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Lifelong friends spend almost thirty years managing Mr Paint, and their friendship

Almost thirty years ago two lifelong friends made a pact, not just to go into business with each other but to keep their friendship intact. Today, Henry James Tomko and Wayne MacDonald have done just that. In fact, this month the two are celebrating 27 years at the helm of Mr. Paint on 367 George Street in Sydney.

Back in 1996, the two were living in Sydney and working seasonal jobs. Henry was a carpenter and Wayne had returned from out west and hadn’t found anything secure. The two both wanted more financial stability than the seasonal opportunities available. After some discussion, the two agreed that they would go into business together.

“I thought of some things; he thought of others,” says MacDonald as he tells their business story. “The biggest problem that we had was that we were friends going into business together. We had heard enough horror stories about friends or family going into business together and then not talking for the rest of their lives.”

The two started elementary school together and were determined not to let a business venture ruin what was back then already a thirty-year friendship.

“We talked about it for three or four months,” says MacDonald. “If we couldn’t make a decision, we let our lawyers and accountants make the decisions. That way we wouldn’t be at odds with each other.”

Fast forward 28 years and not only have they maintained their friendship, but they also have a successful business that has given them the stability that they were looking for. They have also both grown families; Tomko has a daughter, who was born the year they purchased Mr. Paint, and MacDonald has five sons.

“It’s been very good to us,” he says. “We have a good customer base and, good rapport with Benjamin Moore. So, we have been very lucky to have this business here for 28 years.”

The previous owner, Archie Kerr, told the two that ‘the product will sell itself as long as the customer uses the product correctly.’ That advice, they say, has served the owners of Mr. Paint well.

A lot of things have changed over the years, but a lot has remained the same. Good customers, solid relationships, and a quality product have been the mainstays, say both MacDonald and Tomko.

For Tomko, international students have been one of the recent highlights at Mr. Paint. “They are an exception to the rule,” he says. “They want to work hard to be here in Canada, that makes me feel good.”

The now adult children of customers who now need to paint their own homes are really “cool to see”.

“We see people coming in and we remember them from when they were this tall,” as he waves his hand about three feet in the air.

MacDonald is proud of how the two have grown their business while upholding their pact.

Although they both feel very fortunate to have maintained their friendship, they don’t see each other much socially anymore.

“After seeing each other for 60 hours during the week for 28 years you get kind of tired being in each other’s face,” said MacDonald. “We go out for supper the odd time or take in a show at the HAT.”

After all the years in business together they still have rules to protect their friendship. “We are not allowed to talk about work when we go out socially,” says MacDonald. “That’s our rule. We have been very lucky, and we don’t want to change the direction of how things have gone.”

But both MacDonald and Tomko say that the time is coming to pass the torch to the next Mr. Paint owners.

“Both of our wives are retired. It is time to spend some time at home,” says MacDonald. “Hopefully when it is time to get out, we can go back to the socializing.”

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