Turning wood into ‘something beautiful’
By Alison Rooney
“I’ve been doing DIY my whole life. I never did home economics in high school — I did wood shop,” says Joely Zarra.
Now Zarra is putting that background to good use, at The Crafty Hammer, a new do-it-yourself (DIY) home decor store she and her husband recently opened in Beacon on South Chestnut Street, off of Main. The wood shop, as Zarra calls it, will probably be used for 75 percent workshops and 25 percent sales of already-made products and custom designs.
In the beginning, Crafty Hammer will focus on workshops offered several times a week. The large front room, formerly a yoga studio, contains six large, wooden (of course) worktables. Either online or in the store, customers choose the wood and the design to work with. Then they pick a date to begin; currently, wood shop sessions take place on Friday and Saturday nights, though Zarra plans to add afternoons as well as Tuesday evenings.
“We start with raw wood, then teach you how to distress it, which we do with mallets and other tools. We’ll even provide ear plugs if you like. Then we sand the corners and the blemishes. You pick your water-based stain, apply your stencil, and pick your paint colors. There’s help at every table. You go home with something beautiful,” Zarra explains.
There’s also a party room for kids ages 2 to 6, who, with supervision and instruction, will do actual wood projects, using their choice of designs (think unicorns, for example, Zarra says) and paint the background. They don’t do the staining process themselves. Eventually, Zarra hopes to have daytime drop-in parent/child sessions as well as workshops for children, something she’s offered through the Beacon Recreation Department previously. She has also hosted Mommy and Me classes for the past two summers in her backyard. “I brought out big tents, we had a water supply, and kids loved it.”
The Zarras are definitely handy. “We’ve built everything: solar fencing … a play area loft above my daughter’s bed. I realized, doing the classes that you can do this for a living. It just evolved,” she explains.
She reels off a long list of products which can be made at the wood shop: “Predominantly signs, but also trays, lazy Susans, porch signs with parts you can pull out and rotate … Advent calendars, chalkboards, stepping stools … We set it; you design it. We intend to find out what the community wants, then do it.” It all makes sense when Zarra relates that the day before she went into labor, she and her husband went to flea markets where “we bought a huge table saw and these great wooden boxes and carted them around!”
Beacon was always their intended location, even with their current Washingtonville commute. “We felt a push to come to Beacon. There’s a huge influx of people here, and it’s more of an arts community than anything out where we are. We were also able to find great staff, including three amazing high school students we found through the Beacon High School art department,” says Zarra, who grew up in the Goshen area. That kind of networking comes easily to her, as she not only has a bachelor’s degree in marketing but a master’s in school counseling, a field in which she worked for a decade.
“This is a community-based business,” Zarra emphasizes. “It’s wood — anybody can do it, but we can do it better, and customer service is key. We’re in a very cool community, and relationships come first.” After spending time in Florida, Zarra met her husband, John, who, in addition to handling the computer and information technology side of things, doubles as a musician (known as Johnny Z.) and is a manager at Alto Music. He triples as the woodcutter, sizer and stacker at the new business. “It’s OK — we both have a natural attraction to wood products. Our almost 5-year-old-daughter loves it here, too,” says Zarra.
Eventually they’d like to add workshops for bigger projects, such as designing Adirondack chairs. They’d also like to have other artisans conduct workshops, and want to have open shop hours, without the structure of workshops, for those more experienced in woodworking.
For now, though, they’re finishing renovations to the space and starting small. Their soft opening at the end of June was mostly spent “educating people on what we do,” Zarra says. “We also made Beacon signs. We focused most of the projects on Beacon, because we very specifically wanted to be here.”
The Crafty Hammer is located at 4 South Chestnut and can be reached at 845-834-9663 — and, yes, those last four digits spell WOOD. A website is coming soon; social media are up and running.