On the easel at the front of the studio sits a canvas painted with a wispy black tree and a bird guarding its nest. Remarks are made by the six adults taking the class about how they would never be able to recreate that piece as they sit down at the counters, lined with canvases, on top rooster-printed stools.
Anita O’Donnell, owner of The Painter’s Roost located on Huffman Mill Road in Burlington, strives to create an environment where people can escape their daily lives, and their attachment to technology, and do something fun and creative.
O’Donnell, who grew up in Asheboro and currently lives in Julian, had been in the construction business for 21 years and worked as a project manager, but was laid off in March of 2010. For a while, she couldn’t find another job in the field of construction and even drew unemployment for a while until she was told that unless she was losing her house or starving, there really wasn’t much they could do for her.
“My husband said, ‘Why don’t you stay home for a while and you might like it.’ But after a while, he said, ‘You need to get a job, you’re driving me crazy,'” O’Donnell said.
After thinking about opening up a few different franchises that weren’t really what she wanted to do, O’Donnell learned about the concept of paint party studios.
“My daughter-in-law found out about this concept in Charlotte,” O’Donnell said. “She and I went with some friends and took a class, and I just kind of fell in love with it and eventually, about 2.5 years later, I convinced my husband to back me up on this.”
O’Donnell’s husband, who also owns his own business – a shredding company – thought that it would be good for her to learn how to open up a business on her own. This led O’Donnell to scour the Internet for information on getting a license, dealing with sales tax, getting a permit and creating her own domain name.
“With me being in construction, I think I got a little too involved with the renovation part,” O’Donnell said.
Being a former project manager in construction, it really helped O’Donnell with the development of the business. She helped with the designs and even did some of the renovation work herself, such as the paint-splattered floor.
Patrice Baldwin, an artist at the studio, heard about a job opening at The Painter’s Roost from a friend after also becoming recently unemployed.
“[My friend] said give Anita a call and I did, so it’s been great,” Baldwin said.
If not for the opening of this small business, O’Donnell and Baldwin both might still be out of work, along with the other approximately 10 percent of North Carolina residents, as of Dec. 2012.
According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, “approximately 543,000 new businesses were created each month in 2011,” which is down from 2010, but still higher than in recent years.
Information retrieved from Google Public Data
According to the Wall Street Journal, the survival rate of new businesses has dropped. New businesses are more likely to survive past two years, but not past five. Despite these statistics, The Painter’s Roost, so far, has been a success in O’Donnell’s eyes.
After opening a little over a month ago, there has been a significant amount of interest, with the studio having already booked a good amount of private parties, mostly thanks to the giant farm animal O’Donnell has chosen to use to represent her shop.
“I have had just so many people drop by,” O’Donnell said. “You know I have a huge rooster on a sign out there and people are just wondering what that is and I think I just had to have a little bit of the country girl in me come out. I love roosters and I have roosters in my kitchen at home.”
She said it took her so long to come up with a name that she thought her business would be open before she knew what she was going to call it.
When you take a class at The Painter’s Roost, an artist, such as Baldwin, teaches you how to go about painting the piece chosen by the group. There is another artist, or O’Donnell herself, assisting students in the room if there are questions. Everybody paints the same piece, but it doesn’t always look alike.
“They’ve put their own spin on it and [show] their personalities and it’s great,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said painting is a time where people can escape technology by not looking at their phone and getting away from the computer.
“People come in and their days are hectic from work or kids or whatever and you can just slowly see them start to relax, and laugh and have fun,” O’Donnell, said.
Even if customers don’t know how to paint, O’Donnell and Baldwin both said that participants leave wanting to come back.
“People say that they don’t know how to paint when they come in but when they leave, everybody has really liked what they’ve done,” Baldwin said.
One time, a man attended a lesson at The Painter’s Roost with his wife. O’Donnell said, at first, he didn’t look too thrilled to be at the class, but by the end, he was asking what they were going to paint next week.
This relaxed environment is quite the change of pace for O’Donnell.
“In construction, the only calls I ever got were [about] problems. I was the problem solver. I gotta stay on schedule. I gotta stay on my budget,” O’Donnell said. “There’s none of that here.”
Baldwin has owned many other businesses, but she has always enjoyed painting.
“When you enjoy what you’re doing, then it’s a lot of fun,” Baldwin said.
Owning The Painter’s Roost isn’t exactly the astronaut job O’Donnell dreamed of having as a child, but it’s something she loves and that her customers love, and she finds enjoyment in that.