Why We LOVE the Shop Local Movement & Why You Should, Too!

Greenleaf Painters is in its 10th year of operating as a successful, local and independent business. Serving the community around us is our thing. When local businesses gathered together to create the Independent Business Alliance (IBA) last year— part of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce—we got super excited!

IBA is part of a larger, national movement to “Shop Local.”

Why does shopping local matter? Check this out from IBA’s website:

—For every $100 spent, a locally-owned independent business generates $68 in local economic activity. 

Each dollar you spend at independent businesses returns three times more money to your local economy than one spent on the Internet.

—If the people of an average American city were to shift 10% of their spending to local, independent businesses, it would bring an additional $235 million per year to the community’s economy.


Greenleaf’s roots are in the West Windsor / Princeton Junction community, where owner Jonathan Shenk lives with his wife and son. Word of mouth by people we’ve done work for in the region (and online) has been the fuel for our growth. This summer, we have been able to employ 20 people, including our managers and local craftsmen. All of these employees are local and participate in the local economy.

In addition, we give business to painting suppliers locally, as well as other contractors in the area. These are also employers and participants in the local economy. So you see how it can work!

As a member of IBA, we have had the pleasure of getting to know many Independent business owners. We work directly with some and simply commend others because of their values and work ethic. A handful of these include:

Rees Powell Custom Floors, owned by Rees Powell http://www.reescustomfloors.com

Real Possibilities, owned by Rose Fisher, http://www.real-possibilities.com

Asenka Interactive, owned by Brian Hasenkamp, www.asenka.com

StimulusBrand, owned by Tom McManimon, http://www.stimulusbrand.com

A Stitch Ahead, Frank Mangee http://astitchaheadinc.com

Allegra Printing, Maurice Galimidi http://allegraprinceton.com

Madani Interiors, Linda Madani http://www.madaniinteriors.com

Shenk has been on the Ambassador committee of the Princeton Chamber of Commerce since 2013 and is now on the IBA Regional Planning Committee which organizes events. Shenk’s participation in the Chamber has helped to increase awareness of our presence in the community and thus accelerate our growth. We have a lot of faith that the IBA will contribute to this kind of growth for others–and by extension the entire region.

Shout out to Local Businesses! 

If you are a local business and are interested in joining in, the next IBA event will be “10 Best Practices for Growing Your Business,” held September 25, 7:30 AM TO 9:30 AM, with Jeff Dorman of JDA International Leadership. Visit http://www.princetonchamber.org/iba/ for details and registration.

They Steal Our Hearts: The Real Reason We “Go Green”

On a July morning drive to one of our customers along the beautiful back roads in Skillman, a Greenleaf team member saw a deer and fawn grazing by the side of the road and stopped to take a picture. We at Greenleaf Painters “go green” for many reasons. At the top of the list is our love of nature and desire to preserve habitats for both humans and animals. Especially big animals with huge brown eyes who pose prettily for pictures.


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Protect and Beautify Your Home as You Welcome Spring!

japanese flower
We are just as excited as you are that Spring has finally arrived!  Spring time is full of so many wonderful things such as longer periods of daylight, the blooming of plants and trees, and of course there’s Spring repair and cleaning.  Now you may cringe at those two words but as you know, protecting and repairing your home keeps it looking beautiful and in great shape.
And we’re here to make your life easier!  Firstly, we have an outdoor checklist to help keep you on track.  Secondly, we have some tips and strategies to make the cleaning process more streamlined and manageable. So let’s get started!
Outdoor Springtime Checklist
  • Tour house and exterior grounds.  Make a list of any needed maintenance.
  • Sweep porches and walkways
  • Wash siding, thresholds, and exterior doors.  It may simply work with a garden hose and a deck brush.  For the best results, we recommend power washing.
  • Clean or replace welcome mat.
  • Inspect, clean, and repair outdoor furniture.
  • Inspect light fixtures: wash covers and check for damaged wires and connections.
  • Clear away any dead foliage and weeds from beds and lawn.
  • Inspect the roof for winter damage: leaks, missing or broken shingles or tiles.  If you don’t have access, we recommend contacting your local roofer for inspection.
  • Scrape, prime, and paint any peeling spots on trim or woodwork.  You’ll not only be making a difference cosmetically but also protecting the wood from damage due to changing temperatures and moisture.
  • Identify any rotting wood trim or siding and have it removed and replaced before it becomes a bigger issue.
  • Begin your landscaping projects while it’s cooler and the soil is damp and pliable.  Trees, plants, and shrubs make a huge difference in adding curb appeal.
  • Lastly, remember to have fun doing it.  The outside of your home is there to protect you year round so it’s always a good idea to inspect, repair, and clean your biggest asset.
Spring Cleaning Strategies
1. Make a list– this will save time so you can keep the ball rolling.

