When Sicilian immigrant Angelo Vitello agreed back in 1960 to purchase his boss John William Graham’s painting company for $5,000, it was probably the best business decision of his life.
Today, that family business, founded in 1871, is proudly marking its 150th year in operation and has sustained three generations of Vitellos, including current co-owners, brothers Peter Vitello of Cohasset and Shaun Vitello of Scituate.
You’ve likely seen their bright red “J.W. Graham” truck around town, as their crew of painters revitalizes local landmarks from the Cohasset Sailing Club to the Cohasset Swim Center.
What you may not know is that in addition to handling routine residential interior and exterior paint jobs, this unique painting company is renowned for retouching hundreds of Greater Boston’s churches and cathedrals, from St Paul’s Parish in Cambridge to St. Mary’s of the Assumption in Dedham. As their motto attests: from God’s house to your house.
Among their more impressive jobs: the Roman Catholic “Mission Church,” (Boston’s Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, site of Ted Kennedy’s funeral), and the presidential seal atop the 150-foot high dome of the historic custom house on Boston’s waterfront (see photo).
"It takes a steady hand," laughs Peter, "and a good brush."
This summer, J.W. Graham is slated to repaint the front side of St. Anthony’s in Cohasset, up to the steeple on top.
Repainting a majestic church is a months-long project that can require several stories of scaffolding and use 200 gallons of multi-hued paints – while also applying delicate 23-carat gold leaf or silver plating.
“Working in a sacred space, you treat it accordingly,” says Peter. The crew still wears traditional painters’ white pants to each job and respect for the work is paramount.
The two brothers give credit for this specialty niche to their father, Joseph, who was ordained as a deacon and raised all four brothers to learn the trade at a young age. “I knew, as a Vitello, there was no other job,” says Shaun, whose own son Neal, a skilled carpenter trained at the historic North Bennett Street School, is now working alongside his father.
“Having the liberty and freedom that owning a business allows you is a privilege,” Peter agrees. “I've been doing this since 1987, and I love doing this – I really do. It's in your fiber and it's who we are.”
A Cohasset resident of 30 years, Peter and his wife have raised two children, Peter and Amanda, here. They have both actively served the Cohasset community, with Peter volunteering on the board of the Cohasset Sailing Club and serving as commodore, as well as serving on the board of CYBSA and coaching softball and baseball. Jacqui, a Cohasset native and CHS graduate, was a longtime organizer of the local Relay for Life cancer fundraiser.
Knowing they have the endorsement of a "higher power," J.W. Graham garners a unique level of trust among residential clients, who entrust them with security code access and “a bucket full of keys.”
Their paint jobs are essentially white-glove service and include color recommendations, labor, and materials, prepping the room, restoring the furniture and wall hangings, and even waxing and Windexing when they finish the job.
“When we're done, your room will be cleaner than when we walk through the door,” promises Shaun. "It's like you'll never know we were there."
Notice a spot that is peeling or blistering? The crew warranties all work and will return years later for a complimentary touch-up.
J.W. Graham also offers more than surface painting: they can arrange for carpentry work, gutter cleaning, cabinet repainting, and even holiday light hanging.
"Really, anything with a ladder, Shaun says. "Our number one thing is really is taking care of the customer. I love being the go-to guy."
Paint tips from the pros:
- It’s all in the prep. “Paint won’t stick unless it’s been properly cleaned, sanded, and dried,” advises Peter. "Proper prep is what makes a job...or breaks a job."
- Go-to paint brands? Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams
- Is gray still “in?” Yes, the 2022 “Color of the Year” is Evergreen Fog.
- When to call? Large paint projects can book up six months out and can require two weeks from power wash to completion. If you want to get scheduled for 2022, call now.
- A la carte is okay – if a full home repaint is not in the budget, you can opt for just one or two sides as needed.
For more info, visit J.W. Graham at jwgpainting.com or call 781-337-4889.