DIY wood sign workshop opens in Evanston


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Board & Brush, 802 Dempster St. The wood sign creative studio opened Saturday and offers workshops for customers to make personalized wooden decor.

Clare Proctor, Reporter

Workshops at Board & Brush — a wood sign creative studio that opened in Evanston on Saturday — are “kind of like a party,” said co-owner Shannon Valko.

“We have loud music and music videos blasting, and we do have beer, wine, soda, water,” she said. “It’s a really social, creative atmosphere.”

Valko owns Board & Brush — a national chain that now has a location at 802 Dempster St. — with her husband, Drew Valko, and brother, Rob Spengler. Customers can create a personalized wood sign based on a design selected from the store’s website over the course of a three-hour workshop held at the studio, she said.

Valko and her husband, both Evanston residents, wanted to open up shop in their hometown, she said. She said she was interested in the Main-Dempster Mile’s location because of its community events that increase traffic in the business district.

After beginning to look for a space in Evanston last August, Valko said the city’s economic development division recommended multiple potential properties that fit Board & Brush’s needs. The owners decided on the Dempster property in November.

“The space was customized to our needs, which was great because we have kind of unique needs in that we need to have hand-washing sinks and a work bench area, office space, studio space and such,” she said.

Renovations at the property took about three months, Valko said. The builders repurposed wood from the Ice House Gallery and used it in the Board & Brush location, she said.

Paul Zalmezak, Evanston’s economic development manager, said Board & Brush brings a new artistic medium — wood — into the mix.

“It’s not something that you can do online,” he said. “It’s just something that’s a fulfilling activity that you do in person with friends and family.”

Valko and Spengler co-own another Evanston business, Little Beans Café, located at 430 Asbury Ave. Valko said Evanston is a “creative town,” and owning the cafe and children’s playspace in the city helped her decide to open up another business locally.

Although Bottle & Bottega — located at 1016 Davis St. — offers a similar experience combining wine and painting, Valko said Board & Brush differs in the types of craft activities it offers, and it’s more individualized.

“(At) Bottle & Bottega, you pick the workshop you want to attend and everyone would do the same project,” she said. “At Board & Brush, you go online and pick your project and then come in, and everyone has something unique.”

In addition to offering public workshops, Board & Brush also accommodates group activities like corporate events and birthday parties in which customers create wood decor for their homes or offices in a social environment, Valko said.

Spengler said Board & Brush provides Evanston residents with an alternative evening activity from the “typical” dinner and a movie.

“That hands-on arts and crafts creative experience is what we were going for, and I think a town like Evanston is a perfect place for it,” Spengler said. “It’s a great community for it.”

Syd Stone contributed reporting.

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