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Decorating flair is a family trait

Paul Doelling (second from left) is shown with some his employees family members their temporary shop Valparaiso Ind. From left:

Paul Doelling (second from left) is shown with some of his employees and family members at their temporary shop in Valparaiso, Ind. From left: Khris Madayag, Malissa Doelling-Happer, Paula Doelling-Lynn and Carol Detmar. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:07AM



Although Doelling Decorating Center has temporarily moved from its home of 56 years, it shouldn’t surprise long-time customers that owner Paul Doelling isn’t letting the Aug. 4 lightning strike that caused the move shut the Valparaiso business down.

The store, which Doelling began in 1956 with his brother Fred, also outlasted competition, which in 1960 included 13 independent paint outlets and 27 places to buy paint vying for customers around Valparaiso.

“We’re the only independent left,” Paul said. “They’ve come to us because we’ve cared for them, and we still care. I’ve seen grandchildren of people I originally worked for.”

Until the old site is remodeled, though, the business temporarily relocated to 1152 Marsh St., Suite D, south U.S. 30.

The business has done work in Florida, Chicago and California for the children of local customers, said Doelling’s daughter Malissa Doelling-Happer.

The business is a tradition extending from Doelling’s great-grandfather being a painter and paperhanger in Germany.

His grandfather started George Doelling Painting Contractor in 1921, which progressed to A.G. Doelling and Sons Decorating and continued with his father in Doelling Brothers Decorating.

Paul and Fred went retail in 1956, expanding to include window treatments, design and, in the past, floor coverings.

“We just tried to keep ahead in the field,” Paul said.

His daughter, Paula Doelling-Lynn, is the architectural paint color expert and creates palettes around the country, while Doelling-Happer is designer, decorator and operations manager.

Doelling said the business survives because it evolves.

“Some things are in the genes,” he said. “There’s someone that wants to carry it on, and in our case, it’s to a greater level.”

Doelling thought about closing the business after the lightning strike, but he heard from contractors, customers and even his granddaughter, who works part-time while in college.

“She feels that’s her legacy,” he said.

It’s also his life.

“The day I got up and didn’t want to work is the day I leave this business — and that never happened,” Paul said.



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