Updated: Mar 17, 2021
Shannon's Irises (from the RPS catalog), 2017
By Bobby Padilla
Acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”
“We’ll all get through this together.” Now a tagline that has become commercially marketable. Every TV show, news cast, media outlet, and advertisement tells us so. Physically, yes, we will, except for the sad percentage of us that have lost someone to Covid 19. For those folks, I’m sure every time they hear that rosy bullshit it’s like a twist of the knife. Then there’s the financial realities that small businesses face. If you’re a little café or pub or restaurant owner, there’s a saying, “A dead month kills”! There’s always a natural ebb and flow to the fiscal well being of a business over the course of a year. The busier times off set the couple of slower months in the year and thus there’s a balance. A business that’s on the brink or just taking off, can’t afford a bad month, they just don’t the capitol to recover. We all know the ominous statistic that nearly half of restaurants and bars fail within the first year, nearly 75% within five years. So, we’ve been in Covid shutdown since the middle of March, that’s two and a half months if your counting. Sadly, there’s no coming back from that.
Lilac Irises, 1917
By Claude Monet
Oil on Canvas
Most of these size businesses, along with dozens of types of independent contractors, landscapers, bakeries and the like, are in jeopardy. They operate solely or with the help of family members, (perhaps under the table), or with a handful of paid employees. They don’t qualify for federal relief or PPP or any type of bridge loan. In short, they won’t make it. Let me spell it out. That business was the culmination of a dream that used up a nest egg, or lifetime of savings. It was the gamble of a college fund or refinanced mortgage. Or in my case, cashing out my 401k. You get one shot. You don’t just restart a business with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Then there’s the business of paint and sip. As an industry, our whole business model is counter intuitive to the quarantine, lots of close proximity and groups of ten plus. The very premise is using the activity of painting to gather and celebrate or otherwise enjoy the company of our friends and loved ones. It’s building bonds with our coworkers or perhaps partnering with other like-minded businesses to showcase venues with food and beverages. In a cruel twist of fate, this pandemic through forced shutdown of every non-essential business, has a firm chokehold on paint and sips. Pulling the curtain back for a moment, RPS has little overhead by design. As stated previously, I believe we’ll come out the other side. I feel bad for my competitors like Painting with a Twist or Pino’s Palette. Yes, you heard me right. Their overhead is enormous with plaza rents, utilities, and franchise fees. Without knowing the exact dynamics of their franchise contracts, the relentless wheel of financial obligation doesn’t stop just because the world hit the pause button. Franchisers may have had the fiscal securities to open and operate a paint and sip, but at know point was there a plan for a 3-month shutdown with absolutely no income.
By Vincent Van Gogh
oil on Canvas
Behind it all, the scorn of competition, and rivalry for customers, those local franchise owners put all their faith and resources into their dreams of being part of the Painting with a Twist family. With the Coronavirus that dream may be evaporating. Now, do I think PWAT is going to file Chapter 11? No. However, perhaps the families that own those Rochester locations may be sunk. Then again, chances are, the Rochester area locations aren’t locally owned. I believe the original Fairport location was locally owned but was squeezed out and was forced to close in late 2018 by the Greece and Brighton locations that are part of a chain of franchises owned by a group from Ohio. So, the weight of that overhead, forces desperation. In an attempt to generate any kind of income, PWAT has offered online videos with curbside pickup of modest paint kits. There’s no discount on those kits. I can’t imagine that’s going to be successful. While you have to do something, it’s goes against the whole paint and sip philosophy. Going forward, class sizes will be diminished and attendees must be six feet apart, think about that. How are you sharing a bottle or lean over your buddy and poke fun that the bird they painted on a branch looks more like a flying squirrel? It may be tough sledding for months with little income. I don’t take joy in that despite how I bristle at their existence. In the end, I love painting and believe in the paint and sip model, bringing people together through painting.
Woman of Substance
By Octavio Ocampo, Date NA
Mixed media on board
I refuse to try and capitalize on the Coronavirus under the guiles of keeping RPS with a pulse. Perhaps that makes me a naïve business owner but if we’re truly “All in this together” the least I can do is give you my time through videos on doing paint projects on our YouTube channel. Just like classes I’ve done in the past the videos aren’t rushed, they tend to run about an hour, which is a good amount of time to take a complete break from the “new normal”. Id like to think that when this pandemic passes, as a consumer, you’ll remember who was truly “in it with you”. The small businesses who shifted resources to make masks for frontline workers or local distilleries augmenting their production lines to produce sanitizers and small restaurants providing meals to doctors and healthcare workers all free of charge. Or maybe the little mom and pop paint and sip that provided paint videos to people to do so that they could break the monotony of homeschooling and working from home.
Calle Lillies, Irises and Mimosas, 1913
By Henri Matisse
Oil on Canvas
While activities like paint and sip all take a back seat for now, the day will come when we can resume “regular” operations. I imagine a premium will be put on such gatherings. Know I’ll be here with my family ready to paint and have fun with yours. Below there are a couple of links to paintings you can do whenever you like, I’ll post new ones when I can. As spring rolls into summer, we’ll paint beaches that don’t require social distancing, and sunsets and flowers that don’t need face coverings.