3722 San Fernando Road
Glendale, California 91204-2919
Telephone: (818) 291-5900
Toll Free: (888) 265-6764
Fax: (818) 240-9712
Web site: https://www.colormemine.com
Visitors to Color Me Mine Enterprises, Inc.'s more than 120 colorful stores select ceramic pieces from a catalog of hundreds of separate designs and paint and decorate them on-site, with the help of artistic professionals. The pots are then fired in the store's kiln and sent home with the customer as completed, individualized, works of art. The vast majority of the company's outlets are owned and operated by franchisees, although there are a handful of company-owned stores. Besides indulging the artistic whims of individual patrons, Color Me Mine outlets also host parties and bridal showers and offer children's art classes and workshops. With studio locations spread across the United States and in Canada, the headquarters of Color Me Mine are in Glendale, California.
The Color Me Mine concept was originally the brainchild of a Los Angeles couple with a passion for pottery. After learning how to work in clay, film industry casting director Robin Monroe and limousine company manager Josh Culver began designing decorative ceramic accents for their own home, including wall sconces and even a food dish for their pet parrot. Lacking the necessary kiln or other equipment at home, the couple created their pieces at a professional pottery studio. During the process, they noted that although physically crafting the ceramics took skill, patience, and time, decorating the unglazed, or bisque, pottery was much easier. Even though not everyone had the talent, or inclination, to make his or her own ceramics, Monroe and Culver believed almost anyone could enjoy painting them.
At the time, traditional pottery studios tended to be busy, insular, sometimes dirty places, operated and patronized by serious potters with little time to coach amateurs. Furthermore, much of the focus in traditional studios was on the pot-making process, with most painting and decoration left up to the individual. The couple thought it might be fun, and perhaps profitable, to open a studio in which dabblers and neophytes could simply paint and decorate premade ceramics without first having to spend months or years learning how to throw an acceptable pot. They also hoped to reinvigorate the pottery hobby, which had begun to decline in popularity.
The Color Me Mine concept proved almost immediately popular, attracting enough clientele to justify opening a second store, 13 miles away, in Santa Monica. By early 1996 Monroe and Culver had four stores in operation around the Los Angeles metro area. Since its founding, the company had developed a celebrity cachet as notables such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and cast members from the hit sitcom Friends attended in-store pottery parties. Besides attracting famous customers, Color Me Mine's novel appeal and low-overhead business concept had also drawn the attention of equity investors and larger companies in search of promising acquisition targets. In March 1996 Monroe and Culver accepted a buyout offer.
The new owner of Color Me Mine was Koo Koo Roo, Inc., operator of an 18-unit Southern California grilled chicken restaurant chain that was poised for a national expansion. Koo Koo Roo hired Monroe and Culver to continue running the pottery studios and left them with a 10 percent ownership stake in the business. In a 1996 Los Angeles Times article by George White, the new parent company's CEO, Ken Berg, explained his reasoning in acquiring the pottery chain. “Many Koo Koo Roo customers will find it fun to be able to go next-door and enjoy painting ceramics, and most of the Color Me Mine customers will eat before, during or after their visit,” he told White. Berg also announced plans to begin immediately expanding the Color Me Mine chain on a national basis.
As Berg had implied, his company's plan was to open new Color Me Mine outlets next door to Koo Koo Roo California Kitchen restaurants and encourage customers to patronize both businesses. By this point, the original four stores were generating about $2 million per year in combined sales, and Koo Koo Roo hoped to improve on those numbers by funneling restaurant customers into the studios. The first two new restaurant-paired studios were constructed in the area's Studio City and Venice communities soon after the acquisition. Spearheading the expansion of Color Me Mine, as well as its integration with Koo Koo Roo's anticipated national launch, was the parent company's president, Michael Mooslin, who would soon be named president and CEO of the pottery studio subsidiary.
By the end of 1996 Koo Koo Roo had made good on its promises of growth for the pottery studio chain. With 16 stores operating in California and three in development in Colorado and New Jersey, Color Me Mine now entered the Florida market with an initial three stores, two of which were connected to Koo Koo Roo restaurants. Koo Koo Roo had also integrated another of its side businesses with Color Me Mine, opening in-studio coffee bars in some locations under the Arrosto brand name.
With 27 restaurants now in operation, Koo Koo Roo had limited its financial exposure by relying on a franchise model for much of its national expansion, licensing the restaurant concept's branding and menu to local entrepreneurs in various markets. The company deployed a similar strategy for new Color Me Mine units. The publicly traded Koo Koo Roo, however, had reported multimillion-dollar losses for the past several years and was beginning to show signs of the financial strain. By mid-1998 Koo Koo Roo was in crisis, closing restaurants and laying off employees as part of a wholesale restructuring effort. As major shareholder Lee Iacocca took over as acting chairman, the decision was made to accept a buyout offer from Family Restaurants, Inc., a private company that owned Chi-Chi's, El Torito, and other national restaurant brands.
