A paint and sip studio in San Diego’s Liberty Station is coloring outside the lines these days, shifting gears to offer online classes during the coronavirus pandemic – and art kits, to-go.
“It’s kind of like rewriting your whole business model, overnight,” Julie Truckenbrod, co-owner of Pinot’s Palette, told NBC 7.
Truckenbrod and her husband, Dan, have been franchise owners of Pinot’s Palette on Roosevelt Road since 2014. Their art studio – where up to 70 customers can sip on wine while painting, following step-by-step instructions from artists – has been temporarily closed since March due to restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 crisis.
Overnight, like so many small businesses around San Diego and the world, the Truckenbrods had to come up with new ways to keep their studio running without physically being open.
Instead of drawing a blank, the couple got creative, connecting with other Pinot’s Palette franchise owners across the nation to share ideas and come up with plans to keep business moving.
Today, Pinot’s Palette at Liberty Station hosts its art sessions digitally, offering 2-hour live classes led by art instructors several times a week. Participants get to paint pretty pictures of nature, beaches and the kind of sights they might be missing as stay-at-home orders continue, while also pouring themselves a glass of wine and learning a new skill.
It’s a bit of an escape.
“It’s very therapeutic and very relaxing. It kind of takes your mind off everything else when you can focus on painting,” Truckenbrod explained. “Everyone needs a break, to be able to relax and keep their minds off this, for at least an hour a day. It’s just nice to do something different, that makes you feel better.”
Truckenbrod said her Pinot’s Palette studio is offering four options for customers.
The first is the virtual class, which costs $35 per person and includes a link to a live art class via Zoom, plus a home painting kit with all the supplies needed for the project. Customers can join the class live or click on the class link for up to four days afterward, in case they’d rather paint at their own pace or pause the instruction.
Truckenbrod said that while her studio is closed (even for curbside pickup, for now), she has been working with Solare, a neighboring restaurant in the same building on Roosevelt Road, to get the art class kits into the hands of customers.
Those who order the $35 package can pick up the home art kits at Solare during designated hours before the class, typically on weekdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Truckenbrod said her set-up with Solare is truly a case of neighbors helping neighbors.
People who order the kits are encouraged to also order takeout from the eatery so they can bring home a snack to munch on during their painting class, just as if they were painting in the studio.
Truckenbrod said that under normal circumstances when people were allowed to paint inside Pinot’s Palette, she would hand customers a special menu from Solare to order food to enjoy during the class.
“Everyone is working together,” she added.
The artists leading the virtual classes hail from other parts of the country. Truckenbrod said they will pause, just like an in-person class, to answer questions from students or when certain parts of a painting need drying time.
The live virtual classes last a couple of hours and have included participants from all over the world, Truckenbrod said, which has been fun and interesting – and given her business a wider reach.
She said students on the other side of the screen are setting up their little areas to paint at home, busting out the snacks and, of course in true Pinot Palette’s fashion, helping themselves to a glass of wine or two.
“They are definitely pouring the wine, relaxing and enjoying themselves, so that’s fun,” Truckenbrod said, with a laugh.
Another option offered by Pinot's Palette is access to a live virtual class without the art supplies for $15, which is good for repeat customers who might already have a home art kit leftover from a prior class.
Or, for $22, costumers can just grab a take-home art kit with written instructions, available for pickup at Solare. Truckenbrod said this option doesn’t include video instruction and is usually an easier project that’s good for kids and parents to do together. The final option is mail-out kits, with instructions to paint on your own, delivered to your home for $25.
Truckenbrod said she and her husband worked out the best options for their studio by calling other Pinot’s Palette franchise owners and sharing ideas. Like a painting, the plan came together stroke by stroke – and continues to evolve.
As does the Truckenbrods’ plan for when they’re finally able to reopen their studio for in-person classes.
Truckenbrod knows reopening her 70-person studio will look “nothing like it was before.”
The comeback will be slow and filled with changes, with classes that are much smaller in size than before. Instead of a 40-person Friday night session, there may be five to 10 participants, all spaced out to follow social distancing guidelines.
Masks will be worn by all. New rules will be followed to protect customers and staff.
“It’s looking different and we’re still working on that plan, day by day,” she said.
Truckenbrod said they’re thinking about continuing to offer virtual classes in the post-pandemic future, too.
Because, really, art has no boundaries.