Nathan and Christy Walker are pretty sure they can not sell a $ 450 hand-damask knife if they want it. But a $ 450 lesson where they teach students to create one for themselves? Guaranteed.
"It's the fish you've caught," said Christy Walker, the blacksmith's wife and business partner. His point: do not buy a pre-mounted fish; mount the fish you entered.
"They want to buy their works of art, "he said.
That's why Beach Blacksmith in Norfolk offers lessons that teach people the arcane art of beating and molding glowing iron and steel into bottle opener, jewelry, knives or any other item that their customers can imagine. They are among a growing phenomenon focused on selling people something they have done themselves.
"They want to know how to do what they saw on HGTV," said Michelle Odom, a well-known local singer and entrepreneur who runs two-year craft festivals. He was referring to the cable network that shows shows for the house.
Crafting was something done by itself, but turned into a social activity. He had recently held monthly evenings at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens in Norfolk. Every sold out.
"There's a reverence when you do things with your hands," but not many people have the resources to buy equipment for thousands of dollars, said George Cramer of The Village Blacksmith in Gloucester. He hosted one-day classes ($ 185) and three days ($ 450) for two of the last three years he has been in business. His hope is that he can lead to his next commitment: open the shop to monthly registrations as a space for producers.
"People do not necessarily want to attend a class, but they want to get in and play around," he said.
Kirin Karande, marketing professor at Old Dominion University, said two motivations are at stake: economics and identity.
In some cases, it may be less expensive to do it alone. In others, the lessons may cost more, but the person pays for the experience and the feeling of pride in making something unique.
He seems counter-intuitive, paying for something and spending his time and effort to do it, but Karande said, "People appreciate things more when they co-create or co-produce."
Do-it-yourself retail is not new – think of the "paint-your-own" pottery stores or Build-a-Bear Workshop, a publicly traded company that opened in 1997 in shopping centers where customers they could fill and dress their teddy bears.
The phenomenon has started by including the creation of decorative wooden signs, the preparation of meals with supplies and instructions for shipping and even the fixing of your car.
Steve Cauffiel, formerly Navy SEAL, opened the Do-It-Yourself American garage two years ago in Virginia Beach after spending years attending hobby shops on military bases where he was able to fumble on the machines.
Now, anyone – including civilians – who does not have the tools or needs a little more space than their garage or its streets, can enter and rent one of its nine bays for $ 20 a year. now, or $ 30 for one with the elevator.
Most of his activity comes from daily drivers, but occasionally he will receive the hot rod enthusiast or the young driver with a new car that comes directly from the dealer to his shop to replace the exhaust.
Replacing brake pads, bumps, struts and springs are among the repairs that people can make in their shop. More intense work could include the exchange of engines or transmissions.
"Heck, we had a big diesel pickup coming," he said. The owner raised the cab and replaced the engine seals, saving $ 2,000 compared to what it would cost in a car shop, he said. A couple of big plants came for oil changes. An Escalade owner removed the whole body from the frame.
The staff is available to help people bridge the gap between the instructions a customer could draw from YouTube and reality.
"They do not understand there's been eight hours erased from the video," he said do-it-yourself videos that make the look easier than it could be. The goal is to help you make sure that a person's project is finished and that it is done safely. "We always have our heads on a swivel to see what they are doing," he said.
While Cauffiel's business is relatively unique, places to go for decorating as a team building exercise, a night date or just an afternoon have become ubiquitous.
Nowadays, decorative wooden DIY stores that grow rapidly now dot much of the United States.
Anders Ruff Workshop, or AR Workshop, began two years ago in the suburbs of Charlotte and has rapidly grown into over 100 franchise locations in 26 states, including Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Newport News.
Board & Brush, based in Wisconsin, has more than 200 locations, including one in Norfolk and one in Newport News.
Home mom Randi Conkle started creating her wooden door decorations painted three years ago and selling them to craft shows.
He did it as a way to get out of the house on the weekends and socialize with the customers.
That's when buyers started asking how they could do it on their own.
"I was booking, like, six months ago," he said of the house parties he was going to host. So he opened Paint Stuff Studios at Chesapeake in October 2017, charging $ 10 to $ 50, depending on the size of the item, so that customers can create one.
"I think it makes them more proud to say that they created against buying," he said.
Hinterland Trading Company started as a plant importer and seller of terrarium kits on Amazon starting in 2012. Just a couple of years ago Elizabeth Ryan's daughter, seeing an open space in the corner of their Virginia Beach warehouse , pushed him to do a class.
"The next thing you know, we've had 85 people, so 145 people …" Ryan said. Because of the zoning, city officials were not thrilled with the crowd, so when the Town Center came looking for pop-up tenants, Hinterland Trading moved in just over a year ago. Now do-it-yourself terrariums represent most of their business, with all-inclusive prices for projects starting at $ 9 and increasing up to $ 100.
"The pressure is off," he said. Rather than worrying about the price of individual pieces, "you can really let go of your creativity".
Ryan is negotiating with investors to expand slowly, with plans for a second location in the Norfolk Quest this year and two locations that will open in Richmond and Reston next year.
Christy Walker, former director of admissions for Regent University, and her husband Nathan joined to start Beach Blacksmith in January.
Since then, there has rarely been a day when they have not offered a lesson nor from the space they rent at Revolution Studios in Norfolk or in a brewery or, soon, from Hermitage.
Monday was jewelry night, Tuesday swords, throwing knives on Wednesdays, pliers on Thursday and lessons for homeschooled children during the day, followed later by nighttime activities for couples. Saturday would be bottle opener.
A client, a 70-year-old man who had on his bucket list who wanted to make his knife – something his grandchildren could fight once he left – spent six hours at Walker's anvil doing the lama.
"Six hours." It was made of stale stuff, "said Christy Walker.
Nathan Walker thinks that the phenomenon may have had to do with the economic crisis of a few years ago.
Just like the generation that experienced the Great Depression, the one who endured the recent Great Recession could be tired of being consumers and more interested in getting better.
"Having a skill is investing in yourself," he said. It is something that can not be lost when the stock market turns south.