New busi­ness of­fers DIY home dé­cor

AR Work­shop in New Hanover

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - By Donna Rovins drovins@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @Mer­cBiz on Twit­ter Email busi­ness story ideas to busi­ness ed­i­tor/ writer drovins@21stcen­tu­ry­

NEW HANOVER » A friend­ship and a shared in­ter­est in crafts and DIY — do it your­self — has re­sulted in a new busi­ness.

AR Work­shop is a new fran­chise busi­ness owned by Michelle Shilling and Kelly El­liott. The busi­ness, lo­cated at 1810 Swamp Pike, Suite 200, in New Hanover, of­fi­cially opened on Satur­day, May 19, with an open house sched­uled from 6 to 9 p.m.

AR Work­shop is a DIY stu­dio of­fer­ing hands-on classes where par­tic­i­pants cre­ate home dé­cor items us­ing raw ma­te­ri­als like wood and can­vas. Among the projects are wood plank signs, framed signs, can­vas pil­lows, round signs, lazy Su­sans, cen­ter­piece boxes and can­vas tote bags — all of which can be per­son­al­ized.

Think Chip and Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Up­per” fame, “rus­tic farm­house,” said Shilling.

“It has an in­dus­trial, rus­tic vibe — clas­sic but ca­sual,” El­liott added.

The open­ing of AR Work­shop marks the end of a process that be­gan in De­cem­ber — a process that in­cluded find­ing a lo­ca­tion and then a com­plete re­model of the 1,590 square foot space.

“There isn’t a lot of re­tail space around, so there wasn’t much to choose from. Ide­ally we were look­ing for an open shell, but we came back to this place,” Shilling added.

The space had orig­i­nally been an of­fice. Since tak­ing pos­ses­sion in March, the pair — work­ing with their hus­bands and some friends — took down walls, ripped up car­pet, built fur­ni­ture and shelv­ing, laid a new floor and prepped the space.

In ad­di­tion to the work­shop it­self, there is a stor­age area, rest room and kitch­enette.

The out­side of the build­ing re­sem­bles the other of­fice suites in the com­plex. Once in­side, how­ever, cus­tomers are trans­ported to an up­scale work­shop – com­plete with power tools, sam­ple projects, work benches and project paint col­ors. Lights and dec­o­ra­tions re­flect the com­pany’s sig­na­ture aqua color.

The over­all feel­ing, ac­cord­ing to El­liott is “homey.”

“It feels like you’re walk­ing into a friend’s house — you can re­lax, have a good time and build some­thing,” she said.

The AR Work­shop ex­pe­ri­ence is suit­able for small or large groups of friends (up to 30 peo­ple) date nights and fam­ily out­ings. The work­shop can also ac­com­mo­date birth­day par­ties, bridal show­ers, team par­ties and team build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

AR Work­shop projects are easy to do in the in­struc­tor-led work­shops, ac­cord­ing to own­ers.

“You can come in with no knowl­edge and leave with some­thing you never thought you would be able to make,” El­liott said.

Work­shops are by reser­va­tion only: cus­tomers reg­is­ter on­line for a date and time, and se­lect the project they want to com­plete.

The reg­is­tra­tion tells El­liott and Shilling what ma­te­rial and vinyl sten­cil to pull for each project.

“When they ar­rive, the ta­ble is al­ready set up and the project is sit­ting in front of their seat, ready for them to put to­gether,” said Shilling.

Each work­shop ses­sion starts with an in­struc­tor shar­ing ba­sics about the tools, while as­sis­tants at each ta­ble stand ready to an­swer ques­tions as cus­tomers work on their projects. A wood­work­ing project class lasts about three hours, while a can­vas project class lasts about two hours.

AR Work­shop paints and stains are wa­ter based and non­toxic, with no harsh chem­i­cals ac­cord­ing to Shilling and El­liott.

The new busi­ness part­ners live in the same neigh­bor­hood and had got­ten to know each other over the years. The pair built on their own in­ter­ests when de­cid­ing on a busi­ness.

For fun, they went to an AR Work­shop in New­town af­ter see­ing a Face­book ad.

“It was the vibe. We just loved the de­tails. It was warm and invit­ing and ev­ery de­tail was thought of,” Shilling said.

At first, the pair didn’t re­al­ize the busi­ness was a fran­chise, but quickly be­gan ask­ing ques­tions.

“On the way home we just kept talk­ing about it,” El­liott said.

Af­ter talk­ing it over with each other and their spouses, El­liott and Shilling de­cided to move for­ward.

Once they de­cided to open AR Work­shop, Shilling and El­liott said they knew it had to be in New Hanover, be­cause an ex­pe­ri­ence like AR Work­shop is “des­per­ately needed,” ac­cord­ing to Shilling.

“The rea­son we love this spot is there are so many new de­vel­op­ments and there’s just noth­ing to do. Ev­ery­thing is at least a 20 minute drive,” she said. “That was a big draw to this area, be­cause there’s such a need for some­thing closer where women can re­lax.”

“There are no date night places ei­ther. You can go to a movie — but you can’t talk,” El­liott added. “At least in a set­ting like this you have the op­por­tu­nity to talk and laugh while you’re do­ing a project. It’s a win-win — a ro­man­tic date night and you get to do some­thing fun.”

The pair said there is a “buzz in the com­mu­nity” about the open­ing, which they said is ex­cit­ing.

So far, their mar­ket­ing has re­lied on Face­book, In­sta­gram and word of mouth.

“The buzz grew quickly on Face­book — within three weeks we had 2,000 fol­low­ers. It was in­sane,” Shilling said.

The pair said they wear their AR Work­shop shirts when they go out and carry brochures with them.

“It’s crazy that we’re at the gro­cery store and peo­ple come up to us,” El­liott added.

Reg­u­lar hours for AR Work­shop will be Wed­nes­day through Sun­day. Classes will be sched­uled Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day evening, Fri­day and Satur­day morn­ing and evening; and Sun­day.

Ad­di­tional classes may be added dur­ing the sum­mer, ac­cord­ing to Shilling. Class sched­ules, pric­ing and reg­is­tra­tion in­for­ma­tion is avail­able by check­ing the web­site.

AR Work­shop is a BYOB, so cus­tomers can bring bev­er­ages and snacks to their class.

“HGTV Mag­a­zine” will spon­sor a spe­cial week­end July 20 and 21 at all AR Work­shops across the coun­try. In­for­ma­tion and reg­is­tra­tion is avail­able on­line.

For more in­for­ma­tion about AR Work­shop visit­work­ or https://www.face­­work­shopgilbertsville/


AR Work­shop — a DIY stu­dio in New Hanover opens May 19 with an open house from 6 to 9 p.m. Shown here is a view of the stu­dio. Cus­tomers can make home decor items us­ing wood or can­vas.


AR Work­shop is a DIY stu­dio at 1810 Swamp Pike in New Hanover where cus­tomers can make home decor items from wood or can­vas. Shown here are own­ers Kelly El­liott, left, and Michelle Shilling. The stu­dio of­fi­cially opens May 19 with an open house from 6...

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