McCORDSVILLE – When Karlie Ford creates apparel and other products for her business, she often sets out to capture a vintage vibe.
It’s in the name of her company, after all – Wild Kard Vintage. As her business started taking off – and taking over – her house, she knew she needed a new space. And where better for her vintage aesthetic than a historical McCordsville building?
The 29-year-old recently moved her business’ operations into the two-story brick building that’s stood for over a century and a half at 6425 W. Broadway in McCordsville. While it will mainly serve as a place for screen-printing designs onto garments, shipping online orders and storing products and materials, she is open to the public on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and plans to occasionally have additional open houses inviting customers to shop on the premises as well.
Wild Kard Vintage offers apparel and accessories for adults and children. Ford does some custom work, but most of her designs come from ideas she jots down on her phone whenever inspiration strikes that she then perfects on her computer.
When ordering apparel, customers can choose from designs on her website, wildkardvintage.com, along with color and size. Once an order is made, Ford orders the garment, screen-prints and dries it before shipping it out.
She also makes items that she brings to sell at markets in the area.
Her products take on various themes, including holidays, motherhood, dogs, plants and coffee.
Custom blankets are part of Wild Kard Vintage’s lineup as well. The idea for those stemmed from blankets Ford made as gifts for her niece and nephew when they were baptized, complete with sewed-on patches featuring their names. It led to other people wanting them as gifts to give and have become one of her bestselling items.
Ford said she’s been crafty since she was a child making jewelry with her bracelet-making kit. She graduated from Purdue University in 2014, where she majored in selling and sales management and also earned a certificate in entrepreneurship.
Wild Kard Vintage started as a sole proprietorship in 2016 before eventually becoming a limited liability company and then becoming incorporated in 2019.
Garments didn’t fly off the screen press in the very beginning.
“I watched a lot of YouTube videos, messed up a lot of things trying to figure out how to make shirts, gave up a couple times, and then finally figured it out,” Ford said.
She draws inspiration for her designs from her own life.
“I feel like a lot of the things I make kind of evolve as my life changes,” she said.
For instance, she started making Greek life apparel after finishing at Purdue, where she was in a sorority. After becoming a mother, she ventured into products for children.
Formerly employed by a home-builder, Ford worked during the day and screen-printed shirts on her kitchen counter at night. She left her day job in 2019 to create clothes full time, make her own hours and devote more time to being a mom.
But Wild Kard Vintage’s business grew like wildflowers, and soon shirts were hanging up all over her house so their ink could dry while other work materials buried her kitchen counter.
She sought feedback from her husband, Kelley Ford, about looking for space outside the house and he jumped onboard. They checked out some properties that would have been exclusively retail storefronts, but their prices didn’t make sense when the goal was to find a place to base her operations as well, not just a brick-and-mortar retail presence.
Then, before a snowstorm in February, Ford’s grocery delivery didn’t include an item she needed, sending her out to find it herself. On the way, she drove past the building at 6425 W. Broadway.
“I was driving to get milk at like 8 in the morning before the snow was coming and I just happened to see the for-sale sign out here and gave the owner a call,” she said.
The Fords eventually walked through the property and saw it had the perfect setup for her operations in the back of the building, retail opportunities in the front, storage upstairs and plenty of room to grow. The building formerly housed businesses, and the Fords were impressed with how previous longtime owner Robert Olson “put his heart and soul” into restoring and preserving the property.
“I’m very thankful that my shopper forgot the milk that day and I had to go out to the store,” Ford said. “If we didn’t find this, I don’t know what we would’ve ended up doing.”
Built as a home in 1870, the building housed members of the McCord family after which the town is named and was formerly called McCord Place.
“It’s been remarkable for me on my end to watch what she’s built,” Kelley Ford said of his wife’s business. “I couldn’t be more proud of her; it’s just been incredible. She’s fantastic, she’s worked really hard to get to this point, and I think it’s just really exciting about what this property provides her in terms of future opportunities to continue to grow.”
Keep up with Wild Kard Vintage on Instagram at @wildkardvintage.