2. Assemble a team–  If your family is willing and able, get them to work with you as a team.  And there’s always your friends.

3. Gather your supplies – Spend the week before spring cleaning begins gathering up the supplies you’ll need. 

4. Plan ahead for time-consuming tasks– If you’re planning any time-consuming tasks, set aside extra time outside of your actual spring cleaning schedule.

5. Focus on one task at a time – Simply put.

6. Recognize your progress – A large list is daunting but once you begin to see things crossed out you’ll feel you’re making a dent.

7. Be realistic – hard work takes time, but know that the satisfaction from a job well done is around the corner.

8. Take breaks – You’re not a machine, and everyone deserves a break.

9. Prepare snacks and meals ahead of time – Refuel without creating even more work for yourself.  Think of easily put-together meals.

10. Get ready to jam – Remember to have fun, so make that I-tunes playlist or break out those vinyl records.  Music keeps you moving!

Owner Jonathan Shenk Shares Greenleaf’s “Sustainable” Practices at Forum

Jonathan Shenk, owner of Greenleaf, shared our company’s environmental, or “green,” initiatives at “Creating Sustainable Businesses in New Jersey,” a forum held at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) headquarters in Trenton last Tuesday.

We are proud to share with you these “green” practices and initiatives from his talk.

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“From our inception we have educated customers and advocated for the use of ‘green,’ environmentally-sound paint products. This emphasis is noted in our name choice.

Nine years ago, these paints were harder to find, they were more expensive, more difficult to use, and offered lower performance and quality. Now every brand markets green paints and are phasing out their regular paints. The prices are now competitive and the quality is excellent.

Another important sustainable practice for a painting company is the safe disposal of paint products:

+ Paint thinners and oil paints must be disposed through hazardous waste collections. We recycle most of our paint thinner through a step-by-step filtering process.

+ Latex paints need to be mixed with a hardener before disposal.

We have recently started offering a service to customers where we will dispose of their old paint cans piling up in their basements. 

We also can sometimes find alternatives to disposing of unwanted latex paints: we can donate full gallons to Habitat for Humanity’s Re-store and sometimes our own painters are happy to round up excess paints for their side projects.

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There are several other things we do which are not unique to a painting company: 

+ We have several paperless practices: we communicate internally through dropbox. Our managers can access work site forms and job calendars on dropbox.

+ We are also beginning to shift our bill payments to be done exclusively online so no hard copies need to be printed out.

+We recycle our paper and plastic. 

+We conserve on energy by keeping office temperatures low during the cold season and opening doors for fresh air during the warm season. Turning out lights in rooms we are not working in.

We were pleased to see NJ take this initiative to support and promote sustainable business practices. We’re happy to be involved in this initiative and to connect and network with other like-minded businesses and people.”

Jonathan was invited to speak at the forum as a member of the New Jersey Sustainable Business Registry, which promotes sustainability planning and practices among New Jersey businesses. The welcome was given by Bob Marshall, Assistant Commissioner, DEP Sustainability and Green Energy (SAGE).

Spicing Up a Room with Cultural Flavor 

Interior designer Monique Duarte, owner of Duarte Decor, shares her ideas about design and how she works with clients to spice up a room based on their cultural background and tastes.

Tell us aboutDuarte how you integrate a home-owner’s background with interior design?

I start with preferences, then take into consideration an individual’s cultural influences. I like to push the envelope sometimes. A client might like green and not have a preference on hue, but I may give them three different hues to choose from to get a better sense of their style and how adventurous we can go. I do think color adds so much character to a space.

Even if you just paint, it makes a whole world of difference. It can make a room look like a whole new room. I do accent walls, and really push the envelope in those areas.

During the first consultation, I always like to tell them a little about myself, not only my experience in interior design but also my background. I studied abroad, in London, England for over four years and lived in Italy for about two years, working in international business and marketing. I like to share that with my clients because it influences how I work.

For example, I can relate with clients of West Indian culture, because from the age of 15, I was going to Trinidad and Tobago every year to visit family of West Indian culture. Also, having lived in Europe for many years, I was surrounded with people of all cultures from Italian, French, African, Asian, Indian, Russian, Latin and more.  So through life experiences I had an opportunity to learn about these cultures and what makes the people and their preferences in life so unique.  Through traveling and being exposed to different cultures, it has taught me how culture influences who we are. A lot of time it naturally comes out.

How do you put together a room when you have furnishings from different cultures or eras?

With interior design, there really are no rules. That is the art of design. You can mix themes. It’s taking the time to think through what is aesthetically pleasing to them and will also function well.

Some clients will say that they want an Indian feel throughout our home, because that is their culture. Or there may be a specific room, such as a children’s room, that is themed.