Mooslin remained with Color Me Mine as president and CEO after the sale. In 1999 he agreed to buy the studio chain outright when Versent decided to refocus on its core laser tag business. He was still focused on expanding nationally, on a franchised basis, and by the beginning of the new millennium had some 50 stores in operation across the United States. The company had also begun moving tentatively into the global market, with franchisee stores operating in London and Toronto.
Typically, Mooslin sought to open stores in high-traffic entertainment districts in communities with relatively dense populations. Market research indicated that 40 percent of the company's business was impulse driven, with customers attracted by the chain's signage, advertising, and general novelty. In 2001 Color Me Mine moved its headquarters from Van Nuys, California, to a larger space in North Hollywood, California. At the same time, it opened a 10,000-square-foot distribution center for its pottery and other supplies in the Sun Valley area in Los Angeles County, California. Later, the company moved to an even larger suite of offices in Glendale.
Mooslin spent the first decade of the 21st century aggressively pushing the Color Me Mine concept into new markets, eventually inking franchise agreements for more than 100 stores in 25 states and 10 international markets. When a global recession arrived in 2008, the company continued to perform surprisingly well, reporting year-to-year increases in same-store sales, even as analysts predicted that cash-strapped consumers might avoid spending money on amenities such as pottery parties. It was the company's still relatively affordable price point and capacity to provide entertainment for entire families that seemed to keep the customers coming back.
The recession did, however, affect the viability of the company's franchise-based business model, with potential franchise owners now experiencing much more difficulty obtaining the financing they needed, as credit markets tightened. In response, Mooslin used a number of tactics to give new franchisees a helping hand, including interest-free loans and a program in which new company-owned stores were sold to franchisees after the stores were up and running.
By 2012 Color Me Mine had 140 studios in operation worldwide, 108 of which were located in the United States. Widely credited with originating the paint-your-own-pottery concept, the company remained an industry leader, competing mostly with independent, single-store local operators and generating an estimated 30 percent of industry sales. Franchisees paid Mooslin about $145,000 in start-up costs, followed by 5 percent of their gross sales and assorted marketing and support fees. The stores generated an average of $250,000 to $300,000 each in annual sales and an average of $58,000 in annual profits. The company typically marketed its franchise program as a source of additional income for owner/operators, rather than as a primary income generator. Color Me Mine initiated new franchisees with a 10-day training program at its California headquarters campus, followed by ongoing follow-up support.
Although Mooslin announced an ambitious plan to double his store count by 2015, the chain had actually contracted somewhat by that point, as the popularity of the paint-your-own-pottery concept had apparently plateaued. In early 2016 he agreed to sell his interest in the company to Duncan Enterprises, Inc., a family-owned business based in Fresno, California. Operating pottery studios since the 1940s, Duncan Enterprises sold a comprehensive catalog of crafting supplies under the iLoveToCreate brand through major retailers as such Hobby Lobby and Walmart. Other Duncan brands included Tulip fabric dyes, Puffy craft paints, and SummerHawk Ranch beehives and chicken coops.
In early 2018 Duncan Enterprises announced its acquisition of Chesapeake Ceramics, a major bicoastal U.S. distributor of more than 7,000 premade, unpainted bisque ceramic products designed for paint-your-own-pottery hobbyists. Besides generic pieces, the Chesapeake catalog included products patterned after licensed properties such as Hello Kitty and Marvel Comics superheroes. Pottery painters across the Color Me Mine store network would soon have a much larger selection of base materials for their personal art projects.
Color Me Mine Franchising, Inc.
Busy Bees Pottery, Inc.; Crock A Doodle Inc.
Bedolla, Stephanie. “Franchise Companies Find Retail Room to Grow.” San Fernando Valley Business Journal, January 8, 2018.
“Color Me Mine Paints a Rosy Picture during Recession.” Business Wire, January 13, 2009.
Davidson, Staci. “Color Me Lucrative.” US Business Review, February–March 2009.
“Duncan Enterprises: An Expanding Empire Fueled by a Passion for Art.” Fresno Business Journal, May 27, 2016.
White, George. “Deal Puts a Koo Koo with Every Pot.” Los Angeles Times, March 28, 1996.
Zetlin, Minda. “Build the Relationship That Could Save Your Business.” Inc., April 16, 2013.