By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Heads up, crafters: there’s a new workshop space in town. A new location for national company AR Workshop has opened on Third Avenue and is offering DIY classes for projects in the retail space formerly occupied by clothing shop, Second Time Around.
The new spot in Gramercy that opened this past March is run by Murray Hill resident Jill Zadie, who has been living in the neighborhood for the last eight years and is originally from New Jersey. Her store on Third Avenue is the first location in Manhattan for AR Workshop and it was actually when she was visiting friends back in New Jersey that she first attended a class in one of the locations there.
“I just fell in love with it, and I said I wish they had this in Manhattan,” she said. “Then the owner of that workshop told me they’re a brand new company that is not in Manhattan yet and you should look into it. So I looked into it.”
Zadie, who is a corporate attorney by trade, said that she was drawn to the company because of their commitment to empowering women, giving back to the community and having a space for families to spend time together.
“We are here to be a part of the community so we want to be a space where kids can come learn a skill and practice their painting,” she said. “We love how our projects empower kids, because some are still learning how to use art supplies so when they see their finished product, they can’t even believe they created something like that looks like this.”
Aside from light crafting involving paint, yarn and glue, the classes and projects at AR Workshop also frequently involve wood and therefore require the use of power tools, which Zadie said was another draw for her.
“One of our missions is to teach women how to use power tools and to be self-sufficient,” she said. “I’d never used a nail gun before I started this, and now I can use a nail gun just as good as anybody else. So we want to introduce stuff that you wouldn’t generally come across and that you wouldn’t generally use.”
In addition to offering classes for specific projects, the space is available as a space for charity events and fundraisers, and Zadie wants to encourage local groups to get involved. The shop has already hosted a dog adoption day where participants could construct their own frame to put photos of their pooch, as well as an event with Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a national foundation that supports research and awareness for pediatric cancer.
“We essentially just do a workshop for the night, but we give back 10 to 15% of the proceeds to whoever is hosting with us for that night,” she said.
Available projects include wooden trays, wood boxes, framed clocks, blanket ladders, wooden pet beds, cake stands, cheeseboards, pillows and tote bags, all with customizable stencil options and most of which can be completed by both kids and adults that parents and kids can do together.
“Your kids can be making a really nice pillow for their room, or a tote bag, and you can be making a really nice piece for your home, so you’re not going to go home with a kiddy project,” Zadie said. “It’s a nice way to be able to bond with your kids without it having to be a kid thing or an adult thing.”
She said that the family classes in some ways offer an alternative childcare option for kids as young as 7.
“When you think about Manhattan, you’re either taking your kids to a kids-centric gymboree with lots of crazy colors and or it’s just an adults-only class and then you have to find a babysitter,” she said. “So what’s really nice about our workshop is that we’ve taken that into consideration.”
Zadie said that the space also has its own bar where participants can purchase alcohol, and although they can’t bring in their own booze, they are allowed to bring in their own food for a well-rounded night out with friends or clients.
“When sales people have to entertain their clients, usually they’ll just take them to dinner, but with up-and-coming boutique fitness, people have been going to Soul Cycle classes and taking their clients for different experiences versus just to the bar and to dinner,” she said. “So I think this is really unique, because you can take your client out for the night and entertain them and have good discussion, but they also leave with something really nice they made.”
One of the company’s popular projects is a customizable cheese board and Zadie said that one of Gramercy location’s upcoming events will be a specialty workshop all about cheese, which includes a cheese tasting from the local Bedford Cheese Shop on Irving Place in addition to designing a wood cheese board from scratch. Other upcoming events for October include preparation for sweater weather with chunky knit blanket workshops and personalized Halloween trick-or-treat bag workshops.
AR Workshop was created by designers Maureen Anders and Adria Ruff, who originally founded their DIY blog and online shop, Anders Ruff, in 2010. After numerous requests from clients to offer hands-on classes to create their designs, they created AR Workshop in 2016 and now have more than 100 locations throughout the country.
The Manhattan location is at 232 Third Avenue between East 19th and 20th Streets. Classes can be booked online at arworkshop.com/manhattan.