Earlier this year, Meredith Lanning, owner of Pinot’s Palette in Katy, told Community Impact Newspaper she was taking measures to be extra sanitary and maintain social distancing rules in her classes at the beginning of quarantine; she even suspended in-studio classes for a while.
Eight months and several regulations later, Lanning said it has been a challenging year.
"The last eight months have been a roller coaster," Lanning said. "I'm a small-business owner who is supposed to promote social gatherings to stay open in the middle of a pandemic. ... How do you do that?"
Lanning, like other business owners around the world, was forced to create a new business model overnight.
With approval from Fort Bend County, Lanning was able to offer curbside pickup for painting kits, which slightly increased spending because materials that were typically reused were now being sold.
Three sister studios across the country, located in Ohio, Washington and Illinois ,began to host live virtual classes, so customers at Pinot's Palette could pick up a kit in Katy and tune in from their homes.
The small business landed a gig with seven different apartment complexes participating in a resident-appreciation gesture and Lanning was able to sell 260 kits.
"It was like an assembly line with paint," she said.
However, that was not sustainable, and business slowed again once the mask orders went into place the week of July 4.
"Nobody was coming," Lanning said. "I couldn't get an adult in here to drink and paint if it saved my life. I had to shut it down."
Lanning and her staff started a kids' camp soon after as a trial, and it succeeded.
"I was offering parents four hours of having their children entertained in a safe environment after being stuck at home for months," she said.
Staff took additional precautions with the children by guiding them to frequently wash their hands and keep their masks on.
The pre-COVID-19 capacity for the studio is 40, but right now, it is at 20 to allow for social distancing.
The space in the studio allows for parties who do not know one another to keep a safe distance. Staff is required to wear a mask at all times, and attendees are encouraged to wear a mask if they get up from their seat.
Otherwise, individuals can remove their mask to sip wine in their seats like they would at a restaurant.
"When people don't come in here, we all go stir-crazy," Lanning said. "We feed on the people and their good energy and the vibe. It's always a happy place anyway, and so I hope we can keep going."
Lanning reached out to Fort Bend County for a grant to help stay open during the lockdown, but Pinot's Palette's locations in Cypress, Sugar Land and Memorial City have all closed since the pandemic hit the Greater Houston area.
"Ask if you are struggling," Lanning said. "It is just awesome how they help if we need it. I'm hoping it's going to be a stellar holiday season—maybe just without the crowds."