In the open space of AR Workshop in Bellmore, the warm scent of sawdust wafts through the air. The sound of fresh paint being brushed onto wood panels is muffled by conversation at one of six workstations, where empty paint buckets are repurposed for organizational use — holding sandpaper, pencils, scissors and other craft supplies. Here people meet and mingle while creating a personal piece of art.
That is exactly what owner Julie Alveari, of Bellmore, envisioned would happen when she opened the studio in June. She discovered the boutique workshop chain while researching possible activities for a girls’ night out. After visiting the Port Washington location, Alveari fell in love with the concept.
“You’re not just picking a product off a shelf and painting it,” she said. “You’re actually creating a piece of art from raw materials all the way to the finish.”
With more than 100 franchises across the country, and three on Long Island, AR Workshop offers patrons hands-on sessions in which they can learn do-it-yourself skills and create fine home décor goods, hand-knit blankets and custom jewelry.
Alveari co-owns the studio with her husband, Michael. Both are self-proclaimed craft enthusiasts — their last name is stenciled on many of the shop’s items, and their home features DIY furnishings, she said. At AR Workshop, Alveari is able to combine her artistic side with her background in social work to create a space that is welcoming to everyone.
“My main goal is to get people to connect, do something fun and make sure [they] have a space to come to where they feel comfortable — I feel like we don’t have enough of that besides going to a bar or a restaurant,” she said. “Everyone is just connected to technology, [but here] their phones aren’t out — they’re just focused on what they’re doing.”
Patrons pre-select projects to complete online. When they arrive for their scheduled workshop, all the raw materials are waiting at the workstations, including stain and paint color samples, sandpaper, paintbrushes and gloves. Each table is assigned a project assistant to help customers. The design process takes about three hours, and prices range between $50 and $75, depending on the project’s size and type.
Project assistant Sierra Glicker, of Bellmore, has worked at the studio since it opened. She is entering her junior year at the Parsons School of Design, which puts her in the “perfect position,” she said, to use her skills learned at school.
“It’s a great opportunity to make a custom project for yourself or someone else, and you’re doing it hands-on,” Glicker said. “There’s no other business like it.”
At AR Workshop, patrons can design custom wood signs, frames, clocks, serving trays and centerpiece boxes. The Bellmore location also offers specialty classes, such as knitting, beading and jewelry making, where local artisans are invited in to help lead a class. The studio also hosts birthday parties for children and adults, as well as family and date night events.
Alveari said that no artistic experience is required to enjoy all that AR Workshop has to offer. “I feel like a lot of people don’t want to come because they’re not artsy, but everyone so far has left with a project that they’re really proud of,” she said. “It’s a really nice feeling to know that I can still use my background in a meaningful way for myself and for my guests.”
AR Workshop is at 2930 Merrick Road in Bellmore. For more information, or to register for a workshop, call (516) 780-0135 or go to www.arworkshop.com/bellmore.