The Color of Commitment

BY KIRA PERDUE | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

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Frank Leigh learned the value of hard work at a young age by laboring in relatives’ tobacco fields. Thirty years ago, after working under a master painter for several years, he decided to go out on his own. As a young businessman he founded Frank Leigh Painting & Compa­ny, Inc., specializing in high-end painting and restoration services for businesses and homeowners. Today, the company exempli­fies his commitment to a job well done and has grown from a single-person enterprise to one that employs more than 40 highly skilled tradesmen.

Eligible employees get full benefits, including 401(k) matching, health care and paid vacation. Many have been working for Leigh for years. Lu Betti, who started as a bookkeeper and moved up the ladder, has been with him for over 17 years. She says that in addition to the compensation pack­age, she loves the fact that Leigh really cares and shows appreciation to his employees, even if it’s a simple “thank you.”

In fact, Leigh credits his employees with his current success. “You are only as good as the people you center your business around. When people point to me as a successful entrepreneur and ask me, ‘How do you do it?’ I tell them it’s because of the people who work with me.”

The result is a reputation for quality that is well known in the Lowcountry and beyond. The company’s work has been fea­tured in national publications, including Ar­chitectural Digest and Southern Living, and its teams can be seen hard at work in some of the Charleston area’s finest homes on Ki­awah Island, Seabrook Island, Wild Dunes, Daniel Island and historic Charleston.

With projects ranging in size from $100 to $300,000 or more, there is no “average” job for the Frank Leigh Painting team. “We make quality and customer service our focus, not the size of the job,” says Leigh.

“We are currently doing a 13,500-square­foot home with about 30 different finishes, for example. But we also have clients who only want their front door painted.”

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Leigh says Charleston homeowners need to consider their next paint job now, since it’s critical to keep Lowcountry homes well maintained. “With our high humidity and many homes with an eastern and western exposure, we are particularly vulnerable to fading, cracking and peeling. We recom­mend having a highly qualified painting contractor inspect your home at least once a year.”

Inside their homes, Leigh notices that a lot of Lowcountry homeowners, as a way to draw attention to furnishings and historic woodwork, are returning to neutral colors such as off-whites and creams. Taking things up a notch, Leigh’s team can create special finishes—faux, Venetian plaster, distressed, stained, glazed, whitewashed or antiqued—that highlight a room’s ambi­ence.

For some customers, choosing a color can be agonizing. “People have very strong opinions about color,” says Leigh. “In the end, color is about what makes you feel good. I tell people to be patient and don’t rush the decision. You know the color is right when you love it.”

At the end of the day, Leigh brings his hard work ethic to every job. Three decades after starting his own business, he still inspects almost every job himself. Patrick Hogan, the company’s vice president, emphasizes that every employee shares his commitment. “We all take pride that we work for a company that, for 30 years, has set the standard for high quality and customer service in the painting industry.”

Customers agree. Charleston area homeowner Frank Abagnale (of Catch Me If You Can fame), after hiring Leigh’s team in 2012, said: “I could not be more pleased with the outstanding job your company did in painting our home….Your crew had manners, were honest, had personal integri­ty and were respectful. We actually looked forward to seeing them every day.”