Take a walk around Wynwood, Little River, Miami Beach, or pretty much any neighborhood with a restaurant or four walls, and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself standing in front of a mural, sign, or chalkboard created by local calligraphists and design company, Chalk & Brush.
Husband and wife team, Cinthia Santos and Benjamin Levy, are not your textbook graphic designers. Both completely self-taught, Cinthia took a leap of faith when she left her job as a clothing designer back in 2013, to step into the wonderful world of freelance. It was when she was given an opportunity for a project in chalk work, that she would find her niche.
It wasn’t until 3 ½ years later, that Ben would leave his 14-year career in Pediatric Trauma to join Cinthia full time in the business. That’s when it really took off. For years the couple would do it all. Every aspect, from the planning, to the designing, to the networking. But now, with clients throughout Florida and even out of state, they’ve grown. Like a lot.
Now, six years later the team is complete with two graphic designers, a chalk artist, letter artist, two muralists, a general painter, carpenter and CNC team, which allows them to create build outs for many of their clients like Ooh Raw! Poke + Juice Bar in Wynwood.
With the growth of the team, Chalk & Brush has moved on from merely lettering and signage to full on branding, illustrations, and even brand activations. With a diverse client portfolio like Ooh Raw!, Veza Sur Brewing, Night Owl Cookies, Pincho Factory, Timeout Market, Caja Caliente, Starbucks, Jack Daniels, lululemon and the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, Chalk & Brush has proven they can handle any project, for a company of any size.
“Though we have these big brands under our belt, we excel with startups, the mom and pops,” Cinthia explains. Starting out of a small 2-bed apartment in Coral Gables. They understand the struggle of establishing and trying to grow a small business. “Our key mission is to make the process of hiring artists and getting art for your restaurants, making it easy and accessible – For everybody, whether you have a big budget with a design team, or whether you’re somebody’s parents who want to open a little coffee shop in Hialeah, we can help you.”
With a desire to help these little companies be at least a little competitive in this great big industry Ben explains their goal is to “Give them [these mom and pop shops] a little bit of a fight in this bigger machine that is the restaurant industry in South Florida.” He goes on to say, “We work with the bigger brands, of course, but our thing is really the small business thing – those that don’t have the resources.”
They’re newest hurdle (which is anything but a bad thing) is that their word of mouth has brought them new potential clients, that are much, much further than they’ve ever painted before. Though they find themselves traveling to places like Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia, they can’t possibly travel everywhere for every installation. So, their newest feat: finding a way to print and transport their designs, without damaging the integrity of the product.
What is it we can expect in the future from this power couple? Other than perfecting the art of transporting their products seamlessly, they want to reach out to community in more ways. By hosting workshops and training for restaurants so they are able to write their own specials boards and keep up with changing menu items.
By not investing in any promotional marketing, the couple fully relies on social media and word of mouth for all their marketing needs, which gives them a deep appreciation for the community that surrounds and supports them. “Were super lucky,” Cinthia recognizes, “To think we went from being fans of places like Night Owl Cookies and Pincho Factory to be, now, contacted by them for work, it’s amazing. We’re still humbled by it all the time, every day.”
Cover photo by @storiafotos.
Katy Prohira is contributing writer originally from Upstate New York, and currently based out of North Miami. Passionate about food, drink, art and photography, Katy finds herself writing about the newest art exhibitions, restaurant openings and hidden Miami gems. Follow her on Instagram @katyprohira and read more of what she has to say at highgirlhigh.com.