The Spornette Story

In Loving Memory of
Walter Sporn
1914 - 2004

My Father, Walter Sporn, came to the U.S. as a German refugee in 1936. His first job was working in New York in a Macy department store’s sub basement hauling merchandise around to the various departments. In 1942, after moving to Chicago, Walter started calling on beauty salons in the greater Chicagoland area selling such exotic things as beer shampoo, egg shampoo, human hair nets, glitter, ear warmers for under the dryer and wooden handled brushes.

My Father and Mother, Fern, went to New York City in 1944 to go on their honeymoon. Ever the work-a-holic, Walter incorporated the International Beauty Show into his honeymoon and my Mother worked by his side. Spornette International was founded by Walter Sporn as The Walter Sporn Company in the very early 1950’s. One of Walter’s first ideas came after meeting an engineer who was making eye liner and lip brushes for a major cosmetic conglomerate. My Father convinced the engineer that if he could implant plastic handles with nylon bristles, then making professional hair brushes should be a snap. The engineer took my Father’s suggestion and several months later, The Walter Sporn Company introduced 2 items; the no name 5 row and 7 row nylon bristle, plastic handled brushes to the professional beauty supply/distributor industry which was still in its infancy. “The Little Wonder”, “The Petite”, “The Continental”, “The Duette”, and many other original brushes followed and made Spornette brushes the industry’s standard.

My Father visited Europe several times in the late 50’s and came back with items he developed into very popular hair brushes for stylists nationwide. Cushion brushes, round boar and round nylon brushes that had been sold by the piece were now sold in attractive point-of-purchase displays designed by Walter. This helped sales spike from individual pieces to thousands of dozens—literally overnight.

I remember working the Midwest Show on weekends at the tender age of five. I remember meeting the then “giants” of the industry. However, I was too young to appreciate the significance of some of these people regarding the beauty supply industry. I also worked summer jobs at the Walter Sporn Company.

As you can see, brushes have always been a part of my life. I graduated Bradley University in 1967. After completing my Air Force and National Guard responsibilities, I went to work full-time for my Father while going for my Master’s Degree from DePaul University at the same time. In 1969, I married Barbara, completed my Master’s and started traveling to accounts around the country. Some of these accounts were those that my Father set me up with so I would not get disappointed or discouraged on those early calls. The first call I made on my own was a three store chain owned by Ray Farber and named after his daughter, Sally, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In the early 1970’s, the name of the company officially became Spornette International, Inc. and I began to take over more and more of the day-to-day operations. In 1985, I purchased the company from my parents. Our oldest daughter, Laurie, joined Spornette in 1994 upon graduation from The University Of Kansas. Laurie has taken over the brunt of running the dayto-day business of Spornette. In 2004, our youngest son, Jeffrey, who graduated from Boston University, joined Spornette. Jeff has spent a lot of time on the road working with our reps and getting to know, on a first hand basis, many of our distributors. Jeff has been to Asia several times and is beginning to know our partners in manufacturing on a better basis. This will ensure that the relationships I’ve built up with continue. Our other children, Bonnie (Indiana University) and Gary (Lynn University), have decided to pursue other goals but are still familiar with many long time customers who have become personal friends of ours. The welcome mat is always open to them in case they want to work with Laurie and Jeffrey.

On December 17, 2005, Laurie and her husband Arlyn presented us with our first grand child (fourth generation brush salesman?), Brayden William Tratt (the “W” in William is in honor of Walter). On February 22, 2008, Quinn Tyler Tratt was born. And we are so excited with our 2nd grandchild. In 2006, my sister, Rebecca, who joined Spornette in the mid 90’s, decided to relinquish her day-to-day activities at Spornette. She will still be a source of inspiration and information to all of us.

So... we are a well established, third generation company entering the future with knowledge that we will be keeping the Spornette tradition alive. Everyone at Spornette knows that we can only survive to ensure another generation by keeping the users of our hair brushes happy and well groomed.

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