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Though it took a few years and various detours to get here, Ashley and Heath Peterson are living out their dream of owning a paint store. The couple opened Blue Mist Paint & Flooring in May 2022 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and have been making strides improving the business since.
Growing up states apart, Ashley in Spartanburg and Heath in northwest Indiana, they both had the inkling they would own a business someday. With an eye for color and pattern from a young age, Ashley aspired to put her love for design to use for others as an interior designer. Life circumstances led to her shelving that dream for a time and joining the healthcare industry. Heath worked in construction in high school, but also changed directions. He earned a business degree and began working for Reebok after college. After a series of moves with that company, Heath left Reebok and opened Blue Mist Homes, which offered remodeling and construction services.
The two met in 2020 and found they had a lot in common, including a desire to open a home improvement retail operation. With Heath’s background in construction and painting and Ashley’s love for design, a paint and design store was a natural choice.
“Our values and dreams lined up,” Ashley says. “It made sense to jump into this project together.”
While it hasn’t been easy, the Petersons are building the business they’ve always wanted, providing needed products and services, connecting with the community and learning the ins and outs of the industry along the way.
Walking Through Design: See how one retailer uses her eye for design to help customers realize their own design dreams at PDRmag.com/tri-city.
It Takes a Village
Even with backgrounds in construction and retail, the Petersons quickly learned the importance of building a bench of vendors, wholesaler contacts and industry colleagues to grow the business and become successful. When the Petersons opened their first store in 2022—completely self-funded without any loans—they intended to only sell cabinets. As they met and networked with more people in the industry, more doors opened for the couple to go beyond cabinets and offer tile, tiling tools and flooring.
“We started taking classes from different vendors to learn more about their products and the retail side of the industry, which led to us bringing new products to the operation,” Ashley says.
In December 2022, the Petersons joined a buying group to expand their product offerings. And the growth isn’t stopping there; they are currently talking with companies to bring in hardware and other home improvement products.
“Basically we went from thinking we were going to only sell cabinets to becoming a full-service home improvement store,” Ashley says. “It’s been a little crazy!”
With his knowledge and experience as a painter and wallpaper installer, Ashley’s brother, Cody Justice, helps out in the store from time to time. In the future, they hope to hire him full time to make his skills even more available to customers.
Share Your Knowledge
As they got the retail side up and running, the Petersons still took on construction and home renovation projects through their other business, phasing those services out in May 2023.
Their renovation and construction clients frequently asked about learning different DIY skills, which led the Petersons to come up with the idea of hosting classes in the store. Being able to offer something different with these classes has brought new customers into the store and established the operation’s legitimacy in the industry.
Heath hosted Blue Mist’s first DIY class in January 2023 and covered how to patch drywall. The class was open to women only and taught basic skills like filling nail holes, patching small holes in drywall and filling in holes made by anchors from hanging pictures. They gave out a free gift—a pink DAP product that included putty and a putty spatula. They also served a spread of pastries and coffee.
Along with bringing people into the store, Ashley says the classes have been a great way to expose their business to the community and allow them to be an advocate for other painters in the area.
“We hope to build relationships with people in the community who will consider shopping at our small, locally owned store for their paint and flooring projects,” Heath says. “We want to share our knowledge, skills, values and character to show the community we are the people who care about every customer’s project.”
Ashley says they have recently seen more homeowners coming to the classes and have had several contractors attend who are trying to build a business in the trades.
“We will always teach a pro as long as they are humble enough to want to take the class,” Heath says. “You can always learn new things in this industry. There are always new ideas and innovations coming out to help you complete projects more efficiently and achieve better results.”
Class offerings include tile and backsplash, drywall repair, drywall taping, painting, paint finishes, cabinet finishing, flooring installation, staining and basic plumbing.
“If it’s in the home improvement industry, we want to offer it at some point,” Ashley says. “We also want to keep the classes free or inexpensive to make them more accessible to more people. If there is a cost, attendees will go home with not only knowledge but some type of gift, like the putty we gave away for the first class.”
The Petersons also plan on adding classes for kids in the future. Ashley’s 10-year-old son Chance is interested in DIY, and she and Heath have included him in different projects around their home and the store. Even if he doesn’t go into a trade as a career, Ashley says they feel it is important for him to learn DIY skills to get through everyday life.
“I always tell Chance, ‘You can be whatever you want to be, but I want you to learn some skills,’” Ashley says. “Having those skills gives you a sense of pride for a job well done and you know you can take care of yourself.”
Never Stop Learning
The store’s fast growth hasn’t been without challenges. As the Petersons work through those challenges, they are constantly looking for ways to learn and grow.
In January 2023, having only been open for six months, the Petersons decided to move to a new location to better serve customers. They had been operating out of the construction company’s location and chose a different storefront just down the road. The new location is smaller but Ashley has created a welcoming space for customers to shop. She incorporated antique tools, paintbrushes and paint cans, along with paint chips and design books into the decor for a rustic touch and inspiration to customers.
“We want to share our knowledge, skills, values and character to show the community we are the people who care about every customer’s project.”
—Heath Peterson, Blue Mist Paint & Flooring
“When customers shop here, I want them to feel nostalgia for their parents’ or grandparents’ homes where many of them learned how to paint or how to build something,” she says. “I want to do everything I can to make them feel welcome and stay in the store for as long as possible.”
With a big-box paint store down the street and several other home improvement retailers in the area, getting the word out about Blue Mist has been challenging, Ashley says. The Petersons have experimented with different avenues to advertise and continue to try new ideas. Currently, Ashley has been frequently updating the store’s website and utilizing social media to let customers know about the store and its offerings.
Chance is featured in some of the videos the Petersons have posted on social media, talking about different products and sharing DIY tips. The couple will continue to create these videos to engage with customers. Chance also has some big ideas of his own for the store. Ashley says he wants to add snacks and drinks that customers can purchase and enjoy while they browse.
Ashley is building her own knowledge through industry groups, online courses and other educational opportunities to better serve customers. She recently earned an Interior Design Business Certificate and an International Color Consulting designation and plans to take more interior design classes, as well as classes on home improvement and DIY skills. Ashley and Heath also plan on taking part in business courses from the North American Hardware and Paint Association.
“For me, whether you paint professionally or are a paint retailer, staying in the know on all aspects of the industry is important and establishes you and your operation as legitimate in the industry,” Ashley says. “Even if I’m not in the store, I’m always working, constantly thinking of ways to get better and make our business better.”
Ashley and Heath are living their dreams, and won’t slow down anytime soon. They say they want to bring in more flooring and paint options to become the go-to place for service and quality home improvement products. They also want to see the store space grow and hire more employees.
“I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing because it came so naturally,” Ashley says. “I hope our community can see that there are options outside the big-box stores. There are great independent businesses like ours here to serve them.”