VIRGINIA BEACH –- When Patrick Ryan talks about the amount of creative and artistic talent in his hometown and how important it is to retain that talent, he gets, shall we say, animated.
So animated in fact that a few f-bombs are even dropped into the conversation to help him emphasize his point.
About four months ago Ryan moved his custom woodworking business, Benevolent Design Company, from a small space in The Alley (behind Wave Riding Vehicles along 19th St. where he had been for three years) to a much larger space at 700 21st St., the long-time home of the Princess Anne Distributing Co. and the place WRV once crafted surfboards – and where he admittedly won’t remain for the long-term.
To try and communicate his feelings about the potential for creativity that exists here, he even had the message painted onto the west side of his building where drivers entering the Oceanfront area and the Vibe District on 264/21st Street can’t miss it: “Believe in Virginia Beach.”
“It’s not a political message or anything aimed at the government. It’s just a positive message,” Ryan said. “I think murals and art can be aesthetically pleasing or there can be a point behind them. I wanted to make sure our mural was both.”
Nothing, he said, is more important than surrounding yourself with good people, and naming names, he mentioned his former neighbor in The Alley, Aaron McLellan – who owns and operates the North End Bag Company along with his wife Sarah.
“I knew they needed more space over there so I tried to do what was best for everyone,” Ryan said.
But moving Benevolent Design has indeed opened doors and helped the business. They’re able to take on bigger jobs and to complete that work faster.
“We were tripping all over each other over there,” he said of himself and his staff in their former shop. “I’ll never go back to a tiny space again.”
Benevolent Design has done a few high-profile projects in the past year: They created fixtures and displays for Beecroft and Bull as the men’s clothing store expanded from a small Oceanfront location to a larger space in the Hilltop; they worked with Back Bay/Farmhouse Brewing on their big new Kempsville location; and they also created some fixtures for local company Taste Unlimited at their new eatery in Richmond.
“Our business is definitely growing. I just needed a push to do it,” Ryan said.
In addition to the larger jobs for businesses, they’ve also began to take on more custom jobs for individuals, crafting things like dining room, kitchen, and coffee tables.
For Ryan, it began with a desire to do something he felt had meaning, which led him to ditch his life as a sales rep and to dive into custom woodworking.
“I wasn’t happy with my life-choice and I wanted to do something I enjoyed,” he said. “I’ve always liked building things and some people encouraged me to do so, and it all fell into place.”
There’s a joy for Ryan in taking something that is imperfect – like a piece of reclaimed wood that for decades was part of an old barn and is now weathered and full of nail holes – and turning it into something beautiful.
“That wood isn’t perfect. Really it’s kind of an analogy for life,” he said. “There’s a satisfaction in turning it around and making something beautiful out of it.”