Repainting the restoration market

(First published in Feb. 22, 2018 issue of City Pages)

A side business restoring furniture became a full-time storefront, The Painted Door in Merrill, when other outlets for their preferred paint closed


Dianne and Alicia Kucirek opened The Painted Door last year in Merrill, drawing the crowd that once frequented The Violet Loft in downtown Wausau.

Dianne and Alicia Kucirek had been restoring and reselling furniture for some time. It reached the point where both of their houses were filled to the brim with furniture waiting for their attention.

Then last summer, Alicia drove by a flower shop in Merrill that had closed recently, and the mother and daughter-in-law duo decided it was time to turn their passion into a storefront business. And now that business is attracting customers from throughout central Wisconsin.

The Kucireks opened The Painted Door at 820 E. First St., Merrill, in late August, and it’s becoming a regional draw for one main reason: It’s the only place in central Wisconsin where a person can buy Annie Sloan paint.

The paint brand was one of the things lauded by the Violet Loft in Wausau, which closed in 2016. That downtown shop was the go-to spot for Annie Sloan paint, which Alicia and Dianne use exclusively. Each alternative place they traveled to for the paint also ended up closing. Soon, the closest place they could buy it was Minocqua, at the Violet Trunk (owned by the same people who owned Violet Loft).

So they decided to become dealers, and now it’s become a central part of their business.

Think of Annie Sloan to furniture as Apple is to electronics. Both have a cult following. The chalk paint doesn’t actually contain chalk, the two explain. It’s ideal for furniture restoration because it goes on very smoothly and doesn’t require the prep other paints do. “You just need a clean and dry surface,” Alicia says.

The elimination of steps means a several days-long project can be finished in an afternoon. And the paint is water based, so its thickness can be adjusted by adding a little more water or a little more paint. The colors blend well too, Dianne explains.

Becoming a distributor means the two went to paint school in New Orleans to learn all the proper techniques. And now Dianne and Alicia are teaching those techniques to others. Customers come to the store not only to shop, but also to take classes.

One thing happened they didn’t expect: The classes have become something of a social gathering for some people. Their events, such as catered craft night in which the store partners with local eateries to combine food and furniture restoration, even have drawn people from as far away as La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee. “We want to educate our customers, but we also want to offer a social outlet,” Alicia says.

Not everyone is a DIYer, and Alicia says the finished smaller pieces “fly out of here like crazy.” And sometimes a customer comes in with a room or even a whole house to redecorate and just starts pointing to all the items they want. But for those who do want to try their hands at their own projects, “we want to be a one-stop shop for do-it-yourself,” Alicia says.