ANDERSON — Hanging from the ceiling of What Workz is an old bike tire attached to a single lightbulb, illuminating the counter below it.
“The first thing I want you to think of when you walk in is, ‘That’s different. That’s one of a kind,’” co-owner Jason Crist said.
It’s just one of the many creations at 5430 Columbus Ave. From outside, the store may look like an average flea market, but those thoughts quickly go to the wayside once inside What Workz.
The store is filled with furniture, décor and art that Crist and co-owner Heather Chandler-Robleto have created. Items vary from a normal kitchen table to an old wooden door converted into an entryway bench.
Even the space itself fights convention. The building used to be a liquor store and the owners are using it to their advantage.
Along the back wall they converted freezers that once stored cold beer into a giant tool box. Customers can peer through the glass doors at the materials and watch the two in their workshop.
“We want people to see us at work,” Crist said. “I don’t mind people coming up to ask me questions.”
What Workz has been open for three months but Crist and Chandler-Robleto want to celebrate with an open house noon to 2 p.m. Saturday. They’ll have face painting, a magician and free pizza from their next door neighbor, Columbus Pizza.
“We’re trying to get people in here to see we have other things,” Chandler-Robleto said. “It’s not just our art.”
The two said they don’t want people to mistake their place for a normal flea market. They describe many of the items for sale as things that have been repurposed or “upcycled.”
That inventory could include a simple dresser that’s been repainted to a coffee table with a picture of Marilyn Monroe and her quote, “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring,” painted on it.
Crist said an auctioneer sold him an old sewing machine cabinet, which he turned into a desk. When the auctioneer saw what it became, he bought it back and gave it to his daughter.
“(Crist) doesn’t consider himself an artist,” she said. “Then I came in and I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re an artist. You need to recognize that and start putting your name on stuff.’
“He has that creativity but it’s in a different form. “
The two are constantly looking for ways to create new pieces. While Crist is more of a “get it done” type, Chandler-Robleto spends more time trying to perfect her art.
The constant flow of creativity makes their inventory like a revolving door. Within three days, the items for sale can change drastically.
“We try to keep our inventory fresh,” Chandler-Robleto said. “If it’s starting to collect dust it’s gone.”
They said if an item doesn’t sell in a reasonable amount of time, they’ll continually repurpose it until they can turn it to something that does sell. They’ll also take custom orders from clients who are looking for something in particular.
Crist said that’s part of the beauty of what they do. So many things found in stores are made to look like they’re repurposed but are really manufactured.
“The unique and one of a kind is our motto,” he said.
More than just selling their own creations, Crist and Chandler-Robleto want to help other artists.
What Workz has designated space for other local artists to display and sell their work. Right now, 10 artists and two collectors have their stuff on display.
The duo charges $25 a month for space and they don’t take a commission on the artists’ sales. They said they just want to help locals and the monthly fee goes toward utilities.
Shannon Sullivan has rented space there for two months and said it’s helped her. She displays painted wine glasses, candles and her photography at What Workz.
“I’ve gotten more calls for photography jobs and it’s helped get my name around,” she said. “Most of the time other places charge twice as much and you get half the space, and it’s all flea markets and not for artists.”
Crist and Chandler-Robleto also want customers to tap into their creative side. At the start of the year they’re going to offer classes. The first one will be free and teach their pupils how to safely and properly use power tools.
Future classes will likely include face painting, turning furniture into art and some of the artists will teach some of their own techniques. If they charge anything for classes the money will go toward materials.
The duo said they just want to express themselves creatively and pay it forward.
“We don’t walk away with a big profit,” Chandler-Robleto said. “We walk away with the pride that we’re doing something for our community.
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