‘People of Our Word’
Ingenuity, hard work and honesty drive the team at K.A. Sodders Painting
K.A. Sodders Painting goes to great heights to make sure projects are done right—even if it means suspending themselves from a six-story building. When a project called for hand rolling paint onto five, six-story office buildings in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, the team at K.A. Sodders Painting secured their swing-stage scaffolding to the roof and got to work.
The company’s painters, including Co-Owner Kimberly A. Sodders and son and Operations Manager Brandon McDaniels, climbed aboard the two-foot-wide scaffolding and spent weeks working at height to complete the assignment. “A good portion of the building is glass. Since wind from the nearby airport could have caused overspray onto the windows, the decision was made to hand roll the stucco for all five buildings. Kim prefers to work out in the field and doesn’t have any problem working at height,” says President and Co-Owner Scott MacMillan.
Headquartered in Moon Township, the family-owned commercial and industrial painting company serves customers across the tri-state area of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In addition to interior and exterior painting services, the company also provides vapor blasting and sandblasting to clean and remove surface contaminants and coatings. Formed in 2002, the company is a painting subcontractor of choice for projects involving national retailers such as Walmart, Lowe’s and Big Lots. “We typically work with general construction management companies on these types of projects,” Brandon explains.
In addition to large retailers, the company has worked with shipbuilders, property managers, factory owners and general construction managers on a wide array of projects. “We’ve painted everything from homes and hotels to ships and airplane hangars,” Brandon says. Though the majority of projects keep the company within the tri-state area, when duty calls, K.A. Sodders Painting answers. “We have traveled as far as Michigan and Maryland for Walmart work and beyond that for other projects. We recently painted three Lowe’s exteriors in Missouri and a WoodSpring Suites hotel in Waco, Texas,” he notes.
Artistry of Painting
K.A. Sodders Painting didn’t always work on such large commercial projects. Back in 2002, Scott owned a small residential painting company. With five employees, including daughter, Sarah, Scott would paint houses during the day and manage a local restaurant at night. That’s where he met Kimberly, a fellow employee. “Faux finishes were becoming really popular, and Kim was an artist. She told me she could easily do faux finishing,” he says. Kim joined the company, the two changed the name, and Kim quickly became a fixture on the local scene. “Kim has always preferred to be out in the field and has been very popular with customers over the years. She’s still one of our best painters,” Scott says.
With Kim taking the lead on work sites, Scott wore multiple hats, pounding the pavement for new work, generating cost estimates and even lending a hand in the field when needed. When the Great Recession hit, K.A. Sodders Painting made the decision to pivot from residential to commercial work. Landing commercial projects was slow going at first; however, one call in 2013 changed everything. “Dave Stolick from Wagner Development Company invited us to bid on a painting project for Walmart,” he says. Scott had met Dave some time earlier through a friend. Dave took a liking to Scott—and the company’s work—and not only gave Scott the opportunity to bid, but also helped him navigate the new demands of working for Walmart. “With the Walmart company, there are many specifications and procedures that must be closely adhered to. You have to make sure to dot all your i’s and cross your t’s,” he says.
Dave, who has since passed away, became a mentor for Scott, as well as Wagner’s Director of Field Operations Walt Shaffer. “Walt has become one of my best friends,” Scott notes. The partnership with Wagner has led to a host of Walmart project work—a significant amount of that work done through Wagner Development. “We’ve painted around 80 Walmart interiors and 60 exteriors in total so far,” Brandon says.
In taking on Walmart project work, the company began to grow rapidly. “We were painting up to six Walmart stores in a single quarter,” Scott says. Other general contractors took notice and K.A. Sodders Painting began adding additional Walmart stores, hotels, Big Lots and Lowe’s to the mix.
With the company in such high demand, Brandon, who first worked with the company in 2005 before going to college, moved from the field to the office in 2018. “Janet Gervas joined us from Wagner to manage our accounting and other office operations, and Brandon does a little bit of everything—from project management to finances to sales,” Scott says.
“Scott and I complement each other,” Brandon says. “Scott does great onsite bidding. Just by looking at a job site, he knows exactly what’s needed, whereas I mostly use construction drawings to catch the little things and help create accurate project estimates.”
Brandon’s attention to detail is critical, notes Scott. “Brandon creates very detailed bids. Before the customer signs the contract, he has a very honest conversation about the project, walking that customer through every detail of the job so everyone is on the same page before a project begins.”
Holding Steadfast to Core Principles
The company holds fast to three core business principles, according to Scott. “We do what we say we’re going to do. We do it for the price that we quoted. And we do the work in the time we said we’d do it. If you do those three things, you can’t help but succeed in this business,” he says.
When the company was delayed for six weeks from starting a coating removal project for a Walmart in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the client still expected K.A. Sodders Painting to complete the work in the agreed-upon 14 weeks. “To get the job done on time, we ran crews day and night and tripled our manpower, even though we had other projects going on at the same time. Our guys worked long days and weeks, but we got the work done in time. I know for a fact other companies couldn’t do what we accomplished,” Scott says.
Another project had the team at K.A. Sodders Painting employing a bit of creativity to get a job done before the weather turned bad. “Last year, we had to complete three Lowe’s exterior painting jobs within a six-week window before Thanksgiving,” Brandon says. The problem was that the weather was changing fast, and painting of the storefronts had to be done at night while the store was closed. “It was late in the season, and the night was quickly becoming too damp and wet for painting,” he says.
Each of the three stores was located in a separate city—Kansas City, St. Louis and Ozark, Missouri. “Normally, we would complete work on an entire store before going on to the next; however, we had the idea of painting all three storefronts at night and returning to complete the remaining exteriors during the day,” Brandon says. The company convinced both the general contractor and Lowe’s of its plan. “We were contending with other issues as well, like a lost shipment of paint, a badly mixed batch of paint and, of course, the pandemic. But, we worked through it all, and we completed work on the three Lowe’s stores on the day before Thanksgiving. Scott actually traveled out there himself just before getting surgery on his shoulder to help finish. Our guys were just tremendous,” he says.
Finding Talent in the Overlooked
Scott credits his crew of hardworking employees for the company’s success. “We have a solid group of guys that we can trust. They’re intelligent and can think on their feet and solve problems,” he says.
One of Scott’s best hires was a man who could have been easily overlooked. “We were working at a Walmart in Cleveland and a homeless guy came up and started talking to me. He wanted to know what we were spraying. It turned out he used to paint boats in a boatyard in Mobile, Alabama. He had served time in prison and was at the time staying in a Salvation Army homeless shelter,” he says. Scott gave the man a second chance. “He turned out to be one of my best hires. He stayed with us for about three years before starting his own gig. He’s a great guy and has been very appreciative of the second chance. He actually just married the manager of a Walmart.”
K.A. Sodders Painting doesn’t just give people second chances. They also lend a hand to those in need. “We were in Maryland painting a Walmart and staying at a local hotel. There, we met a lady and her 16-year-old son. The two had lost their home in a flood, the mom had just been diagnosed with cancer and the hotel was kicking her out,” Brandon says. “We paid for her to stay at the hotel for six more months, and we hired her son to help with the project. We can always use an extra pair of hands on a job site, and we were happy to help.”
“We always try to do the right thing—whether that’s helping out someone in need or doing what we say we’re going to do on a project,” Scott says.
“We’re a small family business. We work hard, we try to be genuine and honest,” Brandon adds. “We’re people of our word.”