As soon as Kate Cook could hold a pencil, she was drawing. Coming from a very creative family, Kate has art in her blood. After growing up and going to college in Tennessee, she quickly moved to Atlanta and soon met her University of Georgia grad husband, Dr. Kenneth Cook. While in Atlanta, she knew she wanted to open her own business, but she was not quite sure what kind of business would best suit her. Kate's love for art and entrepreneurial spirit inspired her to create and open ARTini's Art Lounge in 2011. ARTini’s is a uniquely Athens Paint & Sip studio. Great for any skill level, ARTini’s offers evening painting sessions where you can relax with your friends, perhaps enjoy some libations and create your own masterpiece.
Kate's love for art runs deep. After years of formal instruction, including a stint in Tuscany, Kate decided she wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial career in the art field. ARTini's opened in 2011, and it has been full steam ahead for Kate and her five artists on staff. Kate's favorite thing about ARTini's and running a business is all the different and amazing people she gets to meet.
Kate claims, "I meet so many cool people here, just from all kinds of jobs and from all over, and you build relationships with them. That's really cool. I mean, there's really nothing not to love about this kind of experience."
Kate self proclaims herself as usually not a people person, but since opening ARTini's, she has grown to look forward to teaching classes and interacting with a plethora of different people. Kate's ultimate goal with ARTini's is to bring something creative to people who think they can not do something.
Kate said, "Even if they are really nervous coming in, 15 to 20 minutes into the process, they've taken ownership of that canvas."
The majority of ARTini's customers come in feeling doubtful of their talent, but they leave with a smile on their faces and a work of art in their hands.
Creative Name for a Creative Place
A lot of brainstorming went into creating the signature ARTini's name. Many of the other Paint and Sip franchises were "this and that"; Wine and Canvas, Sips and Strokes, Cork and Easel, etc. Kate knew she wanted to be unique and not another "this and that" studio. After many pondering sessions with her friends, ARTini's came up. Although ARTini's does not serve liquor, Kate wanted the name to portray that they are an art studio serving wine and beer. Kate wanted in one word to show what the studio was all about, and their logo was also an essential piece of that message; the palette with the martini glass. For Kate, there is always a fantasy that one day, ARTini's could serve spirits, but with that comes ice, garnishes, etc., and as Kate puts it, "That's a whole other thing to try and do."
For ARTini's, it is "more about the art and the experience and the alcohol is secondary."
Kate just wants her customers to have a good time and walk away feeling proud of themselves and what they have accomplished.
The COVID Comeback
As with most small businesses, COVID had a big impact on ARTini's and the way Kate ran her business. Three things that really helped ARTini's stay afloat were DIY Take-Home Kits, their landlord (Parkside Partners now Brian Austin) and grants. DIY Kits allowed people to select the canvas design they wanted to create and order the kit online. Kate would then come into the studio and pack up the kits, and customers could stop by between 2 pm and 4 pm to pick them up. Kate was very adamant about making sure her customers were still able to create, even if that was from home. ARTini's landlord Parkside Partners now Brian Austin, also reached out to all of their tenants and said that they were going to do whatever was needed rent-wise to help small businesses get through this pandemic.
Kate states, "Of course, I ended up having to pay it all back, but that was after the business was back in the swing. So not having to pay all of my rent every month (was very helpful)."
ARTini's also received a $1,000 grant from the Downtown Development Authority, which was giving out grants to small businesses to ensure they would make it. One of Kate's friends who owns his own business also decided to give 10 or 20 deserving businesses $500 to push them through. The Athens community stepped up on both the corporate and customer level to support ARTini's and ensure that they could reopen once the lockdown was lifted.
More Places to Paint?
When asked where Kate saw the future of ARTini's heading, she admitted that she has been considering opening a second location for around two years. Kate currently teaches canvas events to groups at the Ritz at Lake Oconee, and for the past eight years, she has had many people come up to her and say that the Oconee/Greensboro area needs more things to do, like an ARTini's. She has also thought of having locations in Gainesville or along the east side. Kate confesses that she has gotten comfortable, and starting up another location would put her on-site a lot more than she currently is with the Athens ARTini's.
She said, "I paid enough dues, working night and weekends, where I'm just like, I want my nights and weekends. Now, for the most part, I don't usually schedule myself on the weekends at all. So maybe when I get that bug, I'll do it. Like if I need something to do Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays, maybe so."
As long as she keeps plugging along Kate is happy she loves the freedom of owning her own business has given her and how great they are doing. We do hope that she gets the bug to keep expanding, so more people in more places will get the chance to experience an ARTini's class and go home with a piece of artwork they are proud of.
Create Your Own Masterpiece!
Be sure to visit ARTini's Art Lounge at their location on Prince Avenue. Also, check out their website to book a private party or take a look at their Class Calendar to see what classes and canvases are currently available. ARTini's is an amazing place to host a birthday or bachelorette party because everyone in attendance gets to go home with a unique piece of canvas art they created. ARTini's also has DIY Kits available for pick up from the studio. Head online and order from almost any design in their stock, and you will be provided everything you need to paint an ARTini's original in the comfort of your own home. Overall, no matter where you choose to create an ARTini's masterpiece, you will walk away from it feeling empowered and with the mindset that anyone can be an artist.
Check out our blog about celebrating Women-Owned Businesses in Athens this Women's History Month, and our Women-Owned Business page for more amazing women-owned restaurants, services and retail shops that are making a big impact on the Athens community!