Los Angeles: Reform School
Words by Taylor Stark Photographs by Michael A. Muller
This Silver Lake shop stocks all that is small-batch, sustainable, artist-made and beautiful.
High school friends Billie Lopez and Tootie Maldonado had always dreamed of opening up a shop together. After years of planning and thinking up what sorts of products they would carry, their what-ifs became a brick-and-mortar reality. In 2005, ReForm School began as a tiny corner of ideas and goods in a friend’s boutique located in Echo Park. It only took a few months for Billie and Tootie to make their own home in the nearby neighborhood of Silver Lake. With a perfectly apt name, the space is full of items for the creatively curious and the socially conscious.
What’s the concept behind the shop and its name?
When we started out, we really focused on green practices and materials, especially recycled products. At the time, it was difficult for consumers to find well-designed items that were also produced sustainably. The idea of “reformed” products that were beautiful as well as functional really appealed to our customers and us. The boutique we started out in had a rock & roll high school vibe to it, so we thought the name ReForm School was perfect. These days, sustainable products are for the most part a given, so we’ve happily shifted our focus to sourcing the best in handmade and local design. We strive to work with small companies that produce exceptional, unique items.
How would you describe your target customer in a sentence?
Someone who has a love for great design, appreciates the amount of work that goes into handcrafted items and prefers to support independent artists.
What kind of atmosphere do you hope to create?
We love it when customers tell us they feel inspired and that the shop makes them want to be more creative. That’s the way a store should make everyone feel. It’s so great to build relationships with our customers; we love it when they pop in to see what’s new and end up staying for hours.
What sort of goods do you look for for the store?
We really try to put an emphasis on local artists and designers, but we also carry great stuff from all over the world. We look for clever design, gorgeous textures, lovely patterns and items that are as useful as they are beautiful. There’s always some good fun to be had, so we make sure we’re not short of cheeky cards, slightly offensive artwork and other quirky gifts that produce a good chuckle from the corner of the shop.
Can you tell us about a few of your favorite items?
That’s always a hard question because we love everything we carry. To name a few, we just got in these amazing fermenting crocks from Counter Culture that encompasses everything we look for in a product: beautiful, functional and handcrafted. We also love our Robert Blue pottery, handmade skateboards by DL, Tracy Wilkinson’s spice rack and everyone’s favorite Pommes Frites candles.
How does ReForm School connect with the surrounding community?
Silver Lake is the perfect neighborhood for the shop. It’s hard to imagine a better place; our customers really seem to get what we’re going for and appreciate all we have to offer. We’ve had tons of special events and workshops over the years, everything from craft classes and art shows to fund-raisers and pop up shops with some of our favorite artists. Last month we had a really fun nail art event and we have many future events in the works. We also host the Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere, which is a 20-plus-uke band that Tootie and I founded three years ago. We practice at the shop every Monday night and play at community gigs.
3902 Sunset Boulevard