Facing the Pandemic: Board & Brush opened just weeks before the lockdown

The business is now beginning to thrive


The COVID-19 lockdown this spring was tough even on veteran small business owners. Now imagine opening your business just two weeks before the lockdown began.

That’s the precarious position Donna Hall and her daughter, Kristine Murray, found themselves in when they opened Board & Brush in Queen Creek just weeks before the lockdown.

Everything looked rosy when Board & Brush, a franchise do-it-yourself studio workshop where people can learn, build and decorate wooden signs, had its grand opening.

“Our grand opening, we had people wrapped around the building,” Ms. Hall said. “We had about 120-some people here.”

Then it all stopped when the COVID-19 lockdown was announced.

“There were a few moments that we thought, ‘Oh my goodness. We’re not going to survive this,’ because the lockdown just kept going and going and going,” Ms. Hall said.

“And you know, the federal assistance didn’t help businesses that opened this year,” Ms. Murray said. “So, we had no lifeline. So, we were like, we have no choice but to make this work on our own.”

When discussing Board & Brush, Ms. Hall and Ms. Murray sound like longtime business partners rather than mother and daughter. They pick up and advance each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences. They’re in sync, which came in handy when the two were struggling to keep their nascent business afloat.

“It’s obviously very stressful because you just really never know what’s going to come next,” Ms. Murray said. “Oh great, here we go again. Are we going to get shut down again …”

“Which we understand,” Ms. Hall said. “You know we need to all be safe but we also understand that we’re trying to keep a business open with a lot of …”

“It’s hard to monitor as part of a long-term plan,” Ms. Murray finished.

With long-term plans currently not in the cards, the two women have taken up the mantra of “one day at a time.”

The first step in keeping their business open was selling signs they created as business decorations and then creating more. Although they have a website, Facebook played a major part in moving merchandise.

“You know, we actually did it all through Facebook,” Ms. Murray said. “We would post pictures of the item and sell them that way. Or someone would order a sign saying, hey I’m looking for — it was around Easter time — a bunny sign or something.”

Word-of-mouth from friends also helped to drum up trade.

“We think back now and we’re just really completely, really blessed that we’ve been able to reopen and continue to grow and people outside of Queen Creek have even supported us,” Ms. Hall said. “People have driven all the way from Ahwatukee.”

While waiting to reopen, the pair made changes to protect patrons from the virus. Ms. Murray posted a Facebook video that highlighted the changes.

Rather than sitting all together, each participant now sits alone at a 7-foot-long table. Each person has his pr her own cart of tools, rather than sharing as they did pre-lockdown, and everything is sanitized, including the tools and paint bottles. One pre-lockdown ritual is still observed — BYOB.

“We allow food and alcohol here in the evenings,” Ms. Murray said. “While you’re seated at your table, you don’t have to wear a mask because you’re eating and drinking, but when you’re up and about the studio, obviously you have to wear a mask.”

With full classes, DIY sessions that couples can enjoy, private parties, plus still selling the wooden boards they create, Board & Brush is doing well.

“Every month our revenue is going up and our business is growing,” Ms. Hall said.

Their advice to fellow business owners who were thrown for a loop by the COVID-19 lockdown is to remain nimble and open to new ideas.

“Throw everything that you are hoping will happen out the window…” Ms. Murray said.

“… and just evaluate your goals and just kind of go with the flow …” Ms. Hall said.

“One day at a time …”

“…it’s like pivot, pivot, pivot, pivot.”

It also helps to have a partner you’re in sync with.

Board & Brush is located at 21137 E. Rittenhouse Road, Suite 104.

Editor’s note: The Queen Creek Independent is running a story on a local business as part of a project on highlighting the people behind the companies and their struggles in the ongoing pandemic.