The Wallauer story began in 1921, when Clarence Rudolph Wallauer opened his own paint store after years of being a salesman in White Plains, New York, for other paint manufacturers. The company was called C R. Wallauer & Co. Inc. and became the local Benjamin Moore paint dealer. Clarence was well respected by his customers and friends who nicknamed him ‘Wally’. Thanks to his reputation and strong credit history, Wally was able to continue to bring in product and stay in business during the Great Depression and in 1935 he opened a second successful store in Port Chester New York. The business continued to grow, and the company added outside salesmen and two delivery trucks.
The Family Joins In
In 1946, Wally asked his son in-law Robert Duncan, Sr., an architect and the husband of Jean W. Duncan, Wally’s daughter, to join the company. Wally and Bob worked well together, and the business continued to flourish. They enlarged the White Plains location by purchasing the adjacent building on Martine Avenue and added a large Wallpaper and Design Studio featuring the largest wallpaper selection in Westchester County. By this time, the whole family was working at Wallauer; Bob Duncan Sr. was President, Jean Duncan was the head designer, and Bobby Duncan Jr. was a stock boy.
In 1948, Charles Westerman joined the company. He and Bobby Duncan Jr., under the direction of Bob Duncan Sr., continued to grow the business by adding multiple locations throughout Westchester County, expanding into Yonkers, Yorktown, and Bedford Hills.
When Robert Duncan, Jr. returned from the service in 1957 he became the advertising director for Wallauer, increasing the visibility of the company to the general public through the use of radio and television commercials.
In 1965, Wallauer purchased property in Yorktown. Later that same year they purchased Grant Paint Company located in downtown Ossining, a sleepy store which was ultimately moved to a thriving shopping center a few years later to increase traffic.
In 1970, the company expanded with another store in Bedford Hills, a small but busy location and within just a couple of years, Robert Duncan, Jr. identified and purchased a larger building nearby. The Bedford Hills store continued to be one of the busiest and additional space was added and ultimately a second floor was erected to increase storage and salesfloor space. Today that location features an Ace Hardware department, a complete Benjamin Moore Dealership, a beautiful Design Center, and a comprehensive Color Room.
The First Passing of the Torch
Robert Sr. retired in 1982, and was succeeded by his son, Robert Jr., who focused on bringing design departments into several of the locations as they expanded their market share. From that point forward, the management team was able to successfully navigate steady expansion with each Wallauer generation contributing its own unique inspirations along the way.
In 1994 a new flagship state of the art store was built in North White Plains and the contractor business began to increase. The flagship store became the warehouse hub supplying the satellite stores with their inventory and serving as a distribution center with box trucks and vans for delivery services. Shortly thereafter, an outside salesforce was added to the business model.
Diversify to Thrive
In 2013, Robert Duncan was feeling the squeeze of increased competition and so he launched a plan to diversify. Wallauer joined the respected nationwide hardware franchise Ace Hardware which provided an opportunity to offer a more diverse product selection while maintaining that locally owned, hands-on appeal in each location.
It’s the Daughters’ Turn
Robert Duncan Jr.’s daughters, Donna and Debbie, took over the business from their father in 2016, and although he was happy to pass the Wallauer torch and watch his daughters carry on his legacy, the sisters still turn to him for advice and council behind the scenes when needed. Donna and Debbie grew up in their father’s paint stores, and so it was a natural transition for Donna to head up the outside design services while Debbie took over managing the advertising. Together they made the decision to acquire Modern Paint and acquired four of its newest locations.
In 2020 Donna and Debbie identified the need to implement an e-commerce component to the Wallauer website to assist with curbside orders for customers wary of entering public spaces, a feat that would have been much more challenging if they hadn’t already invested years asserting themselves in the digital space.
Look to the Future
The future is bright for Wallauer. With 15 locations across Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties, the fourth-generation family-owned businesses is thriving as people look to improve their home environment and upgrade their interior spaces.
In 2021 and beyond Wallauer will add more Ace locations within their existing Wallauer Paint and Design store locations. The owners feel it is the perfect blend of products to service the professional contractor while at the same time providing the high quality national known brands available from Ace Hardware to DIY customers.
The company will expand and enhance the e-commerce online portal established during the pandemic and will look for ways to make shopping for home improvement projects easier and more convenient for customers. As younger generations become homeowners, they will continue to shop online and find the Wallauer website chock full of a wide range of products and services to fill their needs backed by a dedicated, local family-owned business. Increasing exposure of the online shopping experience and demonstrating a proactive approach to business development is important to Wallauer’s over-all business strategy for the future.