Little did he know how much that decision would affect his career path and the rest of his life. Twenty six years later, he's still in the paint business. He's become a paint aficionado and entrepreneur.
Dankers moved to Reno after graduating from Las Vegas' Bonanza High School in 1991. He moved North to attend classes at Truckee Meadows Community College. He soon hooked on with Sherwin Williams in Reno and picked up a part-time gig while going to school. Roughly a year after his move to northern Nevada, Dankers was an offered a full-time assistant manager position at a local Sherwin Williams store. He accepted the job and that brought a close to his college career.
So now, almost three decades after his first trip to that Las Vegas paint warehouse, does he even remember his start in the paint business?
"It started with a bad neighbor," he joked.
In 1995, Dankers transferred to Chico, Calif. to manager a Sherwin Williams store there. However, it didn't take long for him to look for opportunities to return to the Truckee Meadows. In early 1998, a job as an outside sales representative became available with Reno-Truckee Paint Mart. He took the job, returning to the region and buying a home in Sparks. In 2007 he bought a share of the company and is now one of two co-owners that run the business's day-to-day operations.
"I enjoyed end dealing with the end users," the Sparks resident said of his tenure as a sales rep. "And then I bought into the company basically because I was heavily involved in everything and working there. I'd might as well own part of it. It seemed like a great opportunity for me. The business has been in town since 1962 and family owned. I was the first non-family member ever asked to buy into it.
"I like it. I like putting together the strategies to compete with the big box stores and large corporations. We're considered the small 'ma and pa' store in town and it's fun to compete with them. I like the challenge of showing we can be compete, that we have the product knowledge, specification requirements, all the things the big boxes don't specialize in. We only do paint."
Dankers has only done Sparks since he moved back to northern Nevada from California 15 years ago. He and his wife Jen bought a house in the Spanish Springs valley upon their return to the region. A few years later as their family grew, they bought a bigger house, right down the street. They enjoy calling Sparks home.
"I like living in Sparks," Dankers said. "I like being outside of Reno all I like all the things out here, being close to Pyramid Lake. My wife's family is all in this area. My parents built a house out here 10 years ago. It's just got a family feel. I like the small-town feel, but considering my business I don't wish it was any smaller. We need growth and to be sustainable, if the area doesn't keep growing, the business shrinks."
As the national and local economy began to take a nose dive five years ago, the paint business felt the negative effects. Dankers said it was a trying time. Additionally, during that same period, RTC officials chose to tear up Moana Lane in front of Reno-Truckee Paint Mart. The traffic struggles didn't help.
"We weathered it by trying to get a little more diverse," Danker said. "We took on some automotive (paint) lines. We dabbled here and there. We added outside sales people and added delivery vehicles. We knew the business wouldn't come to us so we had to pound the pavement, meet people and build relationships. I'd say what hurt most was the economy, one, and two, the Moana Lane construction, but we weathered it and I think we came out a better company by going through that."
While the economy may be slowing bouncing back, Dankers admitted there will always be challenges for the small business owner.
"Our biggest challenges are managing our people and educating employees on how to deal with our end users, the customers. The thing we're trying to specialize in is being good listeners, listening to what the customers needs. We have guys who have been in the paint business for 35 years and they think they've heard everything, but we have to say, 'you maybe know their problem but listen and help them with it.'"
Dankers likes being a small business owner. He enjoys the opportunities it affords him and the company to give back in the community. He pointed out his work in fundraising and donating toward Wolf Pack athletic programs and local schools. The Rail City resident said it feels good to give back where you live and to make a living knowing that you're providing a service and helping people where you live.
"We take pride in participating in community projects," he said. "Being involved in the community gives you a lot of pride ... I tell our guys. The only thing you have to offer over the big guys, the big boxes, is service and experience."
Dankers and his wife have two children, McKenzie, 11, and Aaron, 8. The 41-year-old enjoys golfing, camping, hunting and his children's youth sports. Aside from his family, the thing he likes most of all, are the fresh start and challenges of a new day.
"Every day, you never know quite what to expect," he said. "Every day brings different issues and different opportunities. You never know what's ahead of you when you get there."
Geoff Dankers favorites
Food: CJ Palace Chinese food
TV Show: Big Bang Theory
Sports team: Wolf Pack
Local Event: Rib Cook-off