Mary Lou Bradley is living out the proverb “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”
Just a few years ago, Bradley and her partner, Joe Groom, were living in Florida, after a lifetime spent working in the corporate world of Manhattan, and wondering what to do next with their lives.
Both in their 50s, the duo decided to move to the nation’s “Most Livable City” of Pittsburgh, where Bradley was born, and open their own business.
“We just had this seed of an idea to open this paint studio,” Bradley said.
The result was Paint Monkey.
A little more than a year after opening at the Ice House Studios in Lawrenceville, Paint Monkey, named after the phrase “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” is a smashing success.
The painting studio features two and three-hour art classes where participants paint pre-sketched canvases. For those age 21 and older, Paint Monkey is BYOB.
Bradley said the venue often plays hosts to bachelorette parties, ladies nights out and other gatherings. Paint Monkey also offers activities for kids, birthday parties and team building exercises for companies and organizations.
No matter their reason is for visiting Paint Monkey, everyone gets to take home their own painting.
“Everyone does the same painting. Everyone paints the same thing,” Groom said. “We found we have a nice return rate because the paintings look good going up on the walls.”
Bradley, who formerly worked in syndicated television, calls her new business “the best job in the world.”
From hosting the gatherings, and making sure to talk to each individual, she also noticed something—many of the participants were from North of Pittsburgh.
“We talked to all these people from Cranberry and a lot of people were from up north,” she said. “There were even people from as far away Erie, New Castle, Youngstown.
Deciding to once again listen to their guts, the newlyweds, who just married in July, decided to open a second Paint Monkey location—this time in Cranberry.
“It’s just a booming area,” Bradley said.
Paint Monkey will be located in the former Cranberry Rolling Express tobacco retailer on Freedom Road. Prior to that, the building was home to Beyond Beads.
Groom, whose background is in marketing and advertising, said he hopes to have the studio up and running between late August and early September.
Besides painting the inside of the building, Groom said he hopes the township will give him permission to paint a mural of a monkey on the side of the studio.
“We just have to spiff it up a bit,” Bradley said.
The couple said the Cranberry studio would be a bit more family-oriented than the Lawrenceville location. By day, the studio will offer snacks, cupcakes and coffee for parents and their children participating in activities. At night, the studio will revert to its BYOB status.
For those claiming to have no artistic talent, Groom said not to worry. The pre-sketched canvases, which vary by class, eliminates the anxiety of creating the perfect painting while still allowing participants to explore their creativity.
“They can do it,” he said. “It’s building confidence while painting. Everyone has their own style they bring to it. It’s one of those things where we don’t make you stick to one plan.”
To learn more about Paint Monkey, click here.
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