The decision by Jill Miller to open her new do-it-yourself workspace in Hopkins was an easy one.
Miller, 29, was born in the west metro suburb — originally called the village of west Minneapolis — where she now raises her twin daughters. She knows the city’s history and is friends with the mayor.
“When this was brewing in my head, this was the only spot it was going to be,” she said. “This wasn’t going to be in Northeast, it wasn’t going to be on 50th and France. It had to be in Hopkins.”
Projects in Person, which opened in December and held an open house Saturday, aims to be an alternative to the popular “wine and canvas” parties found across the Twin Cities. The shop offers customers the materials and tools to create a home decor project from its list of options.
“I am ... noticing the interest of people to have experiences rather than just go out to happy hour,” Miller said.
A self-described “trial-and-error kind of gal” with a vibrant personality, Miller guides the process from start to finish. She said her goal is to turn home projects from a chore into products that people can take pride in.
“I don’t think people are getting that hands-on experience that you would get from helping your mom and dad around the house,” she said.
Hands-on experience runs in her family. Miller’s grandfather was a woodworker, and relatives on her father’s side have run the Hance Ace Hardware store in Hopkins for generations.
“It’s been in her blood since the beginning. There’s no way around it,” said Pete Hance, the owner of the hardware store and Miller’s cousin.
Miller came up with the idea for Projects in Person about five years ago. A Catholic schoolteacher with a passion for home decor, she imagined the shop as a place where children could work on crafts and other activities.
Handiwork, however, involves hammers, saws, drills and other pointy tools. She shifted her demographic up a few years, adapting her teacher skills in “people management” for adults.
“Teaching middle-schoolers language arts feels just about the same as guiding a group to create cutting boards,” she said.
Miller bought half the lower level of a building at 906 Mainstreet, in the city’s commercial center. The room used to be a saloon and shooting range in the early 20th century, according to the Hopkins Historical Society; she left some of the original tiling on the workshop floor.
Miller holds public events where she selects a project, but private groups can also schedule a time and pick their own. The projects range in price, anywhere from $25 to make bottle openers to $75 for custom birch wall art.
“This space, when filled with people, has so much energy,” Miller said. “We always say it’s like sexy community ed.”
Miller’s husband, Jason, who calls himself the “production line,” helps prepare materials before the workshop.
“She is such a lover of Hopkins,” Jason Miller said of his wife. “She wanted to be part of the business scene and be part of the community.”
The open house featured a ribbon cutting and live music by an Appalachian string band. Guests carefully assembled small cutting boards and Minnesota-themed wall art.
Miller hopes to add more weekly events in the future. Only one thing would make the experience better, she said: alcohol. However, she joked, her insurance company “isn’t too excited about power tools and wine and beer.”