Retailer Interview: Calli Swofford

Retailer Interview: Calli Swofford

Last month, I had the great pleasure of talking with business owner Calli Swofford about her life as an entrepreneur, mother, and New Yorker turned Denver enthusiast. Calli is the owner of Miller Lane Mercantile, an independent shop located in Denver, Colorado, whose love of all things beautiful and practical inspires every aspect of her work.


In our conversation we dig in to everything from balancing her many responsibilities to running a business and becoming a mother during the pandemic and more. Feel free to take a visit to Calli’s website here to see her work for yourself! 



Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what inspired you to open your shop Miller Lane Mercantile?


I’m a wife, mom, shop owner, interiors lover and a native New Yorker who moved to Colorado about 7 years ago. I fell in love with independent shops at a very young age — I helped out at a local surf shop as soon as I could legally hold a job! I went on to work at boutiques throughout high school and university, and after working in marketing in NYC for a handful of years, my husband and I picked up and moved to Denver where I became super inspired by the welcoming small business culture. One day while we were walking around our highlands neighborhood, I saw a “for rent” sign on a small brick storefront and decided there would never be a better time to open my own shop. Miller Lane Mercantile has been open for 3 years now and I can’t imagine doing anything else.



How do you curate your shop? And what qualifies as a good design for you? 


My main goal for opening the shop was to create a space that was both inspirational and attainable. Design shops can often feel intimidating, at least to me, and I wanted to make sure Miller Lane felt welcoming; like a true neighborhood shop where you could pop in for a chat or to garner ideas for an upcoming home project. 


When selecting pieces for the store, I usually start with two questions: is it beautiful, and is it practical? To me, great products are both of these things — they serve a true purpose, and also bring an element of beauty into the home. While I love bringing in new products and mixing things up, you’ll always find shop staples like handmade pottery, simple taper candles, and classic kitchen tools on our shelves. 


You carry our pillows in your shop — what initially drew you to Happy French Gang?


The hand-stitched elements and use of soft colors are what immediately caught my eye, and we love carrying goods that are thoughtfully made in small quantities. You can tell when you pick up one of the pillows that they are made with such care and intention. I think surrounding yourself with pieces like that makes for a happy home :)



We all know the pandemic has been hard on all of us, and more importantly, to retailers. How do you cope? How do you reset and what makes you feel grounded? 


At this point, our shop has been around for a longer in the pandemic than it has been out of it. I’ve had to make decisions about things I could have never dreamed of when I first decided to open our doors, and while that has been difficult, it’s also been really powerful. We’ve all grown so much these last few years and these learnings will better prepare us for whatever comes next.


I also feel connected to our community in a way I could have never expected — the support for small businesses during this time has been unparalleled. When we had to close the shop for about 3 months back in 2020, we kept the business afloat by fulfilling online orders and hand-delivering local packages. Customers would leave thank you cards, little gifts, and encouraging notes on their doorsteps for me — I mean, can you imagine? I felt so much love during that time, and it’s continued to keep me motivated on the tough days that our shop means something very special to people.


Congratulations on your new little baby! Have you always wanted to be a mother? Tell us your favorite part! 


Motherhood — what a wild but utterly amazing ride to be on! I was never really the baby-obsessed type, but I had a feeling that when it was my own, it would be different, and it certainly has been in all of the best ways. 


Our daughter Penny is about 10 months old and I am cherishing this sweet phase — the silliest faces she makes, the joy of trying each new food, the excitement that comes with seeing me or her dad walk through the door. How she still falls asleep on my shoulder on the way up to bed at night. Having a happy and healthy child is the #1 best thing about life right now. 



How do you manage your work and motherhood? 


During those first few months as a new mom, I would constantly think back to the bosses and colleagues I had who have children and think, how did they do it!? Until you’re in it, it’s hard to understand what a constant juggle it is, but it’s so worthwhile and fulfilling that somehow, you string the loose ends together and make it work. 


Before having Penny I was at the shop nearly every day, which I absolutely loved. But in this new season of life, I’ve found a few amazing ladies to help out at Miller Lane which has allowed me to step back a bit and spend more time at home with my family. I’m very grateful to be in this role where I can mold my schedule to my needs, and right now that means more time with my daughter. I know it’s time I’ll never get back, so I’m soaking it up — blowouts, droolly faces, early mornings and all. 


The biggest lesson I’ve learned (correction: *am still learning*) is to try to surrender to the present. When I’m spending the day with Penny, I don’t need to squeeze in emails between activities — the point is to be there with her as fully as I can be. And on the flip side of that, setting very specific priorities for my days in the shop, which allows me to take advantage of the time away and focus on building my business intentionally. 



What are your favorite spots in Denver? 


I definitely feel like I’m still learning about Denver and exploring the city’s little pockets. That said, if I could plan a perfect day-long itinerary, I would start off with breakfast at The Bindery, followed by a visit to the Clyfford Still Museum. Next, antiquing on South Broadway (Sobo Interiors in a must anytime I’m in the area!), followed by pizza at Cart Driver and cocktails at The Ramble Hotel.



Thank you so much Calli for your time!

Calli is wearing our Natural Textured Jumpsuit

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