From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
Since opening in June of 2012, Merlot’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 Merlot’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 “paint and sip” model, including animal portrait, sketching and jewelry making classes have been successful, as well. Merlot’s Masterpiece also has “Jr. Picasso” camps and classes for kids and families.
This spring, new programs will include self-portrait painting classes and “an interactive art and brunch experience.”
Additionally, the studio hosts private and corporate events, from kids’ birthday parties to team building experiences to bridal showers.
This was Brown’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. “The biggest challenge,” she says “was 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. ”
Although opening a brick and mortar was challenging, Merlot’s Masterpiece’s location, close to the U-Street Metro, has played a role in the business’s viability. “I have felt very welcome by the small businesses from the very beginning,” she says. “The neighbors and small businesses are very supportive. The small businesses all want each other to succeed and are always willing to help out.”
Brown says that U Street’s reputation as a “hip and trendy, artistic and cultural center of DC” make it a “great fit” for her concept.
Nine months after opening Merlot’s Masterpiece, Brown’s efforts are paying off — for her and her clients. “The most rewarding part is seeing people come in with no painting experience create an amazing work of art… 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.