By: Follow Local News Staff
Open For Business is a series about small businesses who are adopting unique and creative business practices to keep things going during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a business or know of one doing things differently, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PITMAN, N.J. — During this time of social distancing, many people are looking for creative ways to fill the void created by closed down malls, movies theaters, and other forms of entertainment.
One of those forms of entertainment is Fahrenheit Ceramic Studio, a family owned and operated business, that has been providing materials, instruction, and space for individuals, groups, and even parties to create hand-painted works of art since 2014.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the business to close its doors to walk-in customers, furlough its staff, and leave customers without a creative outlet.
“As I watched how other businesses, like restaurants, continued to serve their customers and stay afloat, I wondered if I could do the same,” owner and operator Patti Forte said. “I called our mayor, and he contacted the Gloucester County Economic Development Committee, and I received permission to operate as a ‘take out only’ business.”
Forte said she stocked up on supplies, containers, and paintbrushes and then put her strategy into place and began offering “To Go” kits with paint-at-home pottery.
“The To Go kits come complete with everything you need to have the pottery painting experience in the comfort and safety of your own home,” Forte said. “Our customers choose pottery from our current inventory which is posted on our Facebook page and updated weekly.”
Forte and one other full-time employee pack up the pottery, paints, brushes, and instructions. The kit is then placed outside for curbside pickup. They also offer free delivery within a 3-mile radius of their studio.
“Once the pottery has been painted, it can be returned to the studio and placed in a drop-box, located outside our door,” Forte said. “We will then glaze and fire the pottery and call them when it is ready to arrange curbside pickup. There is no customer contact. It is a streamlined process and it is currently working for us.”
Customer reaction has been positive according to Forte.
“It has been beyond amazing,” she said. “Our customers are so grateful that we are providing this service. They thank us daily, especially parents who are looking for fun things to do with their children while they are quarantined. We’ve also had customers tell us they are doing Zoom pottery painting events, family paint nights, ladies nights, date nights, and even virtual birthday parties from home. Some are buying To Go kits as gifts for friends, relatives, and neighbors and dropping them off at their doorstep. Pottery painting is great therapy during this difficult time when stress levels and anxiety are high.”
When stay at home orders are lifted and businesses are allowed to reopen, Fahrenheit Ceramic Studio plans to continue offering their “To Go” kits for customers who want them.
“And when we do decide to reopen safely, and pivot our business model, we will stay socially distant by removing some tables and limiting the number of customers painting in our studio. We may even require appointments,” Forte said. “We will not be booking large groups or parties until further notice, basically taking it one day at a time, grateful that our loyal customers will continue to support us.”
Forte said that opening the studio was a dream that became a reality because of her passion for pottery painting. Her love for ceramics began in her late teens when she signed up for weekly ceramic classes that were held in someone’s basement.
“That was back in the ’70s,” Forte said. “The industry has changed so much since then, attracting people of all ages, men, women and children. Pottery painting is a fun activity and lets people express themselves.”