What “Wallet Girl” did on her summer vacation

Lil’ Miss Moneybags
By CAMILLE DODERO  |  August 30, 2006

When Keaton Kustler-Klein goes back to Arlington High School next Tuesday, the twiggy 14-year-old sophomore will have plenty to say about her summer vacation. Sure, she did regular teen stuff — like attend 10 rock shows (including the Warped Tour, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Action Action) and camp out in Pennsylvania Dutch country (where she was shocked to find a WiFi signal). But she did some grown-up stuff too — like turn a four-month-old hobby of making clear-duct-tape wallets into a part-time business, appropriately called Wallet Girl Industries. Plus, she launched her own Web site, thewalletgirl.com, and has already received enough online sales to quit her former part-time job. “I’m too good for babysitting now,” Kustler-Klein proudly declares over the phone. “I’ve moved on to bigger, brighter, more duct-tapish things.”

She certainly has. In the past two months, Kustler-Klein has produced more than 100 clear-duct-taped wallets — 90 of which were special-ordered by bands such as Waltham’s Damone (who wanted 20 for their merch booth), New York–based Morningwood (who also requested 20), and Geffen Records–signed punk-pop trio the Pink Spiders (who paid $2-a-piece for a whopping 50). “I didn’t know I could make 50 wallets,” she admits. “I was kind of up until five in the morning finishing them. I went through 16 rolls of tape in nine days.”

Kustler-Klein began making her wallets in February, inspired by the sight of emo boys Panic! at the Disco on the cover of this paper. (See “Wallet Girl,” News and Features, June 9). The industrious teen gradually perfected a way to laminate Phoenix covers in the transparent adhesive and wrap them into multi-pocketed billfolds. She also started making wallets for bands she was going to see live — such as Morningwood and emo-synth New Yorkers Action Action — so that she would have an excuse to hand-deliver the pocket-pouch tributes.

Although Panic! ignited the initial inspiration, Kustler-Klein has since soured on the Vegas-born foursome. “I made some [wallets] for them and I went to the show and they were being divas so they didn’t come out. I gave them to someone else to give them, but they never wrote back to me. So now I’m just like, ‘Panic! at the Disco,’ ” she says, addressing the band as if this is a conference call with all four members on line three, “ ‘You’re good. But I’m mad at you.’ ”

No matter. Other acts have rewarded Kustler-Klein’s enterprise. At the Warped Tour, she sat onstage during the Pink Spiders’ set and later received a “goody box” packed with 17 CDs, snail-mailed by their label rep at Geffen. “When I got that it was like, ‘Wow, my life pretty much rules right now.’ ”

This month, she’s also featured in Alternative Press magazine, a goal Kustler-Klein mentioned back in June when she was interviewed by the Phoenix. “It’s awesome. It’s so weird though, ’cause it’s like, you read this magazine and then you’re in it!” And this past Monday she got a merchandising order from Jack’s Mannequin, the Maverick-signed side project of Something Corporate’s Andrew McMahon.

Despite her duct-taped ties to nationally known acts, Kustler-Klein still has a soft spot for some local rockers on the rise. Her latest band crush? The Boston-based emo foursome Boys Like Girls, whom she met at Allston’s International Community Church (ICC). “My mom pulled me out of the front row at like eight o’clock — okay, it was, like, nine, but still. I was super mad.”

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