MARTINEZ -- It really is exciting to watch the paint dry on Main Street. That was the consensus when a crowd gathered to celebrate a colorful face lift for downtown.

Martinez is one of 20 cities across North America chosen for a free, fresh coat of paint by Benjamin Moore & Co.'s Main Street Matters program.

The public, local notables, business owners and shopkeepers joined Benjamin Moore executives for a full-blown party with music, balloon bouquets, drinks and a remarkable cake.

"It is the pinnacle part of the celebration," Theresa Doolittle, owner of Saucie's Bakery & Cafe said about the eight-foot long cake replica of Main Street Martinez, garnished with edible wetlands, a beaver and trees.

Doolittle, with help from Martinez resident and Cordon Bleu pastry instructor Devon MacGregor, decorated cake buildings with the Benjamin Moore design team's palette of 20 colors selected for Martinez.

Doolittle was delighted and surprised at the downtown transformation in progress.

"Wow! Little old Martinez! There were only two (cities) from California!" Placerville was also one of the cities selected.

Martinez actually won by virtue of public participation in a 2013 vote promoted by Leanne Peterson, Martinez Main Street executive director. Councilwoman AnaMarie Avila Farias credited Peterson's leadership for making the project possible.

Mayor Rob Schroder concurred. "Leanne really got the community behind this."

Nearly half a million people voted for their favorite community at paintwhatmatters.com, and many described why their town deserved a "Main Street Matters" revitalization from Benjamin Moore.

Benjamin Moore management has the idea that main streets are a vital hub of the community. The company's independent dealers have long been a part of that, and fresh paint is a way to kick-start a lasting revitalization of community spirit and commerce.

Every Main Street has a story that is more than a collection of businesses, according to John Lanzillotti, director of sales, who visited Martinez for the first time to attend the celebration.

Twenty-six building owners and their tenants were offered the option of a color from the Benjamin Moore's professionally curated palette consisting of aquatic blues, shades of sienna and wine, as well as a range of cream and tan hues.

Crane's Antiques owner Melvin Crane appreciates the idea that each business has a distinctive color. "I don't know if it brings more customers, but it certainly will make what is a charming town look much nicer."

Already painted brick buildings will receive a fresh coating, but natural brick is not slated for paint, according to John Norried, the local painting contractor tasked with applying Benjamin Moore Regal Select Exterior to all of the structures.

Before his painters started on May 26, Signature Painting and Construction owner Nick Rasmussen had a crew making repairs and preparing surfaces on Main Street buildings for several weeks.

Rasmussen and Norried have noticed curious passers-by stopping to observe the process, which is expected to be complete in two to three weeks.

"We start at 5 a.m. so we won't disturb the businesses," Norried said. "Every building is different, and people want to know what we are doing."

Pointing out the decorative metalwork trim across the top of a building with three storefronts, Norried explained that it will be one of the most challenging sites.

"I don't even know what kind of metal it is at this point. I haven't been up on the scaffolding to check it yet," Norried said.

Both sides of the 600-800 blocks of Main Street are comprised of buildings erected over a period of time, and consequently reflect an array of surface materials and unique details.

The "Old City Hall" at Main Street Plaza is an example. Many 700-block buildings were replacement structures built after a 1904 fire which destroyed two blocks of downtown, according to the Martinez Historical Society.

The Benjamin Moore color palate appears to recall that historic period and the essence of a waterfront community.

"It will give a nice accent (to Main Street), and provide a look that people like to see in a small downtown," Councilman Mark Ross said.

Contact Dana Guzzetti at dguzzetti10@gmail.com.

or call 925-202-9292.

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