Gina Gaspardo comes from a corporate IT background and lives in Hartland. So what is she doing in Sun Prairie opening Board & Brush, an inviting workshop designed for creating, or maybe even do it yourself (DIY) custom wood decor projects from scratch?
“I just thought downtown Sun Prairie was so cute and so conducive to this type of business,” she said, citing Main Street’s vibrancy. “I was in awe the first time I drove through here.”
Sun Prairie’s Board & Brush Creative Studio, 104 E. Main St., is the latest location for the company that has 10 other workshop spaces in Wisconsin (including one in Mount Horeb), Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina and Texas.
The studio celebrated its late January opening with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony last week.
Instructor-led classes guide participants through the entire building-with-wood process— from prepping the raw materials to taking home the final product.
All projects are priced with a flat fee typically ranging from $50 to $75, which includes materials and equipment.
Some of the more popular items Board & Brush helps people create include monogrammed or personalized “welcome” and “man cave” signs, as well as more unusual pieces such as decorative cheese trays and small boxes built for growing herbs.
Photos of several finished projects can be seen at boardandbrush.com.
Upon arriving at the Sun Prairie studio, participants (Gaspardo calls them “students”) are given custom stencils and a stack of wood along with the tools to sand, stain and paint it.
Board & Brush is often the first place some students ever use power tools, said Gaspardo, a firm believer in the DIY ethic.
Wine, beer and seasonal cocktails are available, and students are served snacks — or they can bring in food or have items catered.
“This is about the pride of doing something you’ve never done before, and enjoying it,” said Gaspardo, who admits she’s also pretty handy with fixing things around her own home.
A recent evening at Board & Brush featured one woman working alone on a project, a group of five people who knew each other and a party of 10. The studio is equipped with multiple tables designed for six, and each table is assigned an instructor — making for a six-to-one student-to-instructor ratio
According to the Board & Brush website, “a girl’s night with wine and crafts turned into a business idea and then a reality in January of 2015.”
Co-founder Julie Selby is Gaspardo’s next-door neighbor and opened the first Board & Brush in Hartland.
“I did a couple of projects with her and just loved it,” said Gaspardo, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs. “Julie just put that bug in my ear to open my own studio, and I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it!’ ”
In early December, she purchased the building that for 25 years housed the vintage furniture repair service and retail store Circa Victoriana from Phil “The Furniture Doctor” Croom.
Within 45 days, Gaspardo oversaw the transformation of a dark and dated 1,700-square-foot space into a light and airy studio.
“I wanted to respect the age of the building and the historical significance of it,” she said, explaining that she kept renovations to a minimum, focusing primarily on taking down walls and replacing the ceiling while retaining the natural wood floors and historic charm. “White paint can do a lot for a space.”
The studio’s demographics lean toward women looking for an outlet or a “ladies’ night out,” as well as couples in search of something different to do on a date.
Board & Brush also welcomes mother-daughter activities, happy hours, corporate events and team-building exercises, birthday parties, children’s workshops, bridal showers, bachelorette parties and other events.
Board & Brush is open two or three nights a week, but Gaspardo eventually wants to expand to daytime hours.
Although she doesn’t plan to relocate to Sun Prairie from Hartland, she plans to be onsite often as “the face of the studio,” handling all bookings.
She also is hiring a studio manager to oversee day-to-day operations and workshops.
As a Board & Brush licensee, Gaspardo is not an official franchisee yet.
But that will come in good time, she said, adding that she hopes to open two additional locations in Illinois by the end of 2016.
Right now, though, she’s focused on building the business at the Sun Prairie studio.
“Everybody in Sun Prairie has been so welcoming to me,” Gaspardo said, citing in particular the positive influence of the Sun Prairie Business Improvement District (BID) on her decision to open a Board & Brush studio here. “I kind of feel like I’m a part-time resident already.”
Board & Brush Creative Studio
104 E. Main St.
See online calendar at boardandbrush.com/sunprairie/calendar