Midtown business 'Epstein's Paints' looks to rebound with the end of SAG-AFTRA strike

Epstein's Paints serves the city's film and TV industry, filling in interior backdrops

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Friday, November 10, 2023
Local business looks to rebound after end of SAG-AFTRA strike
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Sonia Rincon interviews the owner of Epstein's Paints in Hell's Kitchen.

HELL'S KITCHEN, Manhattan (WABC) -- SAG-AFTRA members aren't the only ones able to get back on the job now that the strike is over.

Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon spoke with the owner of a family business in Midtown, Manhattan with a long history of working with New York film and TV productions.

With screen actors getting back on sets, there are sets to be designed. Epstein's Paints serves the city's film and TV industry, filling in interior backdrops, and the last few months have been tough.

"It's just been dead. It's been quiet," Ken Epstein said.

There was a little reprieve when the writers strike ended.

"They settled, so some of the late-night shows came back," he said.

Now, movies and TV shows can pick back up. The family business has been in Hell's Kitchen since 1895, but it's been filling orders for New York's big and small screen creative designers since the 1950's, thanks to Ken Epstein's late father Larry, a World War II veteran.

"The studios were all in this neighborhood," he said. "And he would go in with a couple of wallpaper books, and when color came in, they had to do everything in color and differently."

Floors, blinds and wallpaper, aren't necessarily the things you notice watching a movie or TV show, but they help transport you to a particular time or help establish a mood. That's Epstein's specialty.

When Michael Jackson and Diana Ross eased on down the road, the shop supplied just the right shade of yellow.

Lots of iconic New York movies had interiors they helped bring to life. A wall is filled with old parking permits in the store, serving as reminders.

"'Serpico,' 'Dogs Day,' some great New York stuff," Epstein said. "'The Warriors,' just some great New York movies."

Some of them have the working titles, not the final ones.

"Like 'Zumunda,' with Eddie Murphy," Epstein said.

That would eventually titled 'Coming to America.'

As the film and TV industry goes, so do the niche businesses that serve it, weathering tough times like the pandemic.

"9-11 was terrible because everything was done, the whole downtown was closed," he said. "You go months without business and then it takes time to get caught up again. And that's where we are now."


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