I have a current client who is Indian and wants that theme in their living areas, but their son loves soccer, and so his room will be reflective of that.

When you do design for a family who wants a certain cultural look, do you mix in modern colors—or do you stick with traditional colors?

We talk about what are the must-haves. What is the ultimate design look that they want.

What happens when you have two individuals from two completely different backgrounds? 

I do get that a lot. The husband loves contemporary design. The wife is more on the traditional side. Usually in that situation, I will sit down and give them some visuals, going through magazines and catalogues. There are certain aspects that they can actually come to a compromise on. They might like Provencal furniture with a French flavor.

New Jersey is very interesting because we are right near New York and Philadelphia and Delaware, all with unique pockets of clients and homes. It’s a diverse area. My experience in working with different types of clients, there’s a lot of Indian, and a mix of caucasian and Asian. We get a lot of clients from India, and want to infuse those characteristics into their interior design.

We also get Toms River area. And those are closer to the water, and want a coastal design. Those are always fun to designer, because my family’s from the Carribean, and I love the beach and the water.

Tell us about your background and how you got into design?

My mother is from Trinidad, which was an English colony. My great-grandmother was Indian. My father is African-American, from Atlanta, Georgia. My mother has her own design company in quilting and fabric arts. She was and still is an amazing artist, having won many awards, and work shown in art galleries in Virginia. My grandmother by trade had a degree in interior design & all her life made porcelain dolls, jewelry, and clothes for a living. So I naturally come from a creative family.

However, It took me longer to realize that I had a creative calling for my work in life. When I bought my first home, I was working in advertising, and decorating the house became my little baby and stress reliever. It had all white walls, and I took my time and designed it the way I wanted my home to be. I got so much joy out of doing it, and when I finally finished it, friends would come over and ask if I hired an interior designer. That’s when I knew I had a knack for this. I then went back to school to study Interior Decorating at Penn Foster University. And then I went full-force and started my business in 2012, at age 30. I’m serving mainly Central New Jersey, and I’ve been venturing out into boroughs of New York as well. In 2015, we will be launching our expansion into the Caribbean and Latin Market (Dominican Republic), focusing on coastal interior decorating, which I am super excited about. I’m looking forward to expanding into those markets.

What is a favorite project that you have done?

I worked on a project last year, and it was a challenging but rewarding project. I was working with a single professional woman, who lived alone and spent a lot of time at work. When she came home, she didn’t have a lot of organization. A lack of good systems in place to keep track of things. Things would pile up. She wanted design, but also organization.

I brought in an organizing team first, before doing any design. We helped her create systems for organizing and even helped her purge old items that she no longer needed. And then, completely redesigned the home.

She said she was so grateful that her home was transformed. It’s peaceful and conducive to her life. We did more than just design her home, it helped transform her life.

A part of design is making sure the things in your space are the things that belong there. From a functional standpoint and also aesthetically.

Sometimes people don’t realize clutter has an impact on your emotions and mindset. We trained her to put mail into a specific place, a consul by the doorway, with a basket for her mail.

And now she can use her dining room table, which she can now use for dining with her friends and family. Design changes how you can use your home.

In this project, the client’s cultural preference was more based on her behaviors and being very close to her family. She always had her aunts, nieces and mom visiting her home, because family time was very important to her. So to ensure that the design of her home was in-line with this cultural characteristic, we made sure that all the design elements we proposed kept in mind that she would have family over often.  We incorporated a sofa bed into the living room, as well as a nice, plush reading chair in her guest bedroom for when her mother comes to visit. So, cultural characteristics can be infused in many different ways. It’s all about getting to know your clients and delivering on their specific needs and wants, something in-line with who they truly are.

And when you can make that kind of difference, it’s very rewarding.

Have you always combined organizing and design?

We didn’t initially offer organizing. But we saw that sometimes it was difficult designing a home without organizing first. The home has to be functional. The company we use is Honeybee Organizing. All of my clients who have done this organizing piece first have been 100% satisfied.

For ideas and inspiration, visit Monique’s website, http://www.duartedecor.com

Add Sparkle to Your Home with Winter Holiday Painting!

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Many people think painting companies are busy during the holiday season. Isn’t  everybody busy during the holiday season!?

But in December, outdoor painting projects have come to a close, and because it IS the holidays, people are shy to call. You don’t need to be.

If you have a project–especially needing a fast turn-around time–the holiday season, including weeks into the New Year can be the ideal time to schedule your project. You may find that you can get on the schedule faster and that the project is completed more quickly.

And low-odor paints make winter painting a no-brainer

It used to be that you had to paint in seasons when you could keep the windows open because the paint smelled so bad. But low-VOC paints have changed all that. These are different than your typical Non-Toxic Latex paint. Even the popularized so called “non-toxic” paints have VOC’s –Volatile Organic Compounds–that off-gas things like  formaldehyde when you put it on the wall.

