A painting of a white egret sits in the front seating area of Painting with a Twist in Trinity where customers come to learn how to paint, share some wine and relax after a long day at work.
This painting is what inspired Clearwater resident Michelle Beres to open the new franchise.
“Mom?” she called out.
The egret stayed until a squirrel scurried down a tree and scared it off. Beres took it as a sign of her mother acknowledging her safe passage to the other side and felt comforted.
Later, an ad appeared on the side of her Facebook page for an upcoming class at a business in St. Petersburg called "Painting With a Twist."
The painting scheduled for that particular day was a white egret.
Beres immediately booked the class.
“I knew I was doing the egret painting for my mother,” Beres said.
Beres fell in love with the vibe of the place, she said. Its friendly owners, care-free atmosphere and fun customers who came to paint, some for the first time in their lives, called to her.
“By the time I was done [with the painting], I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Beres said.
Later, Beres approached her best friend, New Port Richey resident Sharon Reis, with a business opportunity- to open a Painting With a Twist franchise.
Painting With a Twist is a national chain of businesses that offers painting classes with an instructor to lead you step-by-step through the painting and let customers bring their own wine. They do fundraisers for local schools and nonprofits where part of the proceeds from a class are donated.
Beres took Reis to the class in St. Pete, who also fell in love with the concept of the business, and they began the process of building the foundation of what is not only job, but a calling.
Beres likens the feeling of owning Paintng With a Twist to being in love.
“This is our passion,” Beres said. “We leave our real jobs and come here. It’s like falling in love. You get silly and stupid and so excited you can’t stand it.”
At the Trinity franchise, customers are greeted by Beres and Reis as they walk in the door and invited to pick an apron hanging from nearby hooks. The next few minutes are filled with the sound of corks being popped from wine bottles and nervous laughter from inexperienced painters.
Reis reassures the ladies, and one gentleman, that at the end of the night, they’ll be walking away with a painting so amazing they won’t believe they painted it themselves. If they get nervous, take a sip of wine and a deep breath and keep going.
During the weekdays, Reis works for a family law attorney and Beres is a project coordinator for the Pinellas County government.
But what they really love to do is paint.
Beres and Reis said they’re working to make Painting With a Twist their full-time jobs.
“When you start doing what you love, it’s not like a job,” Beres said.
Growing up, Reis’ artistic side was encouraged by her father. A piece of her is represented at the Trinity studio, too. A larger-than-life paintbrush with the words “Keep Painting”- her father’s last words to her on his deathbed- is mounted over the front desk.
Reis hasn’t disappointed him. Several nights a week, she, Beres and three other instructors at Painting With a Twist get in front of the easel and guide inexperienced painters through the creation of their own masterpieces.
The Trinity franchise opened Oct. 14 and has been pretty much booked ever since, Reis said. The class fee includes the apron, canvas, paints, brushes and the fun- lots and lots of fun- Beres said.
Mike Wagner and his wife Mary are St. Pete residents but are good friends of Beres and Reis. This is the second time they’ve driven out to Trinity for the class and they make a date night of it, even booking a hotel so they don’t have to drive home.
“I’m an engineer and used to drawing angles and blue prints so this is tough,” Wagner said. “ But it’s at a point now where there are no worries. It’s your own thing so you can’t mess it up.”
“Everybody is critical of their own painting but did you hear them cheering everybody else on?” Wagner said.
Debora Viggiano, the principal of Seven Springs Elementary School, hasn’t painted since she was a kid.
“I think it brought you back to doing something you never take the time out to do and then you have the painting to remember the night,” Viggiano said.
A two-hour class costs $35 per person and a three-hour class is $45. Studio office hours are Monday-Friday, 1-4 p.m. The address is 8351 S.R. 54 Suite 112, Trinity, Fla. 34655. For more information, call (727) 376-1112 or visit www.paintingwithatwist.com/trinity.