SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Retirement can be tough to handle for folks that are used to being busy on the job five days a week. So, what's a retiree supposed to do with all this sudden free time during the day? That's exactly the predicament that Al DiLieto found himself in earlier this year.
"My father-in-law retired from his job and began working for the Spotswood Board of Education as part-time maintenance in the evenings," Ashley DeLieto explained. "He was extremely bored during the day and has always been great with woodworking. He discovered a wood warehouse in Old Bridge that carried exotic woods, and so it began."
The active grandfather's initial undertaking was a cutting board. The endeavor ended with an attractive and functional cutting board that is almost too stylish to chop veggies on.
"It started with making a cutting board, then another and 10 or more boards later we decided to give a few to friends," DeLieto continuted. "They loved them and so word spread. People were starting to ask if he could make different shaped cutting/bread boards. So we started making hearts, snowmen, apples, roosters as well as large boards with and without drip grooves. Each board has a unique design based on his pattern or mistake so no two are alike."
These chic boards are ultra elegant and make for a cool cutting, serving or bread board. They even work as a trendy centerpiece for the kitchen or dining room table. Each cutting board is truly a one-of-a-kind endeavor and is fashioned from exotic woods such as zebra, purple heart, sapele, white oak, cherry and more.
The Spotswood native's hobby was picking up speed with all the special orders around town, so the family decided to give it a name. Two of DeLieto's grandson's coined the moniker, Appy's Shoppe. For the holidays, his son, Alan and his daughter-in-law Ashley along with their three young children had a special sign made for grandpa's wood working space in the garage of his Spotswood home. A special plaque with the inscription, "Welcome Appy's Shoppe Established November 1985" lovingly hangs outside his workspace. The date signifies when DeLieto and his wife, Arlene first moved into their borough home.
DeLieto's labor of love has turned into a family affair that all the members enjoy having a hand in.
"The whole family is involved," DeLieto said. "My father-in-law does all the major woodworking. My mother-in-law helps with patterns or designs for the novelty shapes. My husband, Alan, does all the fine-finishing work, sanding and applying the oils to make the boards food safe. He takes care of packaging boards that need to be shipped. I manage the Facebook page and promote the products, as well as answer any questions about our items and requests for customized items. My sons, Nick and Xander, both help working in the wood shop, either keeping Appy company or helping cleaning up and are learning to use many of the power tools. Abby, my daughter, adds her opinions if she likes something or just wants to visit her Appy. It's a total family project."
Appy's Shoppe participated in its first craft show back in December and are preparing for an upcoming show in June. They will be selling their sophisticated cutting boards at the East Brunswick Spring Fest on June 3 at the East Brunswick Community Arts Center on Cranbury Road. The family-friendly event will feature the town's 15th annual Fine Arts Festival along with live music, food vendors, a farmer's market, a kid's zone, a craft beer tasting and more. The event is free and will be held from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 3. The rain date for the Spring Fest is Sunday, June 4.
In anticipation for the upcoming June craft show, the family has added shelves, chalkboards and children-sized benches and chairs. Some of the new items are painted while others feature natural wood. Benches, chairs and shelves can be painted or stained for an up charge.
As the inventory of Appy's Shoppe grows and the special requests from neighbors, friends and teachers expands, the family is in the process of pursuing their LLC.
Appy's Shoppe had to apply in order to be included in the upcoming Fine Arts Festival at the East Brunswick Community Center in June. The family was very excited when they received their acceptance response.
"We are extremely proud to have been selected to participate in the Fine Arts Festival," DeLieto said. "Hopefully we will make them proud."
To take a peek at the DeLieto's contemporary cutting boards as well as their other handcrafted wood working designs, visit the Appy's Shoppe's Facebook page and look for their booth at the Fine Arts Festival on June 3.
The East Brunswick Community Arts Center is located on 721 Cranbury Road in East Brunswick.