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Meet Calli Swofford of Miller Lane Mercantile in Berkeley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Calli Swofford.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Calli. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My love for small businesses began when I was 14 and started working at a surf shop in my hometown of East Hampton, NY. I would spend my weekends folding board shorts and helping customers with beach gear for their days in the sun. Throughout the next eight years, I worked in a number of independent boutiques and shops part-time while I was in high school in New York, and later at university in Charleston. With each of these jobs, I was always able to work directly with the owners, which I see as such a blessing today in terms of expanding my knowledge of the retail industry and being able to ask personal questions. From the very beginning, I was always most interested in product merchandising and curation – it seemed like the most creative part of running a shop. I also came to love the community that formed around small businesses and the relationships you make with employees, other local shop workers, and of course the customers.

After an editorial internship at Bon Appétit Magazine affirmed my interest in the culinary arts, I worked for a tea company in New York City in marketing and sales. I was the company’s first full-time employee aside from the two founders, so naturally, I wore many hats and was thrown into a true startup experience. Even then I dreamt of opening my own shop, but the competition in New York, my insecurities of being a young twenty-something (and, let’s be honest, the sky-high rent) prevented it from ever seeming like a reality. After only a few years of working in the city, my then boyfriend / now husband, Pierce, was craving a change and I decided to move to Denver with him, pretty much on a whim. I look back on that now and think about how wild it was – I had only been to Denver once before and more or less stayed by Larimer Square for the entire trip. I knew nothing about Denver but for some reason, it all felt right.

I remember sitting outside on a restaurant patio about a year after we had moved and saying to Pierce, “I think I can open a shop here”. Denver seemed like a city that was super encouraging of small businesses, and even more, there were a ton of female business owners to look up to. I proceeded to talk his ear off about this dream of mine for the next 2 ½ years, slowly planning while working full time. I started a savings account for my “future store” and diligently added to it whenever I could. I’d like to think that I’d have done it regardless, but his emotional support, encouragement, and belief in my vision carried me through my own doubts. In February of this year, it all became a reality when I opened to doors to Miller Lane Mercantile.

Has it been a smooth road?
There’s always risk associated with leaving a 9-to-5 and a steady paycheck to pursue a career where you rely solely on yourself for your income. I think for some, starting a business comes from a place of “I can do this better myself” or “I want to be my own boss”. For me, it was neither of those things. Before I opened the shop I was in a job I loved (I was a Product Marketing Manager for the Denver-based photo goods company Artifact Uprising), and I really loved working for other people and gaining new perspectives. In my case, it was an innate desire to build something from scratch. I yearned for a creative outlet, a space I could create that was a home for beautiful products I had discovered over years of living with my eyes wide open to the “little things”. Ever since I was young, I’ve been enamored with simple things like the illustrations on greeting cards and product packaging at the grocery store. These subtleties have brought me so much happiness and my hope was that if I could put a spotlight on these products and bring them into the every day, it would bring something special to others the way it had for me.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Miller Lane Mercantile – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Miller Lane Mercantile was born out of the idea of celebrating simple goods for slow living. To me, “slow living” is about creating space for pause, returning to the basics, and finding an appreciation for what’s already around you. Our product assortment includes kitchenware,  ceramics, home decor, bath and body products, and women’s accessories. I aimed to source products that I was personally seeking out online, that were less available in brick and mortar shops in Denver. Everything is either a brand I have in my own home or something from my “wish list” 🙂 That said, we have a small gourmet pantry section filled with goods from local makers, and they’re hands down some of my favorite products.

In the few months we’ve been open, I think the shop has started to become a gifting destination in the neighborhood, which I’m very proud of. It’s a beautiful thing when a man comes in to find a birthday present for his wife, or someone comes in to purchase a celebratory housewarming gift for a friend. It’s really incredible to see how thoughtful people are and their reasons for gifting.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Moving from Brooklyn, what I miss most is the hole-in-the-wall establishments. I miss the tiny cafes, narrow wine bars, and super-small boutiques. I guess New York forces you into small spaces, but oddly enough I do miss that!

I think Colorado as a state is one of the greatest places to live – the types of trips you can take over a weekend by hopping in your car are pretty remarkable. There are still so many Colorado cities and towns I have yet to visit and I’m constantly adding to my list (Telluride is number one for this spring!). But what I’ve come to love most about Denver, in particular, is the people – while there are many transplants like myself, I think Denver draws in the best type of people; friendly, down to earth, and living for the sunshine.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 4315 W 44th Avenue
    Denver, CO 80212
  • Website: www.millerlanemercantile.com
  • Phone: (720) 328-5091
  • Email: hello@millerlanemercantile.com
  • Instagram: @millerlanemercantile

Image Credit:
Photography by Mimi McCormick

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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