Roy. The trio had been employees of Allied Paint until it was sold to H.K. Porter Co. Wanda, who was Allied’s controller, was invited to stay. The brothers, who were chemists, didn’t get an invitation. So all three resigned and struck out on their own, setting up a manufacturing plant to make their own premium lines of paint and coatings. They chose the name “Anchor” for two reasons. The painting term “Anchor” refers to the ability of the coating to stick or “anchor” itself to the surface. The second reason is because customers often paid their bills alphabetically and they wanted to be at the head of the list and high in the phone book.

Some 43 years later, the basics of making paint are still the same, Meade says, walking through the plant at 6707 E. 14th St.
“Making paint is a lot like making a cake. It requires a big bowl, along with a recipe and main ingredients. And, like a cake, it is those little ‘extras’ that make it different at the end—those things change the color, the usage, the viscosity, the application.”

And there is a definite difference in quality across paint lines.

“Paint isn’t paint isn’t paint,” says Meade. “We’ve had our paint compared to the premium national brands in blind lab tests and we are not surprised that Anchor is on equal or better footing.”

Anchor Paint manufactures a full array of industrial, architectural and specialty paints for residential and commercial clients. You can walk up to a counter at their manufacturing facility and buy a gallon of paint, or purchase it at one of their three local retail stores or stores in Denver, Little Rock and Oklahoma City. Anchor Paint is also carried by a number of distributors including Sutherlands, Pixley Lumber in Claremore, Tahlequah Lumber and M & M Lumber.

“Perhaps one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the industry is in the range of colors being used by the homeowner,” Meade says. “It’s all customized for the individual customer. We can match the color of the paint to your company’s logo, a piece of your furniture upholstery, just about anything you want and we do that everyday.”

An exciting new service the company will be offering customers in the near future is the ability to electronically represent the interior or exterior of a home or business so a customer can virtually paint the color on their wall before they actually apply it.

“We will be able to take a digital picture of a client’s home or business and change the colors of the interior walls or exterior trim to match a specific color they have in mind so they can see how it might look,” said Meade’s son, Justin, the third generation to join the business. “We’ll also be able to match any other manufacturer’s or designer’s color using this same tool and then formulate using our own paint. Another new option is the color harmony program that allows the user to virtually group colors together and show what types of colors compliment and contrast each other ”

Both father and son warn that there are many factors that affect how a paint color looks when applied such as lighting, furniture, application type, etc.

With paint being sold in so many retail establishments these days, what sets Anchor apart?

“Along with the high quality of our paint, our experience and expertise set us apart from our competitors,” says Meade. “We do our own research and development and we have extensive training for our employees.”

“Put simply, our employees know paint. This isn’t a part-time job for them and they don’t float over to work in tools one day and house wares the next. They make and sell paint.”

Meade says the low turnover and careful selection of employees helps keep knowledge high in the company.

“It is rare for an employee to leave and when we do hire we take many steps to be sure the person will be a good fit for the company and that the company will be a good fit for the new employee.”

“You might say we want the right people on the “bus” and in the right seat. But it is equally important that the “bus” be going to the right place for the employee,” Meade says. “We want them to become part of the Anchor family and take an active role in the success of the company. For that to happen, you must have the right ‘fit’.”

Meade credited the company’s president, Chuck Taylor, with a lot of the workforce changes made under his leadership.

“Chuck has brought a lot to the table here and helped us focus on hiring smarter. From the production line to the counter, we seek talented people with good attitudes and foster that continuously.”

As one walks through the offices and plant, one can see evidence of the company philosophy through motivating notes and cartoons which Meade says change daily.

“Our employees are the key to our success, no doubt. Our business is built on relationships and to do that well, you have to have the right people in place.”

“We do.”

Although the business is somewhat cyclical, Meade says they have never had a layoff.

“In some ways we are like a farm. We ‘make hay while the sun shines’ meaning from March to October we are ‘planting and harvesting’ as consumers and contractors gear up home building and improvement.

“The best times of the year to paint outdoors are April, May and June and then September and October,” Meade says. “You don’t want it too hot or too cold.”

Meade stressed the importance of weather and says one mistake many do-it-yourselfers make is not to look at the extended forecast.

“Paint is made to perform at its best when the temperature is 77 degrees and the humidity is 55 percent. Of course, you can get away with other variations, anywhere between 55 and 90 degrees. But you don’t want it raining the day after you’ve painted.”

With his son working by his side, Meade is optimistic for Anchor’s future. The company employs approximately 100 people overall with about 50 in Tulsa.

“We’re a lean manufacturing machine,” said Meade. “We compare ourselves to others all the time and we operate better than most.”

In addition to the manufacturing plant on 14th Street east of Sheridan Road, where people can buy paint, the company has retail outlets in East Pointe Shopping Center at 71st and Mingo Road, 401 East Second St. in Owasso and 817 North 15th St (71st St. and HWY 51) in Broken Arrow.

Updated 03-29-2005

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