A Century of Dedication

Johns Painting & Decorating celebrates 100 years of staying true to its values.
Jun 3, 2024
Julia K. Porter, PhD
Jeffrey Crane & Provided

Johns Painting & Decorating, founded in 1924 by Leon Johns, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The journey that has led to this incredible accomplishment began a century ago with resiliency, determination and an unwavering work ethic.

Like many children in the 1920s, Leon was orphaned and living with his grandmother. Although hardships were numerous, at a young age he had the will power to persevere. As family lore dictates, Leon’s two older brothers encouraged him to leave his hometown of Decatur, Indiana and run away at the age of 13 to get a job in Fort Wayne. He did just that and landed a position with Doswell & Kover, where he worked from 1906-1918 learning the painting trade and how to build scaffold. He then traveled to North and South Dakota and Wisconsin, painting and applying gold leaf in churches. In 1918, Leon went into business with a man named Young, and in 1920 he married Ruby Gildea. In 1924, he split with Young and started his own company — Johns Painting & Decorating. He began by painting houses in Fort Wayne before landing his first big account at department store Wolf & Dessauer. He eventually got a large commercial job at International Harvester, further establishing the company. 

After Leon’s nephew, John Shoppell, lost his father to cancer, Leon became a father figure to him. He invited John to join the company in 1952. John worked hard while simultaneously attending North Side High School and, in just a few short years, was managing employees at the age of 19. John continued working with Leon after high school and later gained ownership of the company in 1972. 

John’s son, Dave, joined the company in 1986 and became president in 2012, maintaining daily operations. Dave expanded the supervisory team to include Lenny Smith, who not only upholds company standards, but has been with the business since 2009 — Lenny has held the title of project manager since 2013. 

It remains important to the Shoppells to uphold the level of excellence that Johns Painting & Decorating is known for. Though 100 years have passed, the work ethic, grit and values of the company have remained the same. “My Uncle Leon treated people well back in the day,” says John. “He took care of people that needed it and that’s something that is important to me, too.”

John is also committed to supporting youth in the community. Many remember being on a Johns Painting sports team growing up. He has been recognized for supporting local Little League for over 50 years. 

One thing that sets the company apart from others is that it has stayed committed to a hands-on approach in daily operations, to lead and support its employees. John explains that he sets a high bar for his son and the employees, but is there to ensure that they work to their full potential with his support and understanding. This dedication to his employees allows them to show their own loyalty to the company. “We have had many long-term employees retire, including some that worked for us their entire career,” John reflects.

As one would expect, though the values have remained the same, a lot has changed during the company’s tenure. As John explains, they used to “shake hands, do the work and send a bill,” but now there are more documents, emails and paperwork, thanks to technology and different safety and legal standards. Work has also become a little easier with better materials and the use of high-lift equipment. Previously, building with scaffolding by hand would often take as long as the job itself.

Dave has continued the hands-on approach, and appreciates Lenny’s leadership and all of the employees’ hard work and excellence in their trade. They spend long hours in many different locations and their efforts aren’t lost on their employer. This appreciation also extends to the many hardworking individuals in maintenance that they’ve partnered with, as they opened doors for them throughout the years. 

Johns Painting & Decorating is grateful to both its amazing employees and wonderful customers that have enabled them to reach this milestone anniversary. 

Johns Painting & Decorating Co., Inc.

Address: 4110 Clubview Drive, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46804

Phone: (260) 432-6273

Website: johnspaintingfw.com

Email: dave@johnspaintingfw.com

Years in Business: 100

Products & Services: Commercial & Industrial Painting, Drywall Finishing & Commercial Wallcovering Application and Removal

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