Yes, formaldehyde, a carcinogen, is an ingredient in “non-toxic” paint. This is why we like to use the Low- to No-VOC paints. You can paint your bedroom during the day and sleep in it that night. No worries. No smell.

Low-chemical, low-odor paints have been around long enough, and the competition is fierce enough, that these paints cost about the same as traditional latex paint. They also perform just as well, holding up in color and finish over time. Our favorite high-performance brands are Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams, although other brands offer Low-VOC paints as well.

Three Key Questions to Ask as You Choose a Contractor

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In the last couple of months, we were hired by two different homeowners to re-do a job that
another painting contractor botched.
We occasionally get these requests, and it’s always a reminder to us to share what we know
about how to choose a contractor that’s right for the job. We recommend that you solicit three
bids, and then call the references the contractor gives you.

BUT DON’T STOP THERE. In the process, it’s important to ask these three things:

1) How will the contractor communicate with you? Does the contractor have an email address for answering your quick questions? Do they answer phone calls, and during what hours? How many days do they generally take to get back to customers?Not all contractors will actually return your call in a timely manner. If you notice that it is hard to reach a contractor when you are in the bidding process, this may indicate how it will go once you sign the contract. That said, we’ve had incredibly busy summers during which it is hard to get back to people as fast as we’d like. It is good to have a conversation with the contractor when getting a bid about what to expect.

2) How respectful will the contractor be of your property? Ask about how your furniture will be moved and protected during the work. If it is outdoor work, will your plantings near your house be protected? This is especially critical during lead removal or power washing.

It’s also important to ask how much preparation goes into the project. We pride ourselves in very careful preparation that leads to smooth walls, clean lines, and eye-popping results. Inquire about the kind of care the contractor puts into the work.

Continue reading “Three Key Questions to Ask as You Choose a Contractor”

Greenleaf Painters Complete Historic Church Renovation in Trenton, New Jersey, 2014

We recently had the privilege of renovating the exterior of the Trenton Society of Friends Meeting in Trenton, NJ. The structure is one of the oldest remaining buildings in Trenton, built in 1739!  Pictured here are some of the Greenleaf painters, as well as before and after pics of the building.

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A pic (below) before work got started…


In progress, below. Our craftsmen rise to (literally) great heights!

friends meeting house in progress

Side shot (below), after renovation was complete…

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Front view, after the final touches were complete:

friends meeting house complete

We discovered these interesting facts about this historic church, posted on the church’s website:

–Trenton Friends Meetinghouse is the city’s oldest continuously operating house of worship, its original structure dating back to 1739.

–When it was built, Trenton was a little settlement of less than one hundred houses north of the Assunpink Creek, although the population temporarily swelled twice a year, when fairs attracted a varied populace from the neighboring countryside.

Another fun fact: Did you know that Greenleaf Painters owner Jonathan Shenk used to be a Presbyterian minister? Jonathan admits that this makes historic church renovation is an extra-special endeavor for him.

Thanks, Trenton Meeting of Friends! We enjoyed the opportunity.

It’s So Easy Being Green

kermitRemember Kermit the Frog’s song? “Green” has a whole new meaning now, and it IS easy being green! Since earth-friendly practices are important to us, we participated in the launch of The New Jersey Sustainable Business Registry. It’s a directory of businesses that do what they can to recycle, treat waste appropriately, keep electricity use down, use eco-friendly materials, among many other practices. We are proud to be a part of this registry to highlight the importance of businesses being green–to serve our community and prosper without harming our delicate eco-system.

Since the founding of Greenleaf Painters, we’ve offered green paint options. Green, or low-VOC paints, are good for the earth AND for people. We highly recommend using these paints in your whole house, but especially places like nurseries or other bedrooms,

But promoting these paint options is not all Greenleaf does. We strive to be as green as possible in all of our practices: recycling, waste disposal, cleaners we choose for the office, and electrical usage.  Read more about Greenleaf green practices on the new registry, at http://registry.njsbdc.com/

In other completely unrelated news, Kermit the Frog took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge yesterday. http://mashable.com/2014/08/20/kermit-ice-bucket-challenge/

(Photo courtesy of Disney)


A Greenleaf Moment on Palmer Square, Princeton — at the Summer Sizzler Marketing Showcase

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Jonathan Shenk, owner, and the Greenleaf management team participated in the Summer Sizzler Marketing Showcase event on Palmer Square in Princeton in July. The event happened to fall on Jonathan’s birthday, so he is especially smiley.

The Princeton Chamber of Commerce hosts this event & has more pics here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153061371858902.1073741858.135487213901&type=1