published on February 29, 2016 - 12:44 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

National chain Pinot’s Palette will soon open its first Central Valley location in the North Pointe shopping center in Fresno.
The business offers a unique night-out option, pairing painting lessons led by local artists with a wine-bar atmosphere. The model has become a major trend across the country and similar concepts have popped up throughout the Valley in recent years.

Visalia’s Blending Pinot’s Palette and several mobile groups are among the few local options, however local franchisee Stacy Gould said Pinot’s Palette will be the first brick-and-mortar location in the Fresno area.
“It’s something that we don’t have here but something that Fresno definitely needs,” she said. “It fills a creative need and outlet for people and because it’s a franchise model, everything is really well-thought out.”
Gould said she was immediately drawn to the company after visiting a Pinot’s Palette location in Henderson, Nevada. After a few visits, she became hooked and decided to bring the model to the Fresno area with the help of business partner and husband Ken Gould.
The Goulds currently run PayTech Payroll Systems in Clovis, but Stacy Gould said she will eventually transition completely to Pinot’s Palette.
“I love people. I love wine and I love painting, so this is just a perfect fit. I’m ready to relax and put my whole self into this,” she said.
The 3,200-square-foot space will open in early April and include both public and private painting rooms and a bar offering wine, beer and non-alcoholic drinks. Lessons will initially be held in the evening, and will be exclusive to those 21 and older.
Unlike other wine and painting businesses models, Gould said Pinot’s requires guests to register online prior to their class. There they can customize any seating arrangements and select a painting from among the company’s available library.
Gould said she expects to hire nearly a dozen local artists and staff for the facility who will all be trained by a head artist from Pinot’s Palette corporate headquarters prior to the grand opening.
“It’s to show the artists and assistants how to describe their step-by-step instructions with lots of details and assist the guests,” she said. “Pinot’s lessons are no experience necessary, but people are often nervous thinking they can’t create what they see.”
Gould said that’s where the wine and music typically come into play, helping to create a relaxing environment.
“It’s a huge stress reliever, especially for people who have high-stress jobs,” she said. “Once you try it a few times you realize it becomes addicting and you just want to grab a brush and relax.”
Lessons typically last two hours and range from $35 to $55 depending on if it’s a public or private class. Pinot’s also offers a pet painting service, which allows guests to submit a photo of their animal to paint in class.
The facility can also be used for corporate events and Gould said she plans to partner with local businesses and nonprofits.
Pinot’s Palette Fresno has already donated a private paint party package as an auction item for the Marjaree Mason Center’s Mardi Gras Party and will donate 100 percent of its initial net seat sales to a local nonprofit group as part of its grand opening celebration.
“That’s something that’s really important to me because we have a lot of great groups in the Valley,” Gould said. “We’ll continue to partner with nonprofits and fundraisers throughout the life of the business.”

Dusty Buns cooking up
something new for downtown
Following a year of strong growth in the Bay Area, local favorite Dusty Buns is refocusing on the Central Valley and will soon add a new location to its Fresno operations.
Husband and wife owners Dustin and Kristin Stewart are currently building out a 2,500-square-foot space on Warehouse Row in Downtown Fresno. The facility will be used as production space and a commissary for the Dusty Buns food trucks.
“We feel like at the moment, being a part of Fresno means being a part of Downtown,” said Kristin Stewart.
Dusty Buns’ food trucks have participated in the neighborhood’s weekly CArt Hop events for years, creating a strong fan base for its locally sourced, made-from-scratch menu.  The new commissary location is expected to build off that momentum and expand the restaurant’s reach.
“It’s such a beautiful building with historic meaning for Fresno. It was the first lettuce transportation site. A train would come up to the back and they’d load up with Fresno’s lettuce and transport it around America,” she said. “It’s a great location, surrounded by City Hall, PG&E and all of the government workers moving into the same building.”
While the new site is not expected to open until later this year, Stewart said Dusty Buns has already started the process of hiring and training new staff.
 The Downtown restaurant will offer the same fast-casual atmosphere as the original Dusty Buns spot near Fresno High School, but with an emphasis on faster service for the lunchtime crowds.
“Dustin is doing all he can but reinvent the wheel to make it a quick service burger spot,” Stewart said. “We also have great plans to have lots of taps with beer, wine, coffee, tea and all-natural soda, all on tap.”
In the meantime, Dusty Buns food trucks will continue to make the rounds throughout the community and both the Fresno and San Francisco restaurant will remain open.
Stewart said the Bay Area restaurant has grown a lot over the last year and is surrounded by new development, while the Fresno site continues to be a local hotspot in the community.
“We’ve received great response from the community. The more spots we open, the more we get to give back as we source everything from local farmers. If we keep opening spots, we have a higher demand for produce from the farmers,” she said. “It’s a great circle to be a part of.”

Kona Ice ramping up Fresno
area operations
National shaved ice franchise Kona Ice has added a new truck to its local lineup, expanding operations in southwest Clovis.  
Overseen by U.S. Army veteran Rob Hensley and wife Mary Barker, the new Kona Ice truck hit the streets earlier this week.
Unlike the traditional ice cream truck model, Kona Ice trucks are dedicated entirely to a tropical theme, playing calypso music while serving shaved ice in dozens of flavor combinations.
Each truck is equipped with a “Flavorwave” self-serving station, which allows customers to personalize their dessert. The system also helps cut down on wait time; a key aspect Hensley said immediately caught his eye.
“I was actually at back to school night for my daughter who’s in kindergarten and she was talking about the Kona truck. I had no idea what it was but all the kids knew,” he said. “There was a line that was probably 50 or 60 people deep so I thought it was going to take forever, but it was actually moving pretty quickly.”
That was in September. By December, Hensley and his wife were signing paperwork to become Kona franchisees and in January he attended the national convention and corporate training program.
“They taught me how to shave the ice and everything and then I just drove the truck back from Kentucky,” Hensley said.
For now the couple is focusing on school-related events and will be making appearances as part of various fundraising programs.

Hannah Esqueda  |  Reporter can be reached at:
490-3466 or e-mail

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