Store Tour: Hammer and Spear
This store, Hammer and Spear, is on the newer side (2 years old) but it’s certainly become already a staple for us vintage lovers – a good source of the juice for us addicts. It’s curated so well, full of BEAUTIFUL vintage pieces or well-selected newer items and there is a variety of price points – smaller gifty items that you can kinda grab and go and then obviously special, more high-end furniture as well. They’ve recently expanded to a larger store and I highly recommend you spend a day down in the Arts District and check these two and their pretty things out. Enjoy.
Hammer and Spear, Downtown Los Angeles
Owners: Scott Jarrell and Kristan Cunningham
1. How long have you been in business and how did you get started?
We just celebrated our two year anniversary! Opening a shop was always our retirement plan…we just did it a few decades earlier than we planned. We live in the Arts District and were — and continue to be — inspired by the rebirth of this incredible neighborhood and it’s residents. Not being participants in its’ growth was something that we would always regret, so we jumped in! We’ve always been collectors – fancy hoarders really – so we started buying aggressively, using vintage as the core inventory and slowly padding with key lines that would become our staples.
2. Why did you choose this location to open your business?
We live just a few blocks from our shop and have always thought this building was the most beautiful in the Arts District (it’s also where Jim Halpert went to work when he left Dunder Mifflin, at least from the outside). The space that we started in is tucked inside the lobby and we worried that it would be hard for people to find (plus, there’s still no foot traffic at this end of the block — we’re waiting on One Santa Fe and the Metro to bring that) but it only added to the “you have to be in the know” vibe, and our customer base became die hards. We’re very lucky and very grateful for that, because it allowed us to truck along for the two years it took to acquire the adjoining space with all of the street frontage and windows.
3. Where did you get your name from and what other names did you consider?
Some husbands call their wives Sweetie or Honey. Mine calls me Hammer or Hammertime (hence the full forearm size hammer outline tat… true love) . I’d like to say he only does this on occasion, but truth is, I can’t remember the last time he called me Kristan. My last name is Cunningham, so it started there, but it’s also because I’m the handy one. When we were trying to settle on a name, we wanted to convey that we were a design firm as well as a retail space and wanted to incorporate our names in an unobvious way. We knew Hammer would work for me because of the build aspect (and because hammers are badass) and one morning while researching Scott’s family crest, I learned that Jarrell means “brave with spear”. Eureka! Our business cards now read “Hammer and Spear- Builders and Hunters of Lovely Goods”.
4. How would you describe your store’s style aesthetic?
Timeless, masculine, classic, comfortable. We encourage people to really use the space, to put their feet up on the coffee tables, and to sit on the sofas and around the fireplace for as long as they like. Since most of our inventory is vintage, it’s already been broken in, and we believe wholeheartedly that stepping into our world should feel like coming into our home. That if you’re considering buying a piece of furniture, getting to know it in a comfortable context is key. Taking the leap on the perfect sofa or pair of chairs takes some people three or four visits, and that’s ok! We’ll give ’em a beer every time.
5. What types of items are your best sellers? (i.e. brands, specific pieces, etc.)
Santa Maria Novella potpourri and burning papers are daily sellers as well as Delphonics pens. The entire line of Allegheny Treenware, but specifically the Sipping Spoon- people love the clever design and price point- it’s the perfect gift. We also sell Good Worth keys daily as a great housewarming, or hostess gift. It’s the perfect thing for someone who literally has everything… a sick house key shaped like an all seeing eye takes them to a whole new level of buttoned down radness. And always, our Arts District Printing Co. prints. Our audience for them has not quieted since the day we met Jonathan and brought them into the shop. We just launched a new collection and they’re my favorite ones yet.
6. What item do you have in the store now that you would want to have in your home?
Aesthetically, conceptually, practically, literally- from every direction, Hammer and Spear was based on our own home. Would this look good in our kitchen? Would we want to receive this as a gift? Would we actually use this? Would we actually spend x for x? Do we REALLY love this? If not, it doesn’t go in the shop. No matter how much we like the maker or designer.
7. What have you been inspired by lately? (colors, styles, themes, locations, etc.)
Herve Van Der Straeten. The sculptor Jose Luis Sanchez who I just discovered, Uri Davillier- not only for what he’s doing with glass, but the new ways he’s thinking about electricity as a whole. Collaborating with him on lighting is on a whole other level.
8. Where do you mainly source your items from?
For vintage, Scott and I make trips to the East coast to see our families and use their garages as storage and wrapping/packaging facilities. We rent a van and drive up and down the coast and then send everything back via Greyhound. Throughout the year, we try to supplement with smalls that we acquire on quicker buying trips that we can take over the course of two or three days.
For the new lines, we carry as many Los Angeles designers as we can – Arts District based ones when possible. We’re very lucky that so many of these relationships happen organically – often we meet through the shop. We don’t really bring many lines in and out. We don’t throw our net wide but we throw it deep. When we love a line, we go all in. We’ve been carrying many of our staples since the beginning – Santa Maria Novella, Life Stationary, Merchant and Mills, Murchison Hume to name a few. With Grown Alchemist – a fantastic skincare line we just started carrying – we didn’t bring in 5 sku’s, we brought in the entire collection. We’re not going to tell you that this is a line that we love and believe in and then sell you on another “amazing” product next season.
9. What trends, if any, are you tired of?
Talking about trends.
10. What stores do you shop at?
Tortoise on Abbot Kinney will always be my store crush. Our neighbors are all slaying it: Alchemy Works, Poketo, Apolis, 12345 and Woo each bring a piece to our neighborhood pie that fills me up. Happily, I rarely have to leave my block to shop. Hours before our grand reopening party last week, we were outfitless, but we went to 12345 and we hosted fully clothed!
11. Do you have any plans to expand your inventory?
We just expanded the shop space and doubled in size, so we’ve brought in quite a few new lines and are continuing to add to the roster. Sabin is an LA based designer who just launched his first furniture collection and we’re thrilled to have his beautiful pieces on the floor. We also have the work of (wh)ore haus designer Meyghan Hill, whose furniture is as sexy as she is. I’m crazy excited about two new ceramicists – Maryam Riazi and Jonn Coolidge. And we also have a rotating inventory of Woven Accents rugs, which have made the shop feel so yummy.
12. What would your one piece of advice you would give to small businesses
You are only as good as the team you build around you. Build strong and build cute.
Hammer and Spear is located in the Arts District, downtown. Head on down and tell them we sent ya.
All photos by Jessica Isaac