Local paint store owner overcomes check fraud, builds reputation for quality, expertise

Tania Cupp’s River Parish Paint store on Highway 90 may be new to Luling, but she is anything but new to the retail paint business – an industry she has dedicated herself to for the last two decades.

Her 20-year career in the retail paint industry first took root in her childhood. Given her father runs a general contracting firm, she began visiting construction sites from as early as eight years old. Already armed with knowledge on how the construction industry works, she began working for a national paint retailer in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, starting at the lowest retail position and began rising quickly.

“Within two years I was the assistant manager, and eight months after that, I was the store manager at their Magazine Street location,” Cupp said.

Cupp would continue managing the national paint brand’s Magazine Street location for 14 more years before making the decision to branch off with her own paint store in Luling.

When starting her own store, she chose to become an exclusive provider of paint manufactured by Farrell-Calhoun. While not quite a household name, Farrell-Calhoun is an established 117-year-old paint company offering commercial quality paint at competitive pricing versus national paint brands, a fact she decided to use to her new business’ advantage.

“It’s not a national brand; it’s a regional brand,” Cupp, 38, explained of her decision to carry the brand’s paint line. “They’re based out of Memphis, Tennessee…it’s really good, quality paint without having to pay an exorbitant amount of money for it.”

Cupp carefully chose her location in St. Charles Parish after spotting an opportunity – realizing there were no local retail paint specialty stores selling commercial-quality paint.

“I’m the only paint store anywhere in the [local] area,” Cupp said. “If you’re anywhere around here, and you want to save yourself a 30- or 40-minute drive – I’m basically the only one.”

Cupp says she has developed a reputation among local painting contractors for her color matching abilities, a skill she’s refined over her 20-year paint career.

Being a relatively new retail business, she unfortunately became the victim of check fraud just a few months after opening her doors at the hands of a local contractor.

“This guy gave me a call, he wanted to move from a competitor to me, saying he was having problems matching colors, which – that’s my expertise,” Cupp said.

The local painting contractor, whom she knew vaguely through another contact, came to her shop and opened a charge account, purchasing over $7,000 worth of commercial paint.

He paid off his account with what she would later discover was a worthless check. Her repeated calls would go unreturned for weeks and then months, with the bill going unpaid. It was a tough lesson to learn as a new business owner, she says, about extending credit to unverified contractors, having just opened her doors.

“It really hurts when someone is dishonest and takes money from such a young business,” Cupp said.

She says after the experience she implemented policies to prevent the same situation from occurring again, and still hopes to recoup the funds.

It’s an unfortunate tale of caution for local business owners, to be aware of all forms of check fraud, Detective Brad Walsh with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, said.

“I think the days of trusting people and thinking they’re not going to take advantage of you are kind of coming to an end,” Walsh said regarding the local check fraud cases he’s investigated.

He recommended local business owners implement their own internal controls and policies to prevent check fraud of all types.

Walsh has seen an increasing wave in the last few years of local check fraud, particularly in the form of “check washing,” where thieves steal checks from mail circulation and mailboxes and “wash” them in order to change the payee and payee amounts before cashing them; the end goal being to drain victims’ checking accounts of as much of their funds as possible.

Despite the sting of her worthless check incident, Cupp is hopeful for the future of her retail paint business, and believes her location is well positioned for the future.

“I think it’s going to work out in the end,” Cupp said. “I’ve just got to put my feet to the ground and keep on running.”


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