From Eliza French. Follow her on TwitterÂ @elizaenbref; email her atÂ eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
Since opening in June of 2012, Merlotâ€™s Masterpiece has grown from just three paint and sip classes per week to hosting a wide range of adult and kids classes, as well as private events, seven days a week.
According to owner Raiquel Brown, the most popular classes remain the paint and sip classes during which students recreate a classic work by Van Gogh or Monet.
At Merlotâ€™s Masterpiece, students can buy a ticket that includes the cost of wine, or choose a different ticket option and bring their own bottles to enjoy during class.
Classes that go beyond the standard â€śpaint and sipâ€ť model, including animal portrait, sketching and jewelry making classes have been successful, as well. Merlotâ€™s Masterpiece also has â€śJr. Picassoâ€ť camps and classes for kids and families.
This spring, new programs will include self-portrait painting classes and â€śan interactive art and brunch experience.â€ť
Additionally, the studio hosts private and corporate events, from kidsâ€™ birthday parties to team building experiences to bridal showers.
This was Brownâ€™s first attempt at starting a brick and mortar business, and the initial hurdle of getting up and running proved to be the hardest part. â€śThe biggest challenge,â€ť she says â€śwas getting established as a retail business in DC. I’ve run online businesses but a brick and mortar location was a new experience for me. I learned a lot during the process, from getting a liquor license to getting the proper certifications to operate a storefront. â€ś
Although opening a brick and mortar was challenging, Merlotâ€™s Masterpieceâ€™s location, close to the U-Street Metro, has played a role in the businessâ€™s viability. â€śI have felt very welcome by the small businesses from the very beginning,â€ť she says. â€śThe neighbors and small businesses are very supportive. The small businesses all want each other to succeed and are always willing to help out.â€ť
Brown says that U Streetâ€™s reputation as a â€śhip and trendy, artistic and cultural center of DCâ€ť make it a â€śgreat fitâ€ť for her concept.
Nine months after opening Merlotâ€™s Masterpiece, Brownâ€™s efforts are paying off â€”Â for her and her clients. â€śThe most rewarding part is seeing people come in with no painting experience create an amazing work of artâ€¦ When people come in after a long and stressful day and can unwind and enjoy a relaxing painting experience, we know we’ve done our job.