Like a visit to a favorite aunt or girlfriend's home, stepping through the doors of the turquoise storefront making up Anders Ruff Workshop in downtown Pineville provides a welcoming, familiar feeling.
Various handmade crafts adorn the walls, shelves and tables of the rustic, chic shop that opened in 2016, including do-it-yourself painted signs, succulent pots, pillows, jewelry and bags. It's like a Pinterest board come to life--and it's all made right here. Paper covers tables slathered with paint, and tin cans filled with hand tools and paint brushes sit adjacent to a wall of dozens of paint cans and a power tool station. The space hosts dozens of monthly workshops, fundraisers, parties, pop-up events and camps, welcoming blossoming artists of all ages and skill levels.
The inviting vibe is exactly what co-founders Adria Ruff and Maureen Anders aim for in their 139 AR Workshop locations across 31 states. Sales are expected to reach $24 million this year.
It started 10 years ago at a preschool open house in Charlotte. Ruff and Anders, who then had small children, had recently moved to the area and started chatting about their mutual background in the arts and love for graphic design.
"She invited me to her house a week later, and we shared portfolios, and our styles meshed really well," Anders says. "I was like,
'You've got to sell your work.... Why don't you start a business?' And she said, 'Well, I'm not doing it alone.' So I said, 'Great, let's do it together.'"
They started an Etsy shop online, selling printable digital graphics for kids parties that could be used for everything from invitations to decorations. It was successful, but the women found they were receiving lots of questions from parents who wanted to know how to use the graphics and decorate the parties in a do-it-yourself way. So they created the Anders and Ruff blog and online shop.
"We showed them how to use the printables, but we would also show them what desserts to make and what drinks to have," Ruff says. "Every detail and every aspect of the party, we taught them online."
They wanted their customers to "see the whole picture," Anders says. "We wanted to make it easy for them in a DIY way.... We were both stay-at-home moms with little kids at home, and we didn't know what it was going to turn into. We just wanted something fun and creative to do."
It took off right away. Their designs and decor have been featured in magazines like Better Homes & Gardens and Country...