“It was love at first sight. I don’t know if you can say that at eleven years old, but I fell for her the first day we met.”
It was a quiet Monday morning in Ramona, California. Tools were set in their places and wood was neatly stacked against the wall of Dollick Design’s wood shop. For Chad and Aileen, this was so much more than a business. This was their way to grow together as a family.
Let’s take it back several years to a warm California Christmas eve. Chad and Aileen were 11 and 13. “It was love at first sight,” Chad said, “I don’t know if you can say that at 11 years old, but I fell for her the first day we met.”
Their two families had gone to look at Christmas lights together. “We were all going for a walk,” Chad continued, “I wanted attention from Aileen so I started pulling her pony tale. She was ignoring me so I kept pulling it. That’s when she whipped around and told me to ‘grow up!’ Right then I thought, I want to marry this girl.” Chad recalls, “As silly as that sounds at eleven years old, I never dated anyone until we went on our first date. I had her in my sights since the age of eleven.”
Aileen chuckled, “I didn’t know of his interest in me. I guess I was oblivious to it.” Years later, as waves crashed against the rocks in the evening light, Chad got down on one knee and asked Aileen to marry him.
For Chad and Aileen, family is most important. “I could have a part time job,” Aileen explains, “but I’d rather be spending time investing in my family.” This is where Dollick Designs comes into play, “Chad works in law enforcement, which pays the bills. Dollick Designs was started so we could work together to earn money for family activities.”
“I used to come up with these ideas I wanted and Chad would make them for me. Soon, friends began to ask where I bought the stuff around my house.” It wasn’t long before Dollick Designs
was on Etsy selling high quality wood signs with a vintage and old school touch, “Some months we have over 100 orders, it could easily turn into a full time job.”
So, what does the sign making process look like? “We go to the hardware store and pick up 8-10 foot planks of wood in different widths. “All of our signs are made from white pine because it distresses best.”
After arriving home with their freshly chosen planks of wood, Chad cuts the wood into the correct sizes. “We have hundreds of designs for customers to choose from.” The sign is then sanded down so it’s perfectly smooth and the base color is painted on.
Next, Chad and Aileen use their special technique to add the design followed by two to three layers of paint. “It takes time for each coat to dry before we can continue the process.” Once the paint is dry, Chad uses tools to distress the sign, giving it an old school vibe. After sanding the wood again to blend everything together, the sign is ready for staining. “This is our favorite part,” Aileen excitedly says, “at this point, we’ve painted, distressed, and sanded the sign. The look of the sign changes drastically with the staining!” With the final touch of Polyurethane giving a semi-gloss look, the sign is set to dry for the final time.
Chad and Aileen love working together, both having their own jobs in the design process. “I do most of the painting,” Aileen says, “and we both do the staining.” What takes them 3 hours between the two of them would take 6-10 with just one person working. “I usually wait for Chad to get home from work and we paint together in the evenings when the kids are in bed.”
On the weekends, the kids love to find jobs to help their parents. “They look for trash to throw away and anything that helps us. They also love to take the scraps of wood and use chalk to paint on them.” For the Dollicks, this is a family hobby that helps with the finances.
Dollick Designs aims for top quality service. “We make every sign as if it will hang in our house,” Chad says, “I’ve thrown signs away halfway through the process because I wouldn’t hang it in my house. I throw it out and start over. I want someone to feel like this sign is something I am making for myself. It’s a personal touch. Unless it is perfect in it’s own distressed way, we won’t sell it.”
One thing will never change for Chad and Aileen, “Family has to come first.”
I admire the Dollicks for the way they value family, the way they choose to invest in their kids, and how they serve others so diligently. The signs from Dollick Designs in my office will forever be a reminder to me that family always comes first.
Order your sign today on their Etsy shop!
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