It takes a helluva girl to seek inspiration in everything from Victorian dinnerware and modern pop art to magic, music, and death. It takes a spitfire girl to harness all the muses and create a retail wonderland of original, unique, and thoroughly delightful pieces on Melrose, aptly called Spitfire Girl.
That girl is Kristin Schroder, a Texas born and bred artist and entrepreneur who, one might say, was destined for this business. But she didn’t know it at first. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, the initial drive was to create art. “I was always involved in making something, being hands on,” Kristin recalls. As a kid, “I didn’t go out at night. I would sit at home and paint. If I was out, I was sketching, painting, taking pictures.”
She moved to L.A. at 18. A full-time painter, she became a housewife with a southbound marriage. Even though her original portraiture work was shown in galleries and at LACMA, Kristin “needed to get out which meant making my own money – always difficult being an artist.”
Frequent entertaining was part of Kristin’s wife life, and making invitations allowed her crafty nature to shine. For her daughter’s third birthday party – reptile themed – Kristin made box card invitations. The kids were obsessed with the adorable handmade boxes which included a toy and a sweet cover illustration. “They went to sleep with these little boxes, and grabbed them when they woke up.” And that was the Spitfire spark.
Business WAS in the bloodline, as was a healthy dose of “don’t take no for an answer.” Grandfather, father, siblings all modeled successful entrepreneurship. Being in L.A., Kristin found, “The world is your oyster as far as crafting and having vendors at your fingertips – the fabric district, the toy district, everything.” Ambition and ability in line, she began making box cards in her garage in 2001, and selling them wholesale. But a now-single mom with two babies and scraping by for five years, Kristin realized it’s expansion or die.
The second product was “badass.” SFG was the first to reintroduce printing on wood to the retail market since the ‘70s. “There’s nothing more exciting than creating a successful product that gets sold across the world like wildfire.” The business finally became sustainable.
Speaking of sustainable, Kristin credits so much of what Spitfire Girl has become to joining forces with her new husband, Jason. A tattoo artist who can visually create anything, he matches Kristin’s fire and drive with his own intense passion. Within weeks of dating, they developed a line of cheeky fortune cookies that sold to retailers nationwide. “Never a dull moment,” she happily remembers.
The combo of desperation and tenacity led to a serious work output. The garage was outgrown and the entire first floor of the house was overrun with SFG products, made entirely by Kristin. “I had fur stuck to me, I paid my kids in toys to help.”
So it was time to move on out. The first SFG store was opened in 2009, with retail in the front and wholesale in the back. It was a good testing ground for placement, packaging, learning what people want, and demonstrating the specialness of the place. “It’s a creative mind that’s filling the store. It’s visual, cuckoo, unusual.”
In 2014, Melrose got its Spitfire Girl. Choosing the location by gut instinct (and following a prophetic dream), “we wanted to knock it out of the park, and be a part of bringing Melrose back. We’re really happy to be there.” Kristin remembers walking down Melrose with her best friend visiting from Texas, never imagining actually owning a shop there – “it’s a legendary, iconic place to be.”
The Melrose location is the largest. It’s the only one that carries furniture and rugs. You’ll find products from overseas that no one in the U.S. carries, and more items at a lower price point. SFG now boasts about 1000 SKUs – pillows, wall art, wood-wrapped flasks, glassware, handmade dolls, and the OG SFG product – the box cards!
Especially inspired by “the Victorian era and everything that’s come before us,” Kristin and Jason idea-source from books, flea markets, antique shops, museums all over the world, and each other. “A couple glasses of wine and we can’t stop coming up with new products!” she says.
Kristin’s newest passion is perfumes. She explains, “I love scent and perfumes, and create all the recipes and notes to be made at a perfume house.” The popular Potion Collection is full of practical magic: real potions for love, seduction, protection, and fortune. The collection offers sprays, soaps, bath salts and bubbles, and candles. The brand new Wild Tobacco unisex scent – “SO sexy” – is wrapped in walnut wood and comes in a beautiful walnut box.
Celebrity – especially musician – clientele is abundant on Melrose. Gavin Rossdale, Dave Grohl, and Minnie Driver are recent shoppers. They join tourists and locals who enjoy the discovery of every visit. With so many short run products, frequent visits are required to keep up with Kristin and Jason’s creative flow.
There’s another level of community that exists onlline where the discovery meets brand ethos. The Spitfire Girl Instagram is a vibrant spot to not only get the skinny on hot new pieces, but get a little history and pop culture with Kristin’s pick for Spitfire Girls. Recent selections include Rosa Parks, Carole Lombard, and Pat Benetar. Kristin says, “It pays homage to every woman that’s ever rocked the world. Being a Spitfire Girl is about standing on your own to feet, walking into the fire. There’s nothing sexier than a woman who shines on her own.”
7401 Melrose Avenue, 90046
Daily 11a – 7p