'Old-Fashioned' Paint Company Prides Itself On Quality Paint, Slave Wages For Workers

If there's one thing you won't see at local paint store "Jim's Old-Fashioned Paints" besides machine-made paints (owner and operator Jim Jones IV, great grandson of the original Jim, says he prefers the old-fashioned human touch), it's black people (Jones says he "just don't trust 'em").

That's because the paint store, which has been around since 1856, takes great pride in being, as Jones describes it, "an old-fashioned store for folks who remember how things used to be, before computers and calculators and women voters."

"If you're looking for those big fancy machines that'll stir your paint for you in a minute or so, go to the fancy darn paint store down the street, because you won't find any of that here," Jones said with faint disdain, a Band-Aid from his finger absent-mindedly slipping into a can of paint he was currently stirring while talking. "Here, you can wait several hours for me or one of my workers to stir your paint for you, making sure it's as smooth as one of those machines would get it. That's the old-fashioned way."

Jones stopped for a moment to gently reprimand a young nine year-old assistant of his, who had stopped stirring his paint to take a bite of a cracker, by slapping him across the face, then grabbing the boy's cheeks and forcing the cracker out, screaming, "You eat on your own time!"

"Don't mind little Andy there," Jones said, turning back to us with a laugh. "Sometimes when it gets to be 15 or 16 hours since he last ate, he gets a little rambunctious and forgets himself. It happens to the best of us, I'd reckon."

At many other stores, the fact that a nine year-old boy had worked 16 hours without a break would be a cause for concern, and perhaps even legal intervention. But at Jim's Old-Fashioned Paints, Jones explained, they don't have "much use for newfangled labor laws".

"If we had good old-fashioned, human-stirred paint, but modern-law abiding employment practices, why, we'd just be a bunch of darned hypocrites," Jones said. "That's why you'll always see our employees hard at work, whether it's breakfast time, dinner time, four in the morning, their wife's due dute for their baby, or what have you."

And although workers of virtually any age are a common sight at the store, sex is another story -- Jones had a good laugh at the suggestion that the store employ any woman workers.

"What in the hell could a woman know about paint?" he chuckled, wiping tears from his eyes. "You don't use it in meatloaf casserole, that's for sure!"

But women potentially angered by Jones' arguably sexist statements might want to reassess their feelings -- working at the store often means wages well below the national minimum, which is currently $5.15 an hour.

"At the end of the day, I get a nickel," explained one man. "If I work well, sometimes I get a nickel and a penny."

The old-fashioned feel of the store does not just stop with the workers and the paint-stirring, though. Jones expects all his customers to graciously return the same feeling he attempts to give to them.

"This store is for people who remember the good old days, when people weren't having sex all over the darn place, and you didn't have to worry about seeing a black man driving a motorcoach without his boss sitting behind him," Jones said. "If you come in here talking about that kind of stuff, I just might have to call the sheriff on you."

Local police chief Tom Harmack verified Jones' threat, and even said that he had sent officers out a number of times to the paint store already.

"I don't think a week goes by without that damn kook [Jones] calling us to complain that a customer of his is 'acting indecent'," he said, shaking his head. "Of course, usually we get down there and it's some guy who remarked that he needed to go to the drug store to buy condoms."

"We did need to go down that one time a guy pulled his penis out of his pants and was attempting to paint with it, though," Harmack added. "I guess that actually was pretty indecent."

But although people like Harmack occasionally get a little impatient with Jones' slow, old-fashioned ways, the paint store owner says he takes it in stride.

"I know some folks don't agree with my philosophy on life, and that's fine with me," he said, rocking on a chair and listening to his Victoria. "In fact, as long as they don't start bringing fighting words in here, I won't even get my shotgun out."

Jones then excused himself to take care of a customer who had just entered the store, asking the man, "Can I help you, sir?"

"Yeah," the customer said, "I'm looking for a color of paint that would match this sample I've --"

"Whoa, whoa!" Jones said, holding his hands up. "You're moving too fast, son! Settle down and drink a sarsaparilla, here."

"A...a what?" the man asked, looking confused, while Jones merely chuckled, unscrewing the cap off the 54 year-old beverage.

"You modern folks with your dial-phones and your indoor plumbing," he laughed. "Sometimes you just have to stop going so darn fast."

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