Painting Chicago in a Style All Their Own: Logan Square Couple Opens Pinot’s PalettePinot's Palette
If you visit Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, you’ll find an independent vibe–streets lined with bungalows, craft cocktail bars, and art galleries. It’s the perfect vibe for an independent thinker like Tony Porfirio, who with his wife Tamara, opened a Pinot’s Palette in the trendy neighborhood in May 2016.
When he first found Pinot’s Palette, Tony’s creativity and enthusiastic leadership had hit a brick wall in corporate America. He knew it was time to conquer a new challenge. He was tired of leading companies for other people, and he wanted to own a piece of the action. So, Tony started exploring franchises, researching by talking to friends and reading a franchise magazine. Meanwhile, Tamara conducted more hands-on research: She attended a paint and sip evening with friends, where the relaxing atmosphere proved a welcome break from her stressful job.
Paint and sip hadn’t been on Tony’s radar. He didn’t paint, and he knew nothing about the industry. But Tamara had enjoyed her evening, so Tony began exploring. When he met Pinot’s Palette CEO Craig Ceccanti and President Charles Willis, Tony was sold. He identified with the Pinot’s Palette founders in leveraging a business background into an artistic field, without knowing anything about art previously.
He figured if Craig and Charles’ business background led to such a successful artistic franchise, he had no reason to fear paint nor canvas. Tony was also relieved to know that the founders brought seasoned management and franchise wide operating procedures to the helm of Pinot’s Palette. Convinced that the franchise was in good hands, Tony and Tamara committed to opening a studio in Logan Square.
Embracing an Eclectic Studio Setting
Now, three years into his artistic plunge, Tony is hooked. His business smarts and attention to detail have made the Logan Square studio a success. After helping intensively with the opening of the studio, Tamara has stepped back and assists with behind-the-scenes tasks. The couple knew that their eclectic neighborhood wasn’t ideal for a franchise, as many residents preferred to spend evenings at the surrounding craft cocktail bars and trendy restaurants. But Tony dug his heels in and determined to attract customers.
Tony started marketing outside the neighborhood, promoting the studio as a fun attraction in a hip area. Learning how to market a small business presented a learning curve that Tony worked hard to conquer. “It’s been a series of throwing spaghetti against the wall and not knowing if it stuck,” Tony says, while acknowledging that his studio’s revenue growth has been impressive. With each year of studio ownership, Tony learns new marketing tactics.
While promoting a paint and sip studio was a new challenge for Tony, many of his skills easily shifted into the role. He brought business skills honed during his corporate career into the studio. “I’m not really a good salesman, but I do love taking care of people,” Tony says. “So, I treat every customer like they’re a huge customer. I shake hands and play my main role as the host of the party. I know that I’m the face of this studio.”
Another area where Tony has learned to work smarter, not harder, is flexing with the seasonal ebbs and flows of customer traffic. In winter-weary Chicago, the summer sun draws people outdoors like moths to a flame. After some frustrating months of wondering why summer sales had slowed, he learned to accept this seasonal variation. He works hard to hit sales goals in winter when no Chicagoan wants to be outside, and then he fills the slower summer months with children’s day camps.
Reveling in Creative Fun
Tony’s favorite part of business ownership surprises him: the incredible artists. “I knew it would be fun, that people would come and have a good time and thank you on the way out. That’s amazing,” Tony says. “But the artists surprised me. It’s fun to work with young, creative, talented people. I love my staff. They’re so cool and keep things interesting.”
Actually, Tony is jealous of the artists and his customers because he doesn’t take enough time to slow down and paint. He hopes to spend more time indulging his own artistic side as his business grows. For now, he enjoys “putzing around the studio” during every private party, ensuring each customer receives a top-shelf experience. “I think I’ve become a pretty good assistant during parties,” Tony says, “I’ve learned how to help and encourage people.”
Tony’s advice for potential franchisees centers around determination, which he credits as the secret to his franchise success. “I don’t think I have brilliance as an entrepreneur. I just stuck at it, made mistakes, and finally found a little bit of a rhythm.” Turns out that marching to the beat of his own drum produced the perfect franchise rhythm for Tony, Tamara, and their hip Logan Square customers.