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Local business owner uses personality, daughter for inspiration

By Tim Weideman

Dell Ann Upp has poured herself into her new business, Straight Upp Creative Studio.

No, really.

The concept, atmosphere and décor of Straight Upp, now entering its fifth week of operation, are reflections of Upp’s personality.

“I think the people that know me in the community, when they come in, they’re just like, automatically, ‘That’s Dell Ann,’ ” Upp said Friday morning while sitting at her desk in the back of the studio at 1223 Moro Street.

“They know my style, they know my personality and it’s just 100 percent me.”

Upp, who is in charge of marketing for housing and dining at Kansas State University, said the studio offers customers a chance to let loose and get creative in an entertaining environment.

“I think anybody that knows me knows that I like to have fun,” she said. “I always want everyone around me to have fun.

The studio has three target audiences, Upp said.

First, there are the walk-in potters.

Customers pay a small fee to choose a pottery piece, paint it in the studio, have it fired in the studio’s kiln and then, about a week later, pick it up to take it home.

Second, along the same creative lines, there are the studio’s canvas and cork events every Wednesday night.

During the private events, guests are guided step-by-step as they create a piece of art. Some of the private events feature pottery pieces rather than the canvas and cork.

Upp only had to look to her 3-year-old daughter, Annie, for the idea to provide the artistic services. Like her mother, an experienced graphic designer, Annie has a passion for art.

“She was a lot of the inspiration behind the pottery and the canvases, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “She loves to paint, she’s super creative.

“And we knew we needed something to do with our daughter to entertain her, so we figured other people did, too.”

Upp’s husband, Kelly Upp, a Kansas State University grad and a teacher at Custer Hill Elementary School at Fort Riley, often helps with the business’ third service – event and wedding planning.

The studio offers rentals for events: tables, chairs, linens and décor.

“We have kind of a wide market of people that we work with, and we try to offer really unique services and products for them,” she said. “Very unique to Manhattan.”

Upp’s family plays a large role in her business, though she admitted she’s still learning how “to put it down when you know you need to.

“I’ve always been a working person, and I’m now a working mom,” Upp said.

“So it’s important to find that balance between family and the business, because you want to be successful and give it your all, but then you definitely have to find time for kiddo.”

Upp and her husband “stumbled across Manhattan” four years ago when they were looking to move closer to their families. Dell Ann’s lives in Oklahoma, while Kelly’s family resides in Kansas City.

The Upps are happy to call Manhattan home – and not just because it’s conveniently located between their families.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I think it’s a really exciting time to be in Manhattan with all of the growth.”

So far, community members of all ages have found Straight Upp a place to have some fun.

For example, Upp has held what she said was a chaotic pottery party for her daughter’s preschool class.

She’s also met a 70-year-old woman who found and painted an urn that will hold her ashes when she dies and is cremated.

“Some of our older clients come in and let their hair down and just have a great time,” Upp said. “It’s a ball.”

That’s exactly what Upp was aiming for when she opened the studio.

“We want people to come in and have fun,” she said.

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