It’s hard not to talk about our new house without bringing up the wallpaper. It was the first thing you saw when you came in. If it didn’t take your breath away, it certainly surprised you. And it was everywhere. Throughout the entryway, up the staircase, down the upstairs hallway. There was no question we were going to get rid of it. And there was no question who we were going to use: Tim Heidt, wallpaper removal extraordinaire. (There are people out there whose only job is to remove wallpaper? If you have to ask, you’ve never been to Grosse Pointe).
I begin my conversation with Tim by asking how he got started. He looks at me curiously, wondering what I mean. I say I’m sure as a little kid he didn’t dream about someday owning a wallpaper removal company. He smiles (as he does many times during our short interview) and says, “well…and I don’t tell everyone this…”(I hold my breath, waiting for the juicy details) “…I used to be a special ed teacher.” Oh. The old, I didn’t make enough as a teacher story. We’ve all heard it before and too many times.
So Tim the special ed teacher with two masters degrees needed to make some extra money. He started working for a painting contractor, removing wallpaper (of course). There was so much work to be done in the world of wallpaper removal that eventually he quit his teaching job and branched off on his own.
Twenty-eight years later, the business is still going strong. I tell him everyone I talk to knows who he is. Realtors, painters, builders, friends. Whenever the subject of wallpaper comes up, people say, “You using Tim?” or “You have to use Tim Heidt. He’s the best.”
He smiles, nodding in agreement. He tells me why he has such a good reputation. “Three things,” he says. Timeliness. Cleanliness. Fairness. He could probably raise his prices (he could. I’ve done online comparisons), but he’s always tried to be fair and it’s clear he’s proud of that. Also, even though he could expand the business, he wants it to stay small. Being an absentee owner is not on the agenda.
We continue talking as he and his assistant Matt prep the walls with glue-eating enzymes (or something). The solution breaks up the wallpaper paste and turns it into what it was before – “icky gooey stuff,” in Tim’s words. Am I going to interview Matt, too?, Tim asks, chuckling. He’s getting a kick out of this interview thing. Um, sure. This is Matt’s third year working for Tim’s Wallpaper Removal. What he enjoys most about the job is traveling around the Detroit area and getting to see a new environment every day.
My final question for both of them: What’s “in” for walls? Matt says he’s seeing a lot of florals and earth tones. Tim says wallpaper is out. But he’s quick to add that wallpaper is much like miniskirts and bell-bottom trousers – it’ll come back. People choose wallpaper because it’s a medium that creates an effect you just can’t duplicate with paint. As I take a last look at the big, bold flowers covering the entryway, I have to agree. Part of me is sad to see it go (but not to worry, I’ve kept the remnants in the basement. Just in case).