Sears and her husband opened the paint-your-own pottery studio and cafe in May 2019, a year after their daughter was born. “We always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” she says, “and after we had our daughter, we wanted to do something on our own.”
Originally from New Brunswick, Sears has a friend in Moncton who owns DIY Studio there. She decided it would be a great business to start in Thunder Bay and licensed the name and logo from her friend.
“It feels really different, to be able to put your hands to work and know that you’re doing something on your own,” Sears says.
The studio offers more than 300 different kinds of pottery to choose from. There are more than 50 kinds of mugs, as well as bowls, plates, Christmas decorations and knick knacks. The DIY Studio also collaborates with local potters Dog Paw Pottery, P0Ts2G0 and Sunshine Pottery.
“The hardest part when you come is to pick which pieces to paint; there’s so much to choose from,” says Sears. “We have a lot of repeat customers. For some, it’s like art therapy. This is a place where you unplug.”
DIY Studio can accommodate up to 80 people (when there are no COVID restrictions,) including a party space for 20 people. In addition to coffee from St Paul Roastery and tea from the International House of Tea, DIY Studio is licensed and offers beer from local breweries and Ontario wine.
Sears says her toddler daughter enjoys painting, and anybody is welcome to participate “as soon as they can hold a paintbrush.” That said, finishing a piece properly usually takes a couple of hours and requires attention to detail, so some customers take their pieces home and come back to finish another day.
Since the pandemic started, DIY Studio has been offering take-home kits. Customers can choose their pottery piece from the website, pick up to six colours of paint, and have it ready for contactless pickup. After painting at home, customers drop off their pottery to be fired in the kiln, and pick it up later.
Being in the middle of a pandemic, it’s hard to say what the future holds, but Sears hopes to be able to expand the cafe part of the business once they are able to be open to the public again. “We want people to come in just to use the cafe,” she says.Some customers have asked her about opening a second location. “We moved here five years ago in May, but we’ve come to know that people like to stay on their side of town. People from Westfort don’t come to Port Arthur very often. We like to drive, we don’t mind, but we found lots of people are comfortable staying in their part of the city,” she laughs.