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Meet Lela Ramirez of Orange & Melrose in Encinitas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lela Ramirez.

Lela, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
For most of my 33 years, I have always needed to be creative in one way or another. It all started with just a coloring book and crayons! From there, I got into drawing, painting, lettering and even dance! I was the girl asked to hand letter the school awards back in 6th grade. Yup… I was making calligraphy cool since ’96 haha. In high school, I really had a passion for art and interior design. Just after graduating I dove right in and worked in that field for six years.

Along with working, I was still wanting to release my creative energy in other ways. If found that belly dancing was an amazing form of art and dance in one! After my stint in interior design, I decided to go to school for graphic design, my true passion! I had a blast in school learning the ins and outs of this new creative world. I had the opportunity to intern for two of Spokane’s top design firms/ad agencies. Even though I was making strides and having success in Spokane, I always had dreams of taking my creativity and passion for adventure to a bigger city. And, that is when I decided to take a leap of faith.

After my internship, I packed up my most prized possessions, duct taped them to the top of my ’98 Honda Accord, and made my way south to sunny San Diego! To this day, one of the best decisions I have ever made. When I got to San Diego, I was working several part-time jobs while freelance designing on the side. One thing led to another and I got the opportunity to work for celebrity chef, Brian Malarkey at a few of his locations before landing the cafe manager job at his Green Acre Eatery. In the same building of the cafe is a gym where I became the local Zumba instructor.

Again, gotta keep dancing. There I got to dance jam out to music as a barista and slowly I worked my way into becoming the resident chalkboard designer. Word of mouth began to spread of my chalkboard design and things slowly started to pick up. Before you knew it, I was quitting my barista job and putting my blood, sweat and tears into Orange & Melrose. An absolute dream come true. There is a significance to my design company’s name that inspires me to stay creative and passionate. My Armenian grandpa immigrated from Syria when he was a young adult and started a design company in Los Angeles on the corner of Orange & Melrose.

Having the opportunity to carry on his legacy and creativity is so meaningful. Orange & Melrose is now a full-service design company doing everything from logo design, custom chalkboard builds, cafe murals, paintings, drawings, wedding and home decor. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the coolest local San Diego brands like BetteBuzz, Culture Brewery, Pacific Bean, San Diego Magazine, Regents Pizzeria, Konos, Holiday Inn Express and much much more. I am truly grateful and humble to see everything come full circle as a kid with a coloring book and crayons to designing for a career.

Has it been a smooth road?
Absolutely not! Haha. Life is all about how you choose to look at it. No, things weren’t always easy. There was a time where I was working four jobs at once. I’d be opening the cafe at 6:30 in the morning, driving straight to my next job and closing another spot at 1 in the morning. On my “days off” is when I would get my freelance work done.

There’s always going to be a  challenge but those challenges get us to the next step. I’ve had to learn almost everything about being a business owner on my own. From pricing, to what materials work best, to writing contracts. It has been a roller coaster and I am so grateful for every second of it!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Orange & Melrose – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Orange & Melrose is a full-service art and design studio. My true passion is in lettering, illustration! I do anything and everything from custom murals, chalkboards, wedding and home decor, custom pet portraits to hosting coloring nights! Give me a surface and I will put some form of art on it! Although I do a little bit of everything, I would definitely say that I am known for my chalkboard art.

Although I have really thrived in that department I would absolutely love to be known for a lot more than that! I am most proud of turning nothing into something. Making my true passion a career. I’ve come a long way and I am just truly humbled to be able to have my art bring joy to and people and hopefully inspire some along the way!!

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Oow, this is a loaded question! San Diego has been so good to me. I do however believe there is some sort of initiation process you have to go through in order to make it here. Coming from a smaller, more sheltered Northwest town I had a lot to learn in this big city.

There were a lot of challenging times that I endured on my own, but one thing I love and appreciate about this city is the people that have helped me along the way. There are so many others in San Diego that have also picked up and moved on a dime in hopes of something better. I think because of that commonality people are more understanding and helpful. I will forever be thankful for those who believed in me and took a chance on me.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jen Vincej Photography

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