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  • damonortt


Updated: Aug 7, 2022

I met Dan when I was new to the area and doing side work as a carpenter. Neither of us can remember exactly when we first met, but I know I was asking for advice on something or another. He didn’t know me at all, but he shook my hand like we were old friends and helped me like I was a business owner on equal footing with him. I was not.

When I asked him if I could interview him for this article, the very first thing he said was “Yeah, sure, bring beer. Of course that’s what he said.

Of course.

I later mentioned that another option was to just meet for breakfast somewhere, and he said “We can do both.”

“Dan”, I replied, I’ll wine or dine, but I’m not trying to take you home tonight. How about Penn Diner.” He replied with six cry-laughing emojis.

I’ve never seen him pass over a moment at which he could laugh. Hard. His jokes are often dad jokes, or maybe one that you might read in one of the old “Truly Tasteless Jokes” books.

With Dan, you always know what you’re going to get. He’s as straightforward as anyone could possibly be. If he likes you, you’ll know it, and if he doesn’t … well, I’m not so sure I can finish that sentence. I’ve never heard him speak ill of anyone. He’ll tell you the honest truth about something, but I’ve never heard him say he doesn’t like someone.

And maybe that’s why he was so successful in business. Dan is the original owner of Dan Collins Painting, which he owned and operated for forty-two years. He has painted his fair share of homes in the area. In fact, there’s a good chance he painted yours or your neighbors’. What’s certain is that if you live in Springfield Township, you or your neighbor at least know of him.

Many people can paint; that’s a fact. Fewer can paint well, and even fewer than that can grow a painting business into the size of Dan Collins’s. At one time, he had fifteen painters working for him. This is no small feat in the trades. Most businesses come and go practically overnight, but he was around for over four decades. The difference, along with great business acumen, and professionalism, was advertising.

Without the option of social media, email lists, or a huge budget for a marketing firm, Dan’s secret weapon was T-shirts.

“I gave them to everyone. I had my logo on them, which was my name and a paint brush, and I gave them out all the time.”

“All the time,” he repeated.

“ My kids wore them to school, I mean they were everywhere. I always had them with me.”

The Collins kids would often wear his shirts around town, but what they didn’t realize was that they were something of a “hows my driving” sticker on a work vehicle with a phone number. It was more like a “how’s my behavior” sticker, and he would, at times, receive phone calls from disapproving townsfolk.

“Eventually, they caught on, and my youngest quit wearing them,” he said, laughing.

“The shirts were everywhere. I always had them with me. Gave them out everywhere I went.”

I envisioned a younger Dan Collins, longer hair, elbow out the window, driving around in a white van tossing shirts out at people as if he were in a parade.

“If I saw a pretty girl, I’d stop and give her a t-shirt,” he said.

Of course he would.

In 2020, he sold the business to two Oreland natives, and the business was so well known and trusted, the new owners kept his name on it.

Painting isn’t where Dan’s story begins. His first gig was at thirteen years old delivering newspapers. How American, right? After having developed an acumen for business, he ventured into detailing cars.

I didn’t hear about the first one he detailed, but the last one was a convertible, baby blue Cadillac, complete with white seats - a truly beautiful car, owned by a then prominent T.V. personality.

“He’s still around, so I won’t mention his name” Dan said, betraying no promise he may have made regarding the owner of the car.

It wouldn’t be an interesting story except that, when he and his buddies were finished cleaning it, they couldn’t resist the urge to take it for a ride. They cruised around the area, nowhere in particular, Dan’s long hair whipping in the wind, he and his friends waving at women, giving the head-nod to jealous men.

As they neared the end of their jolly ride, they stopped at a traffic light, and from a distance, they heard “that’s my car!”

Panic. Fear. Laughter.

Dan quickly sunk in the seat and zipped back to where they were detailing it. When they returned, Dan’s friend-turned-accomplice, jumped out of the back seat to realize he had smeared grease from his pants across the white back seat.

The owner was furious, and Dan moved on to another career under various threats regarding police, theft, and one greasy back seat.

As a former tradesman, I love hearing his stories. He has a lot of them. There was a burglar, a sex offender, the pot smoke that billowed out of the car of an applicant who arrived for an interview that wasn’t scheduled. Forty some-years in the painting business will introduce you to a long list and wide variety of characters.

“Birds of a feather,” I joked to myself.

If you ask me, his secret to success actually wasn’t his t-shirts, although they helped, it wasn’t his ability to paint, and while without it he would’ve struggled, it probably wasn’t his professionalism. In my opinion, there are two reasons, and one is simply how welcoming and down-to-earth he is.

I have no doubt he treats everyone this way. Everywhere he goes around here, people say hello to him, and it seems like there’s usually a laugh between them as if there’s an inside joke there that no one else is aware of, which leads me to the second reason he was successful: the people of Springfield Township.

We are largely a working class township, and because of that, we value the local plumber, the local painter, the local electrician. We support them, we talk about them, we recommend them. We hire them. And this is the way it should be. It’s who we are.

We are truly a community, and it shows.

In closing, I want be honest about something…

It was difficult to write about Dan. We met twice and spent hours just swapping stories, and I had a great time. However, in writing we have a format to follow: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. Drama.

While he has so many stories, really, they they’re just regular life. Real life. For example, the greasy back seat. You may have thought there was going to be a punch line, an aha! moment, but there really wasn’t. They didn’t do a quick switcharoo with some other car seat, didn’t paint it (would’ve been great foreshadowing for his life’s work), didn’t blame it on a stray animal that had run through a garage, or some other crazy thing. They just took their lumps and moved on.

There were no stories of brawls, no arrests, or paint spilled over antique carpets, no painter fell off a ladder to be saved at the last minute by grasping a chandelier.

Truthfully, he’s just a normal man with normal stories. He doesn’t embellish. And people absolutely love him for this because he’s just like you and just like me. And while he was certainly professional, honest, and all of that, his customers didn’t hire Dan Collins Painting: they hired Dan.

Of course they did.

P.S. I asked Dan to send me a picture of himself, and he said he'd get one to me the next day, after he got someone to take one. I told him not to worry about it, just send me your favorite picture of yourself from the last ten years. The one he chose is the one you see - himself surrounded by his kids. To me, this says more than all else written here.

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