While working as a social worker in Denver, Laura Kowal would use party planning, do-it-yourself craft projects, Pinterest and more as a way to de-stress and relax.
Now, Laura and her husband, Marc, are combining those passions together to open Board & Brush Creative Studio, part of a national chain, in Skaneateles.
Set for a grand opening this Saturday, the studio lets guests sign up for sessions to design their own personalized wooden sign decorations in a fun, creative crafting experience.
Customers can choose from over 200 designs to customize their signs, using sandpaper, hammers, power tools, paints and more to make them look like longtime heirlooms.
Some signs in the Kowals' shop feature Christmas-, fall- or spring-themed designs with sayings like "love, laughter and happily ever after," while others are made for porches, kitchens or family rooms with declarations like "The Kowal Kitchen."
The three-hour, instructor-led sessions are designed for guests to have fun while letting their creativity flow, Laura said.
With a liquor license and a bar to serve beer, wine and snacks, the sessions are a great option for bachelorette parties, bridal showers or birthdays, or just individuals looking for an alternative to dinner and drinks out, Laura said.
"Anything where people want to have a good time and do something different," Laura said. "We definitely want people to have fun."
Laura decided to start the business after attending a class at a Denver Board & Brush location shortly before moving to New York.
"I knew I needed a change and thought this would be a perfect fit for me and for Skaneateles. And it came to be," Laura said.
For the village, Laura said the rustic, farmhouse style is very popular right now and matches perfectly with the overall feel and look of the area. Having other boutique stores and restaurants so close by helps complement the business's emphasis on fun and a good time, she said.
Laura and her husband, an Auburn native, moved back to the area for their two children to be closer to family, but chose the village over the city partly for the quaint feel that aligns with the business.
"I just always loved coming to visit here," Laura said. "It's always been that cozy, charming village that you picture in your head."
DIY craft projects have been something Laura has always loved, she said, and her background in social work helps her be a good host and instructor.
"It just feels like this is where I belong. It feels like a perfect combination of everything I like," Laura said, later adding, "It's connecting with people, it's making them feel confident and feel proud of what they're doing and encouraging them. I think it all goes hand-in-hand."
Although Laura is no longer a social worker, helping others and giving back to the community is still at the forefront of her mind. That's why she plans to make fundraisers — especially ones benefiting social work, social services, teachers and children — a big part of the business.
The business has been a team project as well, with nearly everything inside the shop, including the shelves, tables and bar, built by Marc.
"He's all over this shop, and thank God because I couldn't build it," Laura joked. "So it's kind of like a nice team."