LAKEWOOD RANCH -- For some people, everything turns to gold, but in this case, everything turns to pottery.
Theresa Barion moved to Lakewood Ranch from New York 10 years ago and today is the proud and successful owner of Arts A Blaze Studio in the heart of Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, celebrating its five-year anniversary in April.
It's no surprise Barion and her husband, Dan, have the Midas touch. She was a successful Wall Street bond trader for 20 years, and he was a detective for the New York Police Department before they moved, shortly after 9/11, to the Greenbrook section of Lakewood Ranch with their son, Nicholas, who is now a 15-year-old attending Lakewood Ranch High School.
Not wanting to be a stay-at-home mom, but enjoying the hours she spent helping Nicholas and his teachers in elementary school, especially volunteering for arts and crafts, Barion and her husband researched ideas for an
independently owned business. They landed on Arts A Blaze Studio, a warm and welcoming open storefront that offers all kinds of crafts ranging from pottery painting to glass fusing, mosaic tile design, glass bottle reshaping, hand and footprint mementos and T-shirts.
"I wanted to start a family friendly company in Lakewood Ranch, and I originally studied art education, so it was a natural fit. I learned how to run the business from a pottery consultant," said Barion, whose calm and easygoing nature explains why her company has done well and children enjoy going there.
"Children are so easily moldable and easy to please, especially when they pick up the little pieces they paint and you see their eyes light up," said Barion while entertaining students on spring break from Manatee County schools, along with their parents, aunts and even grandparents, who all enjoyed painting ceramic figures and shapes.
"There's no other place around here to paint and create a piece of art. It's one of a kind," said Nicholas Burrus, a 10-year-old student at McNeal Elementary School, who was visiting with his sister and aunt from Tampa.Besides its fan base, Barion says the secret to success for Arts A Blaze Studio is keeping things fresh, incorporating new pottery pieces and adding new crafts, along with offering summer camps, birthday parties, scout outings, day care facilities and bridal showers and anniversaries. She says parents love to bring their infants for handprints and footprints, and even the gentlemen get into the act.
"Gentlemen are touching. They do special things for their wives and girlfriends. A gentleman came in and painted a plate with an engagement ring on it and then presented the ring to his fiancee on the plate," Barion fondly recalled.
Her friend Kim Williams, a former school volunteer mom and the manager of Arts A Blaze Studio since it opened, says she had no intention of making it a full-time job, but it doesn't feel like work.
Fun job, family business
"This is truly the definition of a family business. We spend time with each other after work, and we've never had a disagreement. The longer we can keep it, the better," said Williams, whose college-age son and daughter, Nikki, an elementary education major, work at the studio as well.
"It's a lot of fun, and Theresa is like a mom to me. I love running the summer camps because I feel I can be a little kid at heart," she said.
For the fifth-anniversary celebration, Barion is planning a low-key birthday party, offering cookie decorating and a photo booth where customers can take pictures of the pieces they decorate. She is most proud of her loyal customers, many who started coming as toddlers and are now heading into their teens.
"It's pretty amazing to see how they progressed from when they first starting come here."
Arts A Blaze Studio, 8111 Lakewood Main St., Suite 107, is open seven days week. No reservation needed, and there's no studio fee. Prices vary depending on the project, and Barion says there's a project to fit everyone's budget.
More information is available at artsablazestudio.com or by calling 941-306-5840.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.