As soon as Thomaura O’Sullivan got the idea to open a paint and sip studio, she knew it had to be in downtown Schenectady.
The Capital Region native had just moved back to the area last summer after a 3-1/2-year stint in Tampa, Fla., where she and her husband Bob Orminski ran a food truck called O’Macalicious. (It served gourmet mac and cheese, among other things.) They settled down in Niskayuna, all the time keeping an open entrepreneurial mind.
“I knew, it was just obvious, that it had to be downtown,” she said. “Just from the time we had gone down to Florida to the time we came back, all these changes and new developments had happened. We were like, ‘Wow, something is happening here in Schenectady.’ ”
Surfing Craigslist one day, the couple spotted a space for lease that would be perfect: the old Kabul Night restaurant at 402 Union St. They were the first to look at the space, back in April, and decided to snatch it up right away.
O’Sullivan said Friday they hope to have a soft opening for the paint and sip studio by early July, then a grand opening in the fall. They’re calling it Canvas, Corks & Forks.
The paint and sip industry has surged in recent years, for no obvious reason other than alcohol seems to give people who haven’t made art since grade school the liquid courage to pick up a paint brush again. The group painting lessons typically last about two hours.
In the Capital Region, there are studios in Saratoga, Latham and Clifton Park. O’Sullivan, who graduated from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School and studied interior design at Sage College, got the idea to open her own studio after trying to get into a few local classes with her friends.
“They were all booked out two months in advance,” she said. “It was like, ‘Wow, there is really a demand for this.’ Ours will be a little different. We’ll have food. We’re going to offer light tapas to start, and then eventually do full catering.”
The building came with a full commercial kitchen, courtesy of its previous occupant, Kabul Night, formerly a local favorite for its authentic and flavorful Afghan cuisine. The restaurant closed several years ago.
Just last year, the building was celebrated by city officials for its notable role in Schenectady’s history. For nearly 100 years, it was known around town as Kerste’s Pharmacy, a place people went for all kinds of maladies, not to mention ice cream sodas at an old-fashioned soda fountain. It was built in 1892 by renowned druggist Henry A. Kerste, who handed over the business to Ercole Conti in 1948. Conti and his wife, Mary, ran the pharmacy until 1976. A historical marker was placed outside the building last fall.
The building is an ideal location for a paint and sip, O’Sullivan said, as it’s right in the midst of the restaurant and bar scene around Lower Union Street and comes with its own parking lot.
“I’m hoping people will walk over from the Stockade to try us out,” she said. “We’re hoping to attract Union and SCCC students, too, and even kids with a weekly art camp for kids of different ages. I’m just really excited to get started.”