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by Rick Lingberg

The year was 1884. Two out-of-work house painters were about to board a train leaving Sioux Falls for California when a contractor named Lund saw them carrying their gear. He told them he had a big job and if they'd stay he'd have enough work to occupy them through the winter. They stayed. Lund became terminally ill the following year, however, and the painters bought him out hoping to make a nice business for themselves and their families. Those house painters, immigrant brothers Sven Albert and Peter Norberg, sustained by their faith, family and community, would be the founders of Norberg Paints, which has remained in Sioux Falls for 131 years.

"If there [was] no paint, this would be a drab world to live in."

An oft-quoted statistic in the world of family business is that 30% of such businesses make it to the second generation, 10-15% make it to the third and 3-5% make it to the fourth generation. There are no commonly used statistics about the fifth generation, because so few family businesses survive that long. You would have to come to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to find one that actually has—Norberg Paints. This longevity has made them the oldest continuously owned family business in South Dakota.

"It's hard to find a building in town that hasn't had Norberg paint in it at one time or [another]."

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Paul, Milt & Peter Norberg

Sven Albert’s son Paul joined the business in 1919, followed by his son Stanley (1955) and then Stuart (1981). Peter’s lineage has also remained Norberg Paints stalwarts as well. He was followed by his son Milton (1920), then Gene (1946), Jim (1975) and finally Jim’s son-in-law Dan (Jennifer) Boyle (2010). Dan and the 4th generation Stuart are the current Norberg Paints co-owners. Says Boyle, “Our goal is to leave this business in better shape and on a more stable footing for the next generation.”

"Even if you do not purchase the paint from us never hesitate to call if you have questions."

Throughout all their years in business, Norberg Paints has been a prominent Downtown Sioux Falls establishment. For the last 28 years, their location has been at 326 E. 14th street. In more recent years, they have had a presence in southern Sioux Falls, with a store currently at 313 W. 37th since 2013.

In addition to its two Sioux Falls stores, Norberg Paints has a fully-stocked warehouse from which they provide paint supplies to stores and professional painters throughout a five-state area. Says Boyle, “When one of our customers calls, they usually need paint right away.” He adds, “We can get paint to them quicker than the big regional distribution centers.”

"People always need paint."

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Stuart Norberg & Dan Boyle
Norberg Paints Co-Owners

In 2011, South African archeologists reported finding a 100,000-year-old human-made ochre-based mixture that could have been used as paint. “People always need paint,” says Boyle. “Paints and stains are often the easiest and most cost effective way to change or enhance the look of your home and business,” he adds.  

At one time, all painting in the United States was done with a brush. It took a long time to complete a job, no matter what it was. Boyle points out that spraying is probably the biggest change that painting has seen over the last hundred years. “A lot more paint can be applied in a lot less time,” he says.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that customers still need good, trustworthy people to apply the product. Although it is no longer in the commercial painting business, Norberg Paints has a long history of supplying those who are. One such painter is long-time Sioux Falls resident Gordon Wirth. Says Wirth, “When I started in the business, 30 years ago, Stan Norberg (third generation) not only sold me paint, but [he] showed me how to be a better painter. He came out to many a job site to make sure I was doing it right—that’s full service!”

"This business hopefully reflects our faith in God, and we are indebted to Him for all the ways that he directs our steps and those of our former owners."

Since the arrival of Sven Albert and Peter Norberg, faith in God and involvement in the church has been a central tenet of the Norberg family. Their association has primarily been with the Central Baptist Church, where, in addition to their faithful attendance, many of the Norbergs have served on the boards and committees throughout the years. According to Stuart Norberg, “I don’t believe you have the good fortune to stay in business as long as we have simply because we provide quality products and good service. Faith in something much bigger than us has sustained us over the years.”

"We are a family owned operation; we are deeply involved with and care about Sioux Falls and where is has come from and where it is going."

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Gene & Stan Norberg

The Norbergs have seen Sioux Falls grow from a town of less than 10,000 to a thriving city of nearly 170,000. The progress has been remarkable and the envy of cities around the nation. Boyle points out that it may be somewhat unscientific, but they can literally monitor the development of Sioux Falls by looking out their front door: “We can count the building supply trucks delivering drywall that pass by our store and project with a fair degree of certainty how much paint we’ll soon be selling. Most every sheet of drywall they carry will eventually need a coat of paint.” With a slight grin, he adds, “Hopefully Norberg Paints.”

"We're grateful to be a part of a community that's growing."

How different things would have been had that contractor not stopped the Norbergs from leaving Sioux Falls over 130 years ago. It would have been an impossible dream for Sven Albert and his brother Peter to imagine that Norberg Paints would still be servicing the community with paint and related products all these years later. It makes one wonder: is it so impossible to think that they will still be doing it 100 years from now?