Putting a Local Spin on Pinot’s PalettePinot's Palette
“Louisville is a lot like Austin, Texas – they like to keep things a little weird. There’s a push for ‘local’ here . . . and the team really stepped in and helped make the studio more of a grassroots deal.”
Mollie Noe remembers the exact moment when she fell in love with the “paint and sip” concept: It was her mother’s 60th birthday, and they chose to celebrate with a trip to a local studio that offered wine and painting lessons. She and her mother had a blast – and by the end of the evening, Mollie made a life-changing decision.
“I came home that night and told my husband, ‘I want to own one of these,’” she recalls.
Mollie and her husband, Anthony, started doing research on the Internet. They found several paint and sip studios online – but Mollie says that they kept coming back to Pinot’s Palette. They liked the fact that the owners were young entrepreneurs, and they liked the company’s focus on technology and support for franchise owners.
The Noes called the Pinot’s Palette team and spoke to Charles Willis. She “picked his brain” about the franchise – and she liked what she heard. A month later, she and Anthony flew to Houston to meet the team in person and learn more about becoming a Pinot’s Palette franchise owner.
They both liked the team’s friendly, no-pressure approach. “We met with the entire team – they weren’t pushy, they were nice, and they were fun to hang out with. We got a very good vibe,” she says.
Mollie signed her paperwork in May of 2012. She found a location in June. Charles Willis flew to Louisville and helped her review and negotiate her lease.
Keeping Things “Weird”
When she first decided to open a paint and sip studio, Mollie says she briefly considered a solo, “mom-and-pop” venture. She thought it might be a better fit for a city that values uniqueness and individuality.
“Louisville is a lot like Austin, Texas – they like to keep things a little weird,” Mollie says. “There’s a push for ‘local’ here.”
Although Mollie quickly decided that she didn’t want to go the independent route, she didn’t give up on her desire to customize her studio. To give her studio more of a local vibe, Mollie enlisted the help of Mari Sokolowski, Franchise Development Director at Pinot’s Palette. Sokolowski helped Mollie put her own unique spin on the franchise.
“Mari and the team really stepped in and helped make the studio more of a grassroots deal,” says Mollie. “For example, we have a private party room, and we did a mural on the wall in there that features different things in Louisville, to give it more of a local flair.”
Events such as a Bourbon-themed night, and a painting library stocked with custom creations with titles like “Starry Night Over Churchill Downs” add even more Louisville flavor.
Another challenge of opening a paint-and-sip in Louisville? The liquor laws. In most states, Pinot’s Palette studios operate as “BYOB” establishments that allow guests to bring their own beer or wine. According to Kentucky’s liquor laws, though, there’s no such thing as “BYOB.” There are bars, and there are restaurants – and Pinot’s Palette didn’t really fit either category.
“We don’t serve food, so we’re not a restaurant. We fall into the ‘bar’ category,” says Mollie. “We thought for a while about trying to be a restaurant, and we had so many conversations with Craig. His advice was, ‘Let’s be smart about this.’ So, we decided to bring in liquor. We’d make it work; it would be unique.”
Mollie embraced the “bar” concept and added a full bar to her studio. They offer liquor in addition to beer and wine, and they stage events that are designed to appeal more to an over-21 crowd, such as margarita nights or bottomless mimosas on Mother’s Day.
Because her studio is considered a bar, Mollie says she’s had to get a little creative. For example, since she can’t host children’s parties in her studio, she schedules kid-friendly events off-site, at schools and other locations throughout the community. It’s been a bit of a challenge — but it’s one more thing that makes her studio truly unique.
Like a Family
Mollie opened her studio in November 2012, and she’s happy to report that business is booming. She books lots of private parties, and her classes are filled with repeat clients who enjoy the fun, local atmosphere she’s created in her studio.
Although running a Pinot’s Palette franchise is a lot of work, Mollie says her studio has actually provided plenty of opportunities for her family to spend time together. On most nights, her mother-in-law tends bar, and Anthony enjoys dropping by the studio for whiskey nights.
“We have our hands full, but we love it,” says Mollie. She says that she’s open to the idea of a second franchise someday when her kids are a little older (she has a two-year-old and a four-month-old who was born just a few days after her studio opened).
Noe says her favorite part of owning a Pinot’s Palette is the fact that it provides her with just the right balance between a “mom-and-pop” business and a larger company. “The Pinot’s Palette team is really like a family,” she says. “That sounds so cheesy – but they really are like an educated group of friends. We’re all friends on Facebook. They’re always there to bounce ideas off of. Everyone wants you to succeed.”