In a world saturated with self-labeled artisans and online storefronts, it’s hard to find a true craftsman with something unique to offer. Owners Billie and Tootie, of Reform School in Silver Lake, have navigated through the ever-growing world of “artisanal” goods to make your search for the perfect gift so much easier. Luckily for us, these two have been kicking around the DIY scene for years, and have honed in on what’s really worth buying. Their curated selection of goods is streamlined, yet still diverse enough that there’s something for everyone . . . and by everyone I mean me, because things you buy for yourself are gifts too.
Reform School, Silver Lake
Owners (pictured right to left): Billie Lopez and Tootie Maldonado
1. How long have you been in business and how did you get started?
This is our 10th year in business. We started out renting a small space in a friend’s boutique in Echo Park.
2. Why did you choose this location to open your business?
Silver Lake is forward-thinking, and there’s a great community feel here. We knew the customers here would appreciate what we had to offer.
3. How would you describe your store’s style/aesthetic?
A well-curated mix of fun and beautiful items.
4. Where did you get your name from and what other names did you consider?
The shop we started out in had a rock ‘n roll, high school vibe, and back then a big focus for us were artists who were using recycled materials and “reforming” them into new and beautiful things. Reform School just seemed like a perfect fit. It’s been so long we can’t remember any other contenders.
5. What types of items are your best sellers?
6. What item do you have in the store now that you would want to have in your home?
Billie: Indigo dyed teepee, Maison Monade ceramic masks
Tootie: Heidi Anderson Totems, Sarah Kersten fermenting crock and Mitsuko Pottery
7. What have you been inspired by lately?
Being outside always inspires us, and we find ourselves dedicating more and more space to pieces that encourage spending time outdoors.
8. Is there something you thought would sell really well but didn’t?
Of course! But over the years we’ve learned a bit more about what works and what doesn’t.
9. Where do you mainly source your items from?
Everywhere from craft fairs, to gift shows, to Instagram. Often our customers will turn us on to their favorite artists or friends who make really great stuff.
10. What was the first big lesson you learned from opening your store?
Less is more! We had a tendency to REALLY over buy in the beginning. You can tell a better story with the product when the shop isn’t filled to the brim!
11. What would your one piece of advice you would give to small businesses?
If you have the opportunity, start out small by sharing a space or doing a few pop ups. It’s a great way to test drive your ideas and different neighborhoods.
12. What stores do you shop at?
Mostly ours (it’s one of the perks of the job!). Other than that, flea markets and vintage clothing stores.
13. Do you have any plans to expand your inventory?
We recently relaunched our website, and have plans to try some products out that will only be available online. We’ve also talked about a 2nd location but . . . we’ll see. 🙂
14. What trends, if any, are you tired of?
We’ve seen so many come and go, it’s hard to say! Anything labeled “artisanal, ” “craft, ” “indie, ” or “DIY.” Indigo is everywhere but still holding up pretty well and we can’t get enough of it!
Here are a few hand-picked favorites. Can we talk about this circus mobile with the trapeze artist and barbell-toting muscle man? So cute.
Reform School is conveniently located in the Sunset Junction strip at 3902 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles. Now go get schooled — and tell ’em Em sent ya.
***all photos by Jessica Isaac for EHD