Missy Spears was vacationing in Virginia Beach with her daughter the first time she saw an AR Workshop, a boutique DIY studio for crafters.

“I looked in the window, and it’s absolutely everything that’s me,” the Spotsylvania County woman said.

She decided to buy an AR Workshop franchise and will open it in downtown Fredericksburg in March. It will offer busy people a place where they can create customized, on-trend home decor including farmhouse-style wood signs, canvas wall hangings, and chunky, finger-knitted blankets in a hands-on setting, with assistance from an instructor. All the necessary materials are provided, and staff clean up afterwards.

“Our target age is 18 to 50,” Spears said. “They’re women who are busy with a job and children, and don’t have time to find a project, get supplies and do it. This allows them to do that whole cycle without having to take anything home except the finished project.”

She’ll hold a VIP opening for her business March 14 and the grand opening March 16 at 1015 Caroline St., the former location of Pa Dutch Tea & Spice Co. The space is large enough to accommodate 30 people for public classes, private parties and summer camps that she’ll hold for children ages 8 to 14.

Classes are listed on a calendar at arworkshop.com. When a customer clicks on the project they want do, they’re able to use the website’s search and category feature to narrow their selection down to a specific design and then enter their design options such as size and paint colors.

“Customers start with raw materials, and we teach them things like how to use a nail gun. If they want to go with a stencil, most can be customized with a last name, the date they were married or their kids’ names. We give that gift of creativity. We have over 122 paint colors, so they have lots of choices,” Spears said.

She plans to bring in some special instructors during the year, and her store will also have a retail section featuring jewelry and home décor.

AR Workshop was founded by Maureen Anders and Adria Ruff, the designers behind Anders Ruff, a popular graphic design, party styling, DIY blog and online shop. They created their new business as a way of offering hands-on workshops to teach their skills to others in 2016, and soon began franchising the concept. There are more than 100 franchise locations across the country.

As part of her franchise deal, Spears went to Charlotte, N.C., for three and a half days of intensive training. She said it was one of the best experiences of her life.

“The franchise is incredible,” she said. “If I ever thought, ‘I really wish my boss would do this,’ the founders are those bosses. They don’t take just anyone, but someone who is a people person, part of a community and shares their philosophy of treating people well. It makes it so much easier for a franchisee.”

She said one of her goals for her business is to provide a sense of community and create a place where people who might otherwise not know each other can meet while engaging in creative projects.

“I really believe that creativity is therapy,” Spears said. “When I was in training, I was helping an executive vice president who had never done anything like this. She said, ‘I haven’t thought about work one time.’ That’s what it’s supposed to be about.”

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Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407 cjett@freelancestar.com

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