words and photos by Gray Giaconia
While working at a paint company in Cleveland for his cousin, Andy January Sr. was assigned to work at the company’s Akron location, so the Januarys moved to Akron with their three-month-old son, Andy. After a falling-out with his cousin and a short stint at another Akron paint company, Andy Sr. decided, as Andy Jr. puts it, “We can starve to death just as easily opening our own business, just as easily as I am starving to death working for this other guy.”
So, in 1956, the Januarys opened their own store at the corner of Bowery and Thornton. In 1969, they moved to 394 W Exchange, where the business still resides today.
Andy Jr. took on his first job at the age of eight, going around the neighborhood to collect payments for “The Plain Dealer.” Two years later, his parents decided they needed his help at the store on Saturdays, so he made his first and only career change. As a young man, Andy worked in the store with his family, attended and graduated from Hoban and the University of Akron and served in the Army Reserve.
After Andy Sr. died, Andy and his mom ran the business and were very successful, but the recession of 2008 and the collapse of the wallpaper industry took a toll on the business. Luckily, they were able to make it through, thanks to their Akron customers who know and trust them.
“I used to sit down when wallpaper was out—it was in such bad shape, when it was coming back, I didn’t think it would come back on an airplane or with a brass band or anything, so I sat down at the bus depot,” Andy says. He jokes about wallpaper going out of style and then coming back, but wallpaper has been an important part of the business since the Januarys began selling it in 1959, and Andy is hopeful about its current return to fashion.
A family business needs a family, and Andy is happy to have worked with his parents and his siblings, Phil, Harriet and John.
“It’s been a long, wonderful experience because there’s so many people we’ve met over a lifetime in Akron,” he says. “I think we’re part of Akron, and Akron’s part of us.”
As part of a long-running family business, one gets a different experience with the consumer than at a chain store. Andy has become familiar with homeowners and their homes. He muses on the subjectivity of taste: one family would come to the store, get everything they needed to fix their house the way they liked it, but then when they sold the house, the next family would come to the store to instantly fix all the paint and wallpaper exactly the way they liked it, claiming that the family before them had terrible taste. And this of course goes on and on with each new occupant of a home, and though it seems funny looking at home renovation in this way, that’s the whole point of paint and wallpaper: it’s the most conventional way to alter your home’s style to fit you and your family’s tastes.
Everybody has their own preferences that most likely won’t align with those of the people that lived in the house before, and sometimes you even get sick of your own style and need a change.
Whatever your reasons for redecorating, January Paint and Wallpaper will continue to provide the paint and wallpaper you need to style your home and make the place your own.