When Christopher Grunch of Rineyville became interested in calligraphy when he was 14. He never envisioned himself using his new-found talent as a business model.
But now through his business, Grunch Studios, Grunch engraves on a variety of products including bourbon barrel heads, fragrance bottles, journals, drinking glasses, watches and more.
“I didn’t think it would be like this at all,” Grunch said.
Originally from Michigan, Grunch provided calligraphy services during his time in high school and in the U.S. Air Force, creating signs, restaurant menus, announcements, graduation invitations and certificates.
It wasn’t until 2010 when Grunch took up the art of engraving. He attended a class in Dallas taught by famous engraver Ken Brown. Grunch said it wasn’t long after when he realized he wanted to turn the skill into a business.
“On the way back from Texas, my wife and I decided ‘Hey, we could make a lot of money doing this,’” he said.
Grunch later went through a six-month certification process and he now is one of about 50 certified engravers of calligraphy in the world.
With this certification, Grunch has earned the trust of several department stores to set up and provide custom engraving on products such as fragrance bottles and watches. He regularly travels to stores such as Dillard’s and Nordstrom in cities around the country.
Though Grunch said he is confident in his abilities when setting up for these events, he said the stakes sometimes seem high when engraving on expensive items.
“When people are buying a $100 knife or a $1,500 fragrance, you don’t want to mess it up,” he said.
Grunch said some of his favorite experiences in engraving so far have been setting up at Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg to engrave bourbon bottles and engraving at an after-hours party event at Nordstrom.
Grunch also provides custom engraved products for private clients through his website. He said one of his most popular items has been custom bourbon barrel heads. Grunch purchased a laser engraving machine to produce these items.
He said many clients are drawn to the bourbon barrel heads because they are symbolic of Kentucky culture.
“I love taking something from Kentucky and putting something on there that people like and selling it to someone and they’ll always have something from Kentucky,” he said.
Grunch now creates all of his products by himself out of his garage. He said he used to have six engravers in the business when he had a partnership with Ale Horn, makers of handcrafted drinking horns. Grunch said now he is mainly focused on his engraving events and client orders.
Though he works hard with Grunch Studios, his time spent engraving must be balanced with his career at the United States Bullion Depository.
“Normally I get about five hours of sleep, I start engraving, and I’m doing it until about 8 o’clock at night, get dressed, go to work and do it all over again,” he said.
Grunch said one of his goals is to eventually engrave full-time. Other goals include partnering with a fragrance company to engrave inventory and to create a network of event engravers.
“I’ll get requests and I can’t do it because I’m only one guy,” Grunch said.
Regardless of where his business will take him, Grunch said there’s nothing like providing something unique and personalized to his customers.
“I want people to feel that this is theirs and not some mass-produced product,” he said. “I want it to mean something to people.”