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October 2007

Tale of the tape

By Nood Reynolds

Ann Chafoulias loves tape. Really. In fact, the Rochester native, now of Orono, loves decorative tape so much that she designed, developed, patented, produced and marketed a line of innovative painters’ tape. She even named her company Agapo (which translates from Greek to “I love”). That’s right. I love tape.

Since Ann’s husband’s career necessitated seven moves in less than two decades, she’s never been in a place long enough to establish her own career (something that always tugged at her), but along the way she got good at decorating on any budget and putting the family’s personal stamp on each abode.

She also learned to appreciate those unique products that made her mission easier. While painting a faux stone niche wall in her current home, Chafoulias became disgruntled with the perfectly straight edges rendered by traditional painters’ tape. “It looked unrealistic,” she complained, “and when I asked around at paint and decorating stores for suggestions, everyone acknowledged it was a common annoyance and said most people resort to cutting regular straight edged tape into irregular but symmetrical shapes–a task much easier said than done. I couldn’t believe that no one had come up with a better product so I went home, Googled it, did a patent search and turned up empty.” Excited by possibilities but completely unsure of the process, Chafoulias began to develop her product and business.

“I honestly wondered if I was going to literally need to learn to make tape,” admits the charmingly candid new entrepreneur. “That’s how naïve and inexperienced I was.” Eventually she found a chemist with an expertise in adhesives who was “extremely encouraging.”

Buoyed on by his confidence, she converted her hand drawn designs into mechanical drawings that could be reproduced onto a rotary die. Once the tape was produced, she tested it on every possible combination of surfaces and paint types to develop accurate instructions and recommendations. Then the one-woman marketing department took over. Sherwin Williams in Rochester is the first retailer to stock the tapes, but Chafoulias recently signed an agreement with Home Depot’s Minnesota stores. QVC has also called. Mother and daughter-in-law web designers Jenny and Kay Joppru produced her website (www.agapotape.com) and online store. 

The current product line currently includes six shapes: cement/wavy line, ric-rac, zig zag, bamboo, thin grout and chain link and prices range from $3.50 to $8.50. The tapes can be used alone or together to facilitate endless decorative paint options on walls, furniture, accessories and craft projects.

“This is truly an example of what can be done with a good idea, a dream and some perseverance,” Chafoulias says. “If I can do it, truly anyone can. I didn’t know the first thing about tape or starting a business and doors were not automatically opened to me. I just treated it like assembling a puzzle and the pieces eventually came together.” And stuck.

Our resident design guru Janine Hamilton was intrigued to try Agapo Tape on silk fabric [above]. The results are stunning. Here are her tips to avoid sticky situations when combining the two:

• A stencil brush provides the best application control.
• Spray fabric paints are too thin and bleed under the tape.
• Heat setting the designs after the paint dries increases adhesion and longevity.
• Overcome limited color options in fabric paints by custom
   blending into other hues.

Paint on pillows: Folk Art Fabric Paint by Plaid.

Paint on scarf: Lumiere by Jacquard. Both are water based acrylic and available at Michael’s. Upholstery remnant fabrics from Jo-Ann Fabrics.
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