The following article appeared in the Aug. 5, 2020, edition of The Charlotte Ledger. Sign up for free to have original business-y news about Charlotte delivered to your inbox:
Beloved Business is an occasional Ledger series checking in with some of the Charlotte area’s best-known local companies.
by David Griffith
Hot summer days are usually busy at Dish It Out Pottery Studio in south Charlotte’s Stonecrest shopping center, with kids and adults escaping the heat by spending a morning or afternoon painting a ceramic creation.
But this summer has been different.
When public schools closed in March, “we saw our business drop overnight,” said owner Robin Reinbold, who purchased the studio with her husband in 2015. (The studio first opened more than 20 years ago.) Dish It Out pivoted to offering supplies to-go for a few weeks but was forced to fully close after the business was deemed non-essential.
Customers paint ceramic pottery at Dish It Out Pottery Studio, which has been trying to offset a drop in business with take-home kits and camps. (Photo courtesy of Dish It Out Pottery Studio)
Since reopening, the business has struggled to bring in customers. Ordinarily in summer, the 80-seat studio would have waitlists, but Reinbold said they are now hard-pressed to reach the new 40-person capacity.
“There has not been a day where I’ve had to say, ‘Uh-oh, nobody else can come in,’” Reinbold said.
Slow summer months: Dish It Out makes most of its money when kids are out of school, so the pandemic stretching into summer has hurt. Business in June was down about 50% from what it was in June 2019, Reinbold said. With Covid cases rising in North Carolina early last month and families traveling for the holiday, July started off slow as well.
DIY kits: The studio continued offering supplies to-go, selling pieces of pottery in packages with six cups of paint and six brushes, and Reinbold noticed an interesting trend.
“The thing that we saw with those which was interesting for us was that our average (pre-pandemic) ticket sale was normally around $45,” Reinbold said. “We were seeing that our average ticket cost with those to-go pottery (kits) was more like $100.”
Camps and classes: Summer camps have also helped boost sales. Dish It Out reduced its camp size from 18 to 10, and Reinbold said they have been consistently selling out.
Reinbold employs two full-time managers and seven part-time high school students. She was able to retain all of her employees, but the high school students saw their hours cut, with most working only once a week. Some college students who ordinarily return to work in the summer were turned away.
Once the school year starts, Dish It Out will hold 10-person, two-hour drop-off classes twice a week for students. The goal is to give kids a new project every week. Some families may consider it a replacement for school art classes their kids may be missing, or an afterschool activity.
“The idea is to provide some art enrichment, some socializing and to give parents a little break,” Reinbold said.
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