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Reopening a ‘Double-edged’ Sword, Says Pinot’s Palette ‘Zee


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Scott and Cherisse Lockerd, operators of a Pinot's Palette studio in the L.A. metro area.

Cherisse Lockerd and her husband, Scott, brought just the third Pinot’s Palette to California in 2014 and have consistently operated one of the top-performing studios in the system, with 2020 poised to be among their strongest yet. That was, at least, until March 15, when they voluntarily closed their Tustin location to comply with what was then guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom, guidance that later became a mandate.

“January and February of this year were actually the best two months we’ve ever had, so yeah, it’s a little heartbreaking,” said Lockerd, who about two years ago left her senior recruiter job to focus on Pinot’s Palette full time, a move to she attributes to her location’s growth.

Pinot’s Palette in 2017 was selected as a Franchise Times Zor Awards winner, our annual project identifying 10 best brands based on operator profitability. This week we’re checking in with some of those brands to learn how their franchisees are navigating the pandemic.

Franchising for 10 years and now at 125 locations, including 21 in California, Pinot’s Palette positions itself as an upscale brand within the paint and sip industry, with many studios such as Lockerd’s having full bars. As concept that’s inherently built on social interaction, with friends partaking in a painting class while enjoying a glass of wine or a cocktail, Pinot’s Palette had to quickly adapt, rolling out virtual classes and take-home paint kits within a week of the shutdowns.

Both ideas originated within the franchise council, of which Lockerd is a member, and she said without support from other owners, “I wouldn’t be where I am.”

“A lot of franchisees are really close and lean on each other, so that’s been invaluable, especially now,” said Lockerd. “I’m so glad we decided to buy into a franchise instead of trying to do this on our own.”

Almost 1,000 people participated in Lockerd’s virtual Mother’s Day painting class, which was live streamed from another franchisee’s studio in Seattle. Lockerd is also holding private virtual classes for some of her corporate clients but an online-only model is not sustainable long term, she said.

“It helps me lose money at a slower rate,” she said of the virtual classes that run $35 per person. She was finally able to start curbside pickup of her take-home paint kits when California relaxed some of its retail restrictions earlier this month.

“I can’t hold on like this forever,” Lockerd noted, “but at the same time, you want to be safe. It’s a double-edged sword, for sure.”

Orange County, where Lockerd operates, announced Saturday, May 23, it would begin allowing more businesses to reopen under the second phase of the state’s four-stage recovery plan, but Lockerd said because of the entertainment aspect of Pinot’s Palette it will likely be classified as a phase three business. “There have been no guidelines so far on what capacity will be,” she said. “A lot of business owners in California are very frustrated … it just feels indefinite at this point.”

Lockerd reapplied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan in late April after being unable to secure one during the first round of funding but said the system “is still just a mess. I can’t even check my status.” She also applied for an Emergency Injury Disaster Loan—“that’s progressing better than the PPP”—and she and her husband have tapped into their personal savings.

“I love this job more than anything I’ve ever done,” Lockerd stressed. “And I want to make sure I have a business for my employees to come back to.”

Read more from our Zor Awards update series this week:

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 

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