Canton woman colors the north country with new house-painting business | St. Lawrence County

CANTON — In need of a new paint job? Miss Molly’s Painting, a new house-painting business started by Canton resident Molly A. McMasters, might be able to help.

Ms. McMasters started painting after graduating from St. Lawrence University in May 2020, right when the pandemic struck.

“I didn’t want to work as a waitress or in an office because of COVID, so painting barns and what-not was something I really enjoyed doing, and I could stay busy and pay the bills without feeling like I was putting my family in danger,” she said.

Despite her artistic talent — one of her majors was studio art — she didn’t always envision painting for a living.

“In the months leading up to my graduation, with my bachelor of science in conservation biology, I had been interviewing with environmental services businesses looking at jobs in oil-spill remediation or environmental compliance, which were in areas like Boston or New York City.”

However, when the pandemic hit, hiring freezes and safety precautions dissuaded her from relocating to such populated places.

“I was scared of moving somewhere into a shoebox apartment and being cooped up and not being able to go for walks or just be outside, and the familiarity of the north country was something I didn’t want to give up.”

“Honestly,” she said, “I couldn’t be more grateful, because everything worked out really well.”

From her father, who was also a painter, Ms. McMasters inherited a box of drop cloths, a step ladder, and an extension pole, as well as plenty of knowledge on how to get started, so the decision to start her own painting business felt natural.

“I used the physical materials gifted to me and the encouragement from my family to start painting,” she said.

“Also, I really wanted to work for myself, so I could set my own hours and rates and represent myself.”

Starting a woman-owned manual labor business was also deeply important to her.

“I was always encouraged to learn and try anything I wanted growing up, not just traditional ‘girl’ stuff,” she said.

“I’d never seen a woman mechanic, truck driver, construction worker, or house painter, so I just assumed it wasn’t something I was able to do. But after graduating SLU and speaking with women in my community like Alicia Taillon, Hailey Hodge, Carol Pynchon, my mom Suna Stone, and my Aunt Peg, I was inspired and had a ‘eureka’ moment where I felt that I could do whatever I wanted.”

Ms. McMasters said she employed the classic “fake it till you make it” strategy when she first started out.

“But now, I actually know what the hell I’m doing and do a really great job at what I do. That’s why I want to be ‘Miss Molly’s Painting.’ I want to celebrate excelling in non-traditional roles.”

As for the painting work she’s able to do, Ms. McMasters is versatile and open-minded.

“I’m flexible and willing to try any job within reason, although interior work is preferred.”

She said she’s done detailed work on interior railings with a tiny half-inch brush, and she’s also painted the entire exterior of small homes.

“I am one person with a 30-foot ladder, so I can’t take on huge jobs, but I see every job as an opportunity to learn more, so even if I feel like a job might be daunting, I’m gonna go for it anyway,” she said.

Regarding rates, she offers free consultations, but bases her quotes on $30 per hour.

Although headquartered in Canton, Ms. McMasters said she’s willing to travel for work, and has done jobs in Potsdam, Hannawa Falls, Norwood, Ogdensburg, Madrid, and Massena.

“My enthusiasm and enjoyment of my work shows in the paint,” she said.

“I really want to do a good job for my clients to make their spaces comfortable and beautiful to them — something that’s especially important when we’re all cooped up inside during the winter and due to COVID.”

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