Photos: Daniel Elke
This article appeared in MarktImpulse 2/20
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Vitali Leonov rarely accepts commercial jobs. But for a great idea the master painter and interior designer will gladly make an exception. Just like he did for the local cinema.
Theater 5 still smells new, still smells a bit of paint. Alexander Cyron, who runs the cinema together with a partner, flicks the lights on. "That's an entirely different world, right?" That's a statement, not a question. The walls here aren't decorated with dark material, as is the case in many cinemas. That was never an option for Cyron. "I had an idea," he said. At first, he only had this vague image in his head of the black-and-white classic "The Bridge on the River Kwai" from 1957; a railroad bridge, through whose steel construction you can see the trees on the bank. Now Cyron is standing right in front of it. The shadows cast by huge trees can be seen behind narrow, gray struts, arranged at an angle to symbolize the bridge. If the light is turned on in the cinema, then LEDs light up behind the struts – so it looks as if daylight shines through the pillars. In this room of black and white shadows, the only color is a sofa where visitors can stretch out directly in front of the canvas. It's a bright green turquoise. Master painter Vitali Leonov perches on it and laughs. Towards the end of last year, he designed the two new screening rooms and a foyer. He's just as happy about the results as his client.
He's one of the nicest bosses I've ever had.
Painter and interior decorator Matthias has already worked in the paint wholesale business and joined the team in March 2020
He is noticeably proud. Proud of his idea, but also of the creative collaboration with the Leon painting contractors – painters and interior design. Implementing a project like this means real team work, emphasizes Cyron. "I can't deal with tradespeople who simply just 'do' a job. I need people who understand my idea, who get involved and get excited about it. Vitali Leonov is just like that," says the cinema operator.
The two business people enhance each other. As full of ideas as Alexander Cyron is, Vitali Leonov had little intention of sticking Painter's Cover Fleece on the balls. The 38-year-old explains he rarely takes on orders for commercial customers for this reason: "Normally, it's just a load of white paint spread over large surfaces. The cinema's foyer was a welcome challenge for Vitali Leonov. The master painter not only gladly accepts ideas, he likes to contribute some too. His customers value this. When asked about Vitali Leonov, Cyron says: "I can develop something with him, the same way you get honest advice from a friend."
At the beginning, his ideas were often a bit "vague", he admits. Like his idea for the foyer. "We wanted to create a cool look, but on the other hand, also some kind of canvas. Otherwise cinemas with cardboard displays and advertising boards soon look way too colorful." The room also had to serve various purposes – readings, celebrations, staff training. White – but still special? Painter and interior designer Vitali Leonov solved the balancing act with light. Except for one wall with brick-effect wallpaper, all the others are white. At the top behind a floating stretch ceiling, there are lights whose indirect light can be changed and color mixed. This allows the colors and atmosphere in the room to change according to the occasion. For example, company parties can choose brand colors.
Without my wife, I would not be where I am today. She supported me the most.
Vitali Leonov, Owner of Leon Maler und Raumdesign
"Smooth, beautiful surfaces, that's what Leon painting contractors offers." Cyron is painting a wall. He appreciates not only Vitali Leonov’s ingenuity, but also the reliability and careful approach of the entire team. Three tradespeople are employed by the company. In the old cinema foyer, they are currently repairing the doors and walls. While they are sanding, priming and painting, tradesman Matthias tells us that he hasn't been working for his boss for that long, only since this spring. But that's long enough to be able to say, "He's one of the nicest bosses I've ever had." He's also not one of those people who pull a "funny face" if his team asks for face masks when dealing with products they may inhale; occupational safety is a matter of course in this company.
I can develop something with Vitali Leonov, the same way you get honest advice from a friend.
Alexander Cyron, cinema owner
Vitali Leonov's workshop is just a few minutes' walk from the cinema. A bright, 100 square meter sales room is located in front of it. There are stretched ceilings and sample boards with different paints on display. The large display table in the center of the room is covered with artificial grass and filled with binders holding wallpaper samples. Marina Leonov works in the HR department of a large company in Ludwigshafen. When it comes to her husband’s painting contractor firm, the 34-year-old settles the books, deals with organizational matters and rotates with tradesman Matthias in the sales room to provide customer service.
Is a painter also a service provider? She had to get used to the idea first, says Marina Leonov. "In Hunsrück, where we come from, everything is much more traditional." The new concept works. Since opening last fall, orders have increased by around 30 percent. The customers ask for filling techniques or textured nonwoven wallpaper. Here in the sales room they can not only look at color palettes, but also touch wallpaper, floor coverings or plasters. It is important that people get an idea of how something works, Vitali Leonov explains. "Most people are afraid of choosing strong color shades." Yet the decisive factor is how light and dark colors are combined. "You have to see it with your own eyes. Like here," he says and points to the red and white kitchenette in the store.
His wife laughs and translates: "When a painter says dark, he does not mean black or night blue, but a strong red." Marina Leonov mulls it over. She speaks her mind and is familiar with her husband's trade. Her open, direct manner is advantageous in direct customer contact. "You have a lot of interactions and you have to take some feelings into account," she says, "but people are grateful afterwards." There are many possible combinations between customer requirements, existing substrate and product range. For this reason, Vitali Leonov likes to be thoroughly informed about every material he works with. He appreciates good manufacturer advice. After all, he is not only the one who has to get the paint back from the wall when it flakes off. He is also the one "who ends up with a red head".
On facades, which Vitali Leonov calls "the painter's business card" because everyone can see them, good quality remains visible even after years have gone by – as does bad quality. The facade of Alexander Cyron's own house is also to be renovated by the Leon painting contractors. Cyron comes along specially for brainstorming. He’s glad to be here. The idea of making the sofa the key element in theater 5 came to him thanks to a small, velvety armchair in radiant turquoise, where customers usually sit. "I walked in the door, saw that and thought, 'Cool'." What color should the new house facade be? On this topic Cyron remains very vague, as is always the case at the start. But he is sure even this 'vagueness' will soon lift after further consultations with Vitali Leonov.
Vitali Leonov founded the Leon painting contractors in 2014, became a master painter in 2015 and moved the company from Ludwigshafen to the Grünstadt industrial park in early 2019. He opened the salesroom there in September. For the most part, the company works for private clients in Grünstadt and the surrounding area, designing the facades, ceilings, floors and walls of apartments or detached houses. The city in the district of Bad Dürkheim has 13,000 inhabitants and several new development areas. The A 6 is nearby, larger cities such as Ludwigshafen or Worms are less than 20 kilometers away as the crow flies, and Vitali Leonov also has customers in Mannheim and Kaiserslautern.