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Opera Paints Looks to Help Make the Arts District More Colorful

By Eric Richardson with Ed Fuentes
Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2008, at 03:47PM
Opera Paints Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Husband and wife Michael Kahn and Maureen Barten, owners of Opera Paints.

Tucked away among warehouses on the southern edge of the Arts District, Opera Paints isn't in the typical location where one would look to open a retail store.

Owners Michael Kahn and Maureen Barten started the business eight years ago as a wholesaler, partnering with Di Donato, an Italian manufacturer, to produce and distribute a line of environmentally friendly paints. It was only recently that the two decided to open their doors up to the public and reach out to their Downtown neighbors.

Kahn and Barten decided to branch out into retail sales as a way to grow their existing business. A few weeks back they put a sign on the building advertising "Wholesale to the Public" and opened their doors.

While walk-in traffic has started slow, the variety of the customer base is already showing itself. "Today I had three walk-in customers," Barten told me during a visit last Thursday. "It was so exciting." One of the three was a hotel owner in Alhambra, who happened to be driving by and needed to repaint his hotel. Her first retail customer was a loft owner nearby.

To complement their own paint line and flesh out their selection, the pair picked up deals to distribute a few other carefully chosen brands. They now stock Pittsburgh Paints, a green line called Mythic Paints, and high-end aerosol line Montana Spain. "All of the people that are calling us are saying to me, 'So, it sounds like you're carrying stuff that not that many other people are carrying.' Barten told me. "That's exactly our intention." She noted that people who have dropped by have shared suggestions for the sort of things they'd like to see carried, and that they want to fit their offerings to what the neighborhood needs.

The store is open Monday through Saturday, and on the weekend the couple bring their two sons over to help out. Despite being in business Downtown for close to ten years, Barten says that the Saturday experience in different. "There's a very kind of welcome vibe around this place. Being here on the weekends is changing how I feel about it." She loves to see the changes taking place in the neighborhood around her. "It's exciting to be a part of something that's growing."

Opera Paints is at 801 S. Mateo street. Retail hours are 9am to 5pm on Monday through Friday, and 9am to 2pm on Saturday. The store's number is 213-590-9111.

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