A do-it-yourself boutique to bring ‘intense crafting’ to west Lawrence

photo by: Submitted photo

The do-it-yourself boutique AR Workshop plans to open in west Lawrence in September.

I’ve been told it is a faux pas to have a power tool inside a retail establishment. (Evidently it is “coercion” to ask for a half-off deal while holding a running chainsaw, lawyer-types say.) Regardless, a soon-to-open west Lawrence craft store will be putting power tools in the hands of customers in an effort to create a unique do-it-yourself center.

AR Workshop is scheduled to open Sept. 6 in the shopping center at Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. The business bills itself as a gift shop and do-it-yourself boutique. That means you can walk in and browse the shelves for small home decor or other gift items, but a big part of the store’s business will be workshops where you get to create your own project.

“But this isn’t just glitter and glue,” said Jessica Mooneyham, who, with husband Kirk, owns the Lawrence franchise. “This is intense crafting with power tools.”

What types of crafts? The projects will change as trends change, but currently one craft craze is farmhouse signs. If you haven’t seen the popular HGTV shows that make use of such interior design props, then you must have a more interesting life than I have. Think of wall hangings that have your family name or an inspirational saying or perhaps a phrase that is unique to your family. Then, imagine the sign made out of barnwood or corrugated tin or some other material that you might find on a farm.

AR Workshop plans to host about five to seven workshops per week. Each session will last two to three hours and usually will cost between $40 to $80, depending on the particular project you are making. In addition to an instructor, each class will have four to six assistants that Mooneyham said would be the equivalent of a server at a restaurant. They’ll be there to assist and make the experience more fun. The business definitely intends to sell not just crafts but an experience. The business will have a cocktail bar, although there presumably will be some limits on combining the power tools and the alcohol.

One other word of caution: The business also has a paint bar with about 60 colors to choose from for your projects. Don’t get the two bars messed up.

In addition to the farm signs, Mooneyham said there would be a variety of other projects, including picture frames, jewelry stamping, painted jean jackets, do-it-yourself denim, pillows and even hand-knitted blankets called chunky-knit blankets.

But a key to the business will be changing as trends change, she said. The founders of the AR Workshop brand are expected to play a role in keeping up with those changes. The AR stands for Anders and Ruff, two designers who became a big deal in the online world and created their own do-it-yourself shop in 2010.

“We call it a do-it-yourself boutique because we understand trends will change,” Mooneyham said. “Farmhouse signs may not be popular in five years, but we have the ability to change with the trends.”

Plus, Mooneyham thinks that customers soon will learn they get a lot more than just a completed craft out of the experience.

“My husband and I are relatively new to Lawrence,” said Mooneyham, who moved from the Denver area about three years ago. “We saw a greater need for people to create and connect. What we loved about this idea is that it is just three hours of therapy. I really do think of crafting as therapy.”

But she also thinks the store will work well as a more traditional retail concept. The element of people crafting the items themselves ensures the store will always be selling something unique. That will make it great for gifts.

“I have a lot of people in my life that have everything,” she said, “but they don’t have a sign that I’ve personalized.”


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