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From basement to business: Erza Design does it all

Maureen Burth and Lisa and Brian Chaon recently opened their business Erza Design in Cottage Grove. Katie Nelson / RiverTown Multimedia

COTTAGE GROVE — Their 664-square-foot storefront just fits barely their commercial printer, desks and reception area, but Erza Design owners Lisa and Brian Chaon say it's exactly what they need.

Before opening, Lisa Chaon and her mother, Maureen Burth, ran a crafting business out of the basement. When they purchased a large-format printer, suddenly the shape of their future changed.

When word got out that they had the printer, people started requesting print jobs. Before long people were wanting to come in to make orders, but with their 2-year-old daughter, they didn't want to base the business out of their home.

Chaon and Burth got the storefront in December, a Limited Liability Company in January, and opened up shop in February at 8700 East Point Douglas Road, Suite 104.

During the fast turnaround from idea to open, they decided it would be their mission to find a way to print anything. Their website lists commercial printing, banners, screenprinting and heat transfer, wall clings, faxing, window decals; the list goes on.

If they can't do the project in-house, Chaon said they find a person who can. For projects such as screen-printing T-shirt or monogramming napkins and plates, they outsource with other U.S. companies.

"When they say 'Can you do...,' we say 'Yes,'" Brian Chaon said.

Just give them a budget, and they'll do the planning, said Lisa Chaon, who spent an hour the week before searching for the most cost-effective Mason jars for an order.

Printing a new path

Neither printing nor crafting were part of her career goal, said Lisa Chaon, who grew up in Cottage Grove.

"I never thought I'd be excited about paper," she said with a laugh.

She was just finishing up her veterinary technician degree when an allergy to fur first reared its ugly head. She tried to make the job work, but the allergy only got worse.

She eventually moved to Home Depot in Woodbury, and during that time found out she was pregnant. Twelve weeks into the pregnancy, her husband, Brian, was laid off from his job as a designer.

The couple moved in with her parents and eventually their daughter was born.

She started to suffer from an extreme case of postpartum depression, that her doctor told her made it medically dangerous to return to work.

To help her daughter recover, Burth suggested they launch a crafting business together.

For the next couple of years, Chaon crafted cloth dice bags, fairy wings, wire jewelry and more.

She purchased the large-format printer to design the fairy wings, her specialty.

The printer is still in the basement, where the craft business sprouted. Their new Canon printer, a behemoth machine, sits in their storefront and took over much of the large-format printer's job.

That one still gets work, however, as Chaon's craft business continues.

Burth and Chaon knew early on that they should bring Brian into the fold.

Previously a designer by trade, Brian brings skills that allow the business to create projects from start to finish, design to print.

Though it had never been his wife's plan, Brian Chaon said he'd always dreamed of opening a business.

"I always thought about opening a shop. Lisa, never," Brian laughed.

Now they dream of a steadily growing business, where they can print everything that they no outsource in-house, in five or six years.

For now, though, they say their 664 square feet will do the trick.