By Jason Stromberg
It’s the reactions of the boys who walk into the kid-friendly craft studio Plaster Time for the first time that make owner Dena Comfort chuckle.
She explained that those boys give Comfort that look of, “We’re too cool for this.”
“And then they give it a shot, give it their best effort, and relish it because of how much fun they had and how much they love what their final project looks like,” Comfort said.
The staff at Plaster Time, which is entering its fourth year in business, features Comfort’s niece, Emily Fearon, as a manager. Comfort co-owns the business with her husband, William.
“We just recently finished up one of our four canvas painting classes,” Comfort said. “It featured the ladybug and flower for Mother’s Day. We worked on it with 200 students from a local elementary school.”
It was a big project, she said. “With the amount of students that we had, seeing them in one room, doing their best to get it done, is really rewarding,” Comfort said. “They just eat this stuff up. They like it because the project comes out better than they think.”
Jose Fernando, a student at JFK Medical Center Charter School in Lake Worth, can make a strong case that he is Comfort’s best customer.
“This is my favorite place in the world because I know people here,” Fernando said. “They let me feel like I’m part of the team. Whenever you need any paint, they give it to you. Like new things I haven’t painted yet. I just find it, get it, and go to work on it.”
What Fernando is looking forward to painting next is an eagle statue.
“That’s the next one I want to get going on. I want to paint that brown and yellow,” Fernando said. “I painted an alligator, a dolphin and a starfish. I like painting the alligator because there’s a lot more there to paint, and I like to paint a lot. That takes a long time to finish, and I enjoy it.”
On the day before Mother’s Day last weekend, Fernando got to spend quality time with his mom, Felicia Fuentes. “This is not our first time here,” Fuentes said. “We’ve been coming here forever. It’s simple and inexpensive, and just a great place to learn.”
Fuentes previously worked at Plaster Time. “It’s relaxing knowing that we can all be a part of this,” she said. “You just sit there and paint at your own pace. You don’t have to be a master to like it, or be good at it. You do whatever you want.”
The Plaster Time staff is excellent and helpful, Fuentes said, because the work process for each customer is simple and easy.
“You get to take the product home the same day,” Fuentes said. “There’s no wait. You just walk in and get it done. And they have something for every holiday.”
Spending quality family time at Plaster Time has become a popular escape.
Parents Matt and April Still helped paint plaques with their twins, Logan and Olivia, who are kindergarten students at Binks Forest Elementary School. Logan made an “I Love You” plaque for his grandmother with red and white paint.
“It’s really cool,” Logan said. “I’m happy with it. It’s a masterpiece. She’s going to think it’s awesome.”
Olivia made a castle jewelry box. “It’s purple and pink, and it looks really good,” Olivia said. “I want to do it again. Building the castle is so much fun.”
The Mother’s Day plaques were like many others painted and completed at Plaster Time, a family-owned and operated business.
“Everything we do here, we make and take home on the very same day,” Comfort said. “Everything is prepared and ready to go. They come in, pick from the wall and get it done in a timely fashion. There are plaques and jewelry boxes and little statues to paint on. There’s no firing done here. After they are done painting, our staff sprays glaze on the plaster, and they take it home with them.”
Having fun is the rule at Plaster Time.
“We give kids the freedom to be creative, while having a blast all at the same time,” Comfort said. “I enjoy it with the kids. They aren’t demanding. From the minute I walk in through those doors, the day moves in a snap. There’s never a dull moment.”
Fearon said that the experience is different for each child.
“If they ask me for help, I try to create a setting where they are executing fun tricks and fun skills,” she said. “They say, ‘I didn’t know you could do it that way.’ It’s basic painting. Sometimes kids can get frustrated with the brush. Instead of using the brush, we show them fun, little tricks, such as using your fingers to highlight it better. That gets your project done faster and easier.”
The key words from Fearon to each Plaster Time customer: “Take your time.”
“We are here to help,” she said. “I sit next to them and explain the techniques. It’s about painting the right way. I help them pick out the right pieces if they are new here, show them all the stuff that we have. It’s a great, positive atmosphere to be in. Even if we are not family, we make you feel like family.”
Comfort enjoys interacting with the customers and has many cherished memories.
“I had a boy from one of our local schools who was special-needs and needed our support,” Comfort said. “I helped him, and at one point he looked at me and said, ‘I never knew I was such an artist.’ That made me feel like a million bucks.”
Plaster Time is located at 10363 Southern Blvd. in Royal Palm Beach. For more information, visit www.plaster-time.com or call (561) 707-1819.