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Pottery around at Paint It Studio in Corpus Christi

The gang at Paint It Studio, (front row from left) Julee Fletcher and Nikki Haver and (back row from left) Pete Hernandez, Leeann Hernandez, and Jessica Fletcher, provides time and space for families and friends to get creative and have fun together. Conveniently located inside La Palmera Mall, families can take a break from ‘shopping therapy’ with a little ‘art therapy.’ Photo by Jane Kathleen Gregorio

Inside Paint It Studio at La Palmera Mall, focused creativity fills the air as friends, families, and the young at heart discover the joy of painting. Unlike most other pay-to-paint party studios, Paint It Studio works with ceramics, using a non-fire-glazing process that allows customers to take home their creations the same day. That’s not all that sets Paint It Studio apart from the rest.

“Our studio is open seven days a week,” owner Leeann Hernandez said. “Customers come in whenever they want, and table space is on a first-come, first-served basis. Instead of canvases, our clients choose a ceramic figurine from the shelf display then sit down to paint it however they want.”

The price of the ceramic covers the painting and glazing. Paint It Studio provides all the art supplies, including brushes and non-toxic acrylic paints.

“Many people find the act of painting or coloring very relaxing and therapeutic,” Hernandez said. “For me, it’s very calming, like getting a massage.”

Prior to owning Paint It Studio, Hernandez worked as a preschool teacher. She left the profession in 2012 when her family moved to the Coastal Bend.

“My husband is a native of Corpus Christi,” Hernandez said. “When we moved here, I was trying to figure out a means of income to help my daughters go to college.”

A chance visit to the Corpus Christi Trade Center provided that idea and changed her life.

“There was a lady at the flea market whose booth offered ceramics to paint,” she continued. “I found myself sitting down and really enjoying myself. It was a wonderful and relaxing activity.”

When she told her husband how much she enjoyed it, she also mentioned how much she would like to own a business like that someday. He immediately suggested she offer to buy the business from its current owner.

“I felt it might be rude to ask her that,” Hernandez said. “But my husband is a salesperson by trade, so he was brave. After talking with her, she was happy for the opportunity to sell and agreed.”

Hernandez and her family began spending every weekend working at the Trade Center, offering ceramic painting to the public. It kept the family extremely busy for about a year then a customer asked why didn’t they move to the mall.

“Honestly, I never imagined having a painting studio at the mall,” Hernandez said. “To me, it was a place for retail shopping, clothes boutiques, etcetera, but the idea was planted, and so I spoke to Davida Bates at La Palmera Mall.”

The idea caught on, and La Palmera quickly found a space in what had been a storeroom. Paint It Studio opened for business in the mall in 2013 and has been growing ever since. It now has seven employees at its full-time studio.

Bright green walls display inspirational quotes from famous painters such as “Every Child is an Artist” by Pablo Picasso or the cheekier “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced” by Vincent van Gogh. Shelves are stocked with a wide variety of ceramic figurines, including cups and bowls, unicorns, animals, race cars, superhero figures, and more.

“Even with our bigger location, we sometimes get filled to capacity and have to tell customers to come back in thirty minutes or an hour,” Hernandez said. “Originally, our target market was adults, but it seems, lately, our clients have been lots and lots of children during the day who come with stay-at-home moms or are homeschooled kids.”

Paint It Studio has also become an art therapy venue for many community organizations and children’s camps in the Coastal Bend, Hernandez said. Customers include clients from the Behavioral Health Science Center of Nueces County, March of Dimes, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center. Driscoll Independent School district has brought kids for a Christmas field trip since the business first moved to the mall.

“I absolutely love it,” Hernandez said. “Especially when I see people proud of their handiwork during holidays like Mother’s Day, when kids are so excited to paint gifts for their family.”

Paint It Studio also sponsors silent auctions and school fundraisers.

“We did a carnival with Montclair Elementary fourth grade where we donated mock ceramic pumpkins to be used for one of the booths intended to raise funds,” Hernandez continued. “We provided the ceramics and supplies, and all proceeds benefited the class.”

Paint It Studio also attracts women’s groups as well as couples looking for a fun date night. Hernandez recalled with a laugh how an engagement proposal took place in her studio.

“A couple came in and painted a ceramic ladybug, and, as a surprise, the boyfriend placed a ring on the end of the ladybug’s antenna and asked his girlfriend to marry him,” Hernandez said.

As for the future, Hernandez hopes to see her concept turn into a franchise. Meanwhile, the business has succeeded in funding her two daughters’ college plans.

“My children have been encouraging and instrumental in the success of this business,” she said. “The business has paid for their college educations, and I want them to have a degree in whatever field they want. My eldest daughter has dreams of her own, but my youngest, who is more into the arts, considers taking over the studio some day. And as a mother, it’s the best feeling knowing you created a family business that will help fund the dreams and goals of your future generation.”

Paint It Studio is located inside La Palmera Mall at 5488 South Padre Island Drive in Corpus Christi. For more information, call (361) 271-5556 or visit @Paint It Studio.

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