About a decade ago, someone got the bright idea to turn painting classes into a fun night out by adding a BYOB twist to the art supplies. Rachel Moehl, a Verona resident for the past 11 years, has been to many of these paint-and-sip events and, just before the holidays, she opened her own venue. “This is my roundabout way of becoming an art teacher,” says Moehl, a healthcare marketing professional who has been active in the volunteer group Verona Arts.
Moehl now owns a franchise of Wine & Design, which has about 70 studios across the country. She tried mightily to find space for hers in Verona, working with Verona’s director of economic development to identify properties that would have the safe, accessible parking that she would need for a business that attracts many young women.
“We have an amazing community and I would have loved to have my business be part of that,” Moehl says. “It would have been great to have art in the windows along Bloomfield Avenue.”
But there were no openings in the storefronts by Verona’s main municipal parking lot and the Pilgrim Shopping Plaza was out of budget. So if you want to experience Wine & Design, you’ll need to wend your way down to the neighborhood by Montclair’s Lackawanna Plaza.
If you do, you’ll encounter several Verona faces among the staff. Moehl, to be sure, but also Serena Henderson, a 2020 graduate of Verona High School who is now studying animation at Montclair State University, and Molly Hayter, a current VHS sophomore with an affinity for the arts. Henderson’s grandmother Barbara Kapahi, an interior designer and decorator, also pitches in.
Hayter thinks her job is “a lot more fun than being a cashier someplace.” As an assistant, she gets to give guests tips and tricks for their paintings, while building her people skills so that she can rise to the position of artist. Hayter says she enjoys the enthusiasm in the kids classes, and just being in the Wine & Design studio.
“It calms me down because I don’t feel like I’m working someplace,” she says.
A typical Wine & Design class for adults runs about two hours, and guests are invited to bring their own wine or beer. The gathering can be booked for bridal showers, bachelorette parties, couples nights, corporate team building, fundraisers and more. There will be some other crafting options, like a chunky knit blanket and resin art, as well as a so-called splatter room, where guests can ease their creative tensions by throwing paint at a wall. To extend what Moehl says is the “excellent” art instruction in Verona schools, her franchise will also offer after-school art classes for ages five and up on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, as well as kids’ birthday packages, and school holiday and summer break camps. Wine & Design can be booked for open studio time and Moehl will even offer ideas on recycling past paint-and-sip creations.
“Maybe some interesting barrettes or jewelry from up-cycled canvases,” Moehl says. “A lot of people keep galleries in their basements. It’s hard to throw the paintings away because you associate them with the people you went with.”
So what can you paint at Wine & Design? You can see some of the typical canvases on her website, Facebook and https://www.instagram.com/wndmontclair/ pages. Moehl says that her franchisor adds new art to its database all the time and that her artist employees can even add pieces of their own. Hayter, who has taken drawing and painting at VHS and digital illustration, acknowledges that that would be a fun thing to do with her work in the future. “It would be cool to have people paint something that I created,” she says.
Adds Moehl, “It feels really good to be creative.”
Wine & Design Montclair is located at 1 Greenwood Avenue near Lackawanna Plaza. The phone number is (973) 630-1960 or you can email [email protected] .