Joanna Rapuzzi first went to an Anders Ruff Workshop while visiting family in North Carolina. The Staten Island native-turned-Westfield resident said when she went to the flagship store in Pineville, “I fell in love and inquired about how I could open this in my area.” AR Workshops were a smaller operation then but have since become a franchise. “We’re still all individually mom and pop, but the business has that [franchise] feel and corporate helps come up with fresh designs we can use,” said Rapuzzi. AR Workshop has 32 stores nationally.
“I wanted to move to Westfield because it’s a great place to live and raise children,” said the mom of two. “Before I landed in Westfield, I was an administrator in a hospital for five years. I’ve always had a DIY passion. I enjoyed doing different things around my house like refinishing furniture, and making projects my own. I also always had a passion for opening my own business; I just didn’t know what it would be.”
Rapuzzi opened AR Workshop in the heart of Downtown Westfield last May. “The surrounding businesses and the mayor and elected officials have been so nice and supportive,” Rapuzzi said. “The mayor and officials came to the grand opening. People have been checking in to make sure the business is thriving, and they even invited me to participate in a town hall and give an overview of the business here,” she said.
AR Workshop hosted some summer camps and will offer more next year once school lets out. Rapuzzi hosts classes on any days local children have off from school, making sure they have activities to do that day.
Unsure of where to start with all the projects they offer? Rapuzzi says the wood signs with their signature sayings are very popular. “Our canvas totes are growing in popularity too because they’re user-friendly. You can stencil different designs on them, add your name or a monogram, something sports-themed, the ideas are endless! Students get an experience in making them and then get to use it,” she said. The AR Workshop classes start at age 8 and up.
You can visit the workshop in person or browse the website to see examples of projects you can complete in one session. There you’ll also find a calendar of events. “We just came out with a whole slew of holiday designs that will knock your socks off. You can find a design for whatever you’re looking for, and it’s personalized so it’s even better,” said Rapuzzi. Every person at the table could be making a completely different design and that’s what AR Workshop wants. “We want everyone to have their options open and do whatever they want to do,” she said. The canvas projects start at $40, wood projects start at $50 and they can do custom design projects as well.
“I think the reason why this model is so successful is because you’re going to a place where you can have fun, catch up with your friends or family, but at the same time, you’re getting this great DIY experience where you’re leaving with something that you can be proud to hang on your wall or put on your shelf,” said Rapuzzi.
“It’s empowering when people come in and make something themselves. It really gives them the courage to take on projects in their homes they may never have thought to do. We’re teaching them how to use a drill, a nail gun and how to distress and stain wood. Some of our customers have never done that before and they feel so proud of themselves that they’re learning how to do it,” said Rapuzzi. Her customers have told her after classes that they’re inspired to paint or refinish a piece of furniture in their homes. “I think that’s the most important part: to make the customer feel proud of what they made. They’re going to hang it and use it in their home,” Rapuzzi said.
If you want to gift someone an AR Workshop experience, you can order a gift card online or pick one up in the store. Rapuzzi says you can also order personalized gifts for the holidays and pick them up in the store. AR Workshop also hosts private events, Moms’ night outs, date nights and more. Contact Rapuzzi about availability.