A really good date night can change everything.
At least, it did for one Parkland couple.
Ray and Heidi Leonard were in desperate need of a night to themselves back in 2015, a few months after the birth of their first daughter, Amelia.
At the time, they were both working for the National Guard in Spokane.
“We were looking at our first date (in months), and we thought — dinner and a movie,” said Ray, 43.
But the movie part of the date turned into a night at Pinot’s Palette, an “paint and sip” art studio with locations around the world. The couple had driven past the studio several times before deciding to try it out.
At first, they were a little skeptical. But as they started to paint on that date night — comparing their creations to each others and nursing some drinks from the open bar — they found they were enjoying getting the chance not just to spend time together, but to engage in a shared experience.
Heidi has her background in art. I’m lucky if I can draw you a stick figure. But I had a good time. It was fun and engaging.
Ray Leonard, owner of Pinot’s Palette on South Hill
“Heidi has her background in art. I’m lucky if I can draw you a stick figure,” Ray said. “But I had a good time. It was fun and engaging.”
A year later, they were signing on as franchisees, and opened their South Hill Pinot’s Palette location in December.
“We weren't looking to invest in a business — we had two full-time jobs, just had a baby,” Ray said.
But the opportunity was too good to pass up, especially when it came to thinking about the future, after they left the National Guard.
Currently, Ray works at the Aviation Army Support facility in Spokane, while Heidi is a deputy financial manager for the Washington Army National Guard at Camp Murray near McChord Air Field. Both are qualified helicopter pilots. For the past year, they’ve been traveling back and forth to be together, and it’s been difficult.
“We’re going to do our best to get our family back together,” Heidi said.
Ray joined the U.S. Army in 1994 and the National Guard in 2003. Heidi started in the National Guard in 1998. The two first met in 2005, while Heidi was at flight school.
“We started dating right before we were deployed,” Ray said.
The two were deployed overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Together, they served two consecutive overseas tours. In 2009, after returning to the U.S., they married.
From there, it was about balancing family time and work time. They also earned degrees in business from St. Martin’s University. With Heidi’s bachelor’s degree in art, both Ray and Heidi’s experience in leadership positions and now an education background in business, becoming owners of Pinot’s Palette in South Hill made sense.
“We were looking for what’s out there to put our National Guard experience and education to good use,” Ray said.
If you take a look at that diverse skillset, this is really the only thing that makes sense.
Heidi Leonard, owner of Pinot’s Palette on South Hill
“If you take a look at that diverse skillset, this is really the only thing that makes sense,” Heidi added.
The couple recently had their second daughter, Hannah, and are going strong as new business owners. They hope to settle down in the South Hill area in the future and become more involved in the community. Right now, they’re hosting charity events at Pinot’s Palette, and next month will recognize firefighters, nurses and law enforcement in separate events.
Since Pinot’s Palette has an open bar, underage customers are not allowed in the business, even when the bar is not in service. But the Leonards are looking to one day make a children’s painting studio a reality, and recognize the importance of art in children and young adult lives.
“We’d also really like to step into that gap and support arts education in the community,” Heidi said.
We’d also really like to step into that gap and support arts education in the community.
Customers interested in attending an event or class at Pinot’s Palette on South Hill can register for an event online at pinotspalette.com/southhill.
Mark Logan, retired veteran who knew the Leonards from work, is now the manager at the shop and said that the Leonards work hard to find the paintings that their customers love. So far, paintings with flowers, trees and water are popular at the South Hill location.
“This location is perfect for the clients we’re looking for,” he said. “We’re happy to provide another avenue of entertainment for people.”
Ray and Heidi’s lives remain busy, but they look forward to more date nights soon — this time, at their own art studio.