| Palm Beach Post
WELLINGTON — As the world slowly ground to a halt in March because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, three Wellington residents were among those who watched in disbelief.
Not just because they wondered at the severity of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus or because they were concerned about where they might find toilet paper.
More: Wellington eyes ways to restrict fireworks in and near equestrian areas
Instead, Stefani Kochanski and Kati and Chris Erickson marveled at the timing – with their business set to open for its first customers in late March.
Sisters Stefani and Kati, along with Kati’s husband Chris, were not able to open their Board and Brush wood sign studio in the Wellington Marketplace shopping plaza until May 22.
Before officials began ordering businesses to close in mid-March, Board and Brush was steaming toward a packed grand opening, with 1,500 eager followers hanging on every post of the business’ Facebook page.
More: Event and festival companies look to future of ‘COVID-proof’ planning
“All of a sudden, it was like, ‘Just kidding,’” Kochanski said.
Compounding their confusion: Kati and Chris Erickson were in Wisconsin meeting with the Board and Brush corporate ownership – their location is a franchise – as Palm Beach County officials began issuing shutdowns.
Even with the delays, the business is thriving. After beginning workshops on May 22 with strict health guidelines in place, Board and Brush has continued to grow its following in Wellington.
A recent grand opening – “We finally felt comfortable enough to do that,” Kochanski said – featured a socially distanced line out the door and around the corner of the plaza.
More: Coronavirus has made cancer treatment even lonelier. Here’s how you can help.
Sixteen people were allowed into the shop at a time. The studio started the event with 30 gift bags for the first 30 people in line. The bags were gone within 25 minutes, Chris Erickson said.
“It just felt really good to have that warmth and that love,” Kochanski said.
The family credits their deep roots in the community with the business’ success, despite its unconventional start.
The sisters grew up in Palm Beach County. Both went to Dreyfoos School of the Arts. They have art and theater degrees they say factor in perfectly to running Board and Brush, which combines visual art with entertainment.
More: Former Wellington resident pens ‘guidebook’ on breast cancer fight
Their history in the community played a role in helping them build a large following with just a few weeks of starting their Facebook page and announcing their business in January, they said.
Kochanski and the Ericksons decided to open a Board and Brush studio after visiting two studios in Connecticut owned by Chris Erickson’s family.
“I loved the idea that everybody’s pieces they take home are unique and different,” Kati Erickson said.
After walking into the studio, breathing in the fresh-cut wood smell and taking in the ambiance, she sent a text message to her sister: “Let’s do this.”
More: Zumba via Zoom: Wellington virtual fitness classes a hit thanks to instructor
“I said, ‘OK,’” Kochanski said, laughing. “There wasn’t even a question.”
That was in September. Within weeks, the ball was rolling and Board and Brush was coming to Wellington.
While the studio has some online offerings – including virtual workshops, premade signs and take-home kits — the bread and butter of Board and Brush is the live, in-person experience.
The studio offers private parties and open workshops. Prices range from about $30 up to almost $70 for larger signs.
Participants are welcomed at the door, checked in, and offered wine or beer for sale, Kochanski said.
Customers head to a spot at one of the studio’s four high-top work tables. Stations are limited to four people to maintain a safe distance between participants, and masks are required, Kochanski said.
At each station, customers are greeted by the wood for their sign and a stencil. Participants are given aprons, Kati Erickson said.
The first part of the workshop involves distressing the wood — something customers really get into, Kochanski said.
“You get to use all sorts of weapons,” she said, picking up a hammer. People also can use drills and meat tenderizers.
Women who take part in the workshops get a kick out of using power tools as part of the process, Kati Erickson said.
“They say, ‘I can’t wait to tell my husband I did this,’” she said.
The next step is to stain the raw wood. That is followed by applying the stencil and “adding those fun, finishing touches,” Kochanski said.
She loves watching people pull off stencils, watching the reveal as they see the finished product.
That reveal often seals the deal for those who may be skeptical of Board and Brush, the family said.
A woman who came in for a recent workshop said during her experience that she had done paint-and-sip classes before, where an artist leads a class through a painting, Chris Erickson said. The woman commented on how much more work went into a project at Board and Brush, he said.
“And then she pulled that stencil,” Chris Erickson said. “She’s already signed up for another session.”
On a recent Wednesday night, 13 women donned witch hats for a spooky sign-making session, where they created Halloween-themed decor. Each woman who wore a witch hat received a free glass of wine, Kochanski said.
The workshops have been so popular that Kochanski said people are booking holiday parties.
The family has been “humbled and honored” by the support they’ve received from Wellington, Kati Erickson said.
“It’s been incredible,” she said.
For more information about Board and Brush in Wellington, go to www.boardandbrush.com/wellington.