Parents do the darndest things when they run out of places to keep their 3-year-old daughter’s princess dresses.
Take Sandra Bernius, a young mom who purchased a second-hand dresser, and by the time she had refinished and personalized it for her daughter Sadie, she had decided on a new career path.
“We found an old dresser off of Facebook Marketplace. We stripped it down, and we refinished it. That was for me the spark,” said Bernius, owner of Hammer & Stain Long Island in Bayport. “I loved the wood working aspect. I loved refinishing. I loved giving life into new things — and then being able to personalize it with her colors, her name. Things just kind of evolved from there.”
The princess dresser project was two years ago. Within a year-and-a-half, Bernius and her dad Roy Winstanley had opened the franchise at 605 Montauk Highway, in a space formerly occupied by East End Bloomers florist shop.
It’s Long Island’s first Hammer & Stain, a group DIY studio with 70 locations across the country. In a similar vein to the trendy paint-and-sip classes, guests at Hammer & Stain are guided by instructors through the process of transforming unfinished wood into attractive and colorful personalized works of art.
Bernius, a 2004 Patchogue-Medford High School graduate, explained that customers take on “big build” projects, such as corn hole sets, kids’ farmhouse tables and porch benches, as well as smaller projects, like a child’s reindeer box Christmas decoration, personalized “surf boards,” Scrabble tiles, wall signs, key holders and brag boards.
Bernius noted that the projects are already built — courtesy of her father and husband Jon — and that the customers are left to finish, decorate and personalize the pieces.
“We can all walk in to Hobby Lobby or Michael’s and buy a sign off the shelf, but it’s a little something different when it’s your wedding vows or a quote that’s important to you, or a sign with your kid’s name on it,” Bernius, 33, said. “One of our favorite parts of the night is when the stencils get pulled off, and everyone is like ‘Oh my gosh, I did this?”
The classes at Hammer & Stain are at night and on the weekend, allowing for Bernius to continue her work as director of special events for a nonprofit organization in New York City.
Later this month, the studio will host a Christmas in July event, where Hammer & Stain instructors in four nights of workshops will lead guests through Christmas-themed projects. The studio is booking private group workshops for July 23 and July 25, and hosting public workshops on July 24 and 26.