Neighborhood: Berkeley, Denver
Vibe: Cozy, Well Curated, Refined
Good for: Kitchenware, Home Decor, Women’s Accessories
Calling all Denverites or friends who are soon going to be visiting the Mile High City! Meet Miller Lane Mercantile, an incredibly chic home goods and women’s accessories boutique that just opened a few weeks ago in the Berkeley neighborhood. Miller Lane was brought to my attention through a close friend that I went to summer camp with in Pennsylvania all the way back in the 5th grade (hint: I’m getting old because that was a quite a while ago). She told me that our mutual camp friend’s sister just opened her own shop in Denver and that I should check it out. Well, of course this piqued my interest so I decided to do some research on the shop’s beautiful Instagram page and instantly fell in love! Similar to many of the indie boutiques here in Philly, Miller Lane features thoughtfully curated goods from local artists and brands throughout the US. You can shop from an amazing assortment of handmade ceramics, candles, jewelry, coffees, kitchenware and more. The owner, Calli Nicoletti, has a very understated and elegant aesthetic. She truly embodies the motto “less is more”, which I love.
It has been fun to see Calli’s evolution of opening the store through her Instagram page. If you scroll back to the beginning, you will see her blank space slowly start to fill with unique hand selected items from her favorite vendors. She shares glimpses into her personal life which began in East Hampton, NY and reflects on how her east coast roots inspire much of what she puts into her Denver-based boutique. You can also get a sense for Calli’s innate optimism and excitement towards starting this new venture. Let’s face it, launching a new business is definitely a daunting concept, but Calli seems to approach it with honesty, humbleness and integrity, which I think will only work to her advantage as she continues to expand.
So, after doing this research and getting utterly excited about the opening of Miller Lane Mercantile, I decided to reach out to Calli directly to do a Q&A with her. I wanted to know from the source herself what it really was like to open up a business from the ground up and what inspired her to transform her blank canvas into such a beautiful work of art. Plus, Denver has become one of my favorite cities to visit, so I also wanted to pick her brain on what the shopping scene is like there in general. Read below to see more of Calli and Miller Lane Mercantile’s story - you will find yourself feeling enlightened and inspired!
Q: What inspired you to open Miller Lane Mercantile? What was your career path leading up to becoming an independent business owner?
A: My passion for brick and mortar business goes back to my very first work experience – when I turned 14 and was finally old enough to hold a job, I started working at a independent surf shop in my hometown of East Hampton, NY. I came to really love the community that’s built around a shop, from the customers, to the employees, and the other shop workers in the neighborhood. The store was also located in a beautiful old wooden house with a sunny backyard and we played UB40 all day – what’s better than that? Fast forward through high school and college, and I had continued to work in boutiques part-time throughout all of my schooling.
In 2012 I graduated from The College of Charleston with a BA in media studies and started working in marketing, which is the industry I’ve been in until I opened Miller Lane Mercantile. I always worked for startups, first in New York City and then in Denver, and became what you could call a real small business enthusiast. I loved being able to work directly with founders and learn about business from the ground up. Throughout those 6+ years, I wore a ton of hats and held roles that covered aspects of marketing including events and tradeshows, social media writing, photo curation, copywriting, product marketing, content writing, and even a little bit of sales. I used to get frustrated that my skill set was so wide-ranging rather than refined in a particular expertise, but it all makes sense now. Being a business owner requires the most wide-ranging skill set of all!
Q: What is the most important lesson you've learned during the process of opening your store? How did you ultimately decide to take that leap and make the commitment?
A: You’ll always find a reason not to do it, so just start somewhere, keep moving, and try not to doubt yourself too much. If you have an idea for a business, those thoughts didn’t pop into your head by accident. I think the world has its way of opening up to people, and it’s ultimately up to each of us to listen to that call and trust in the process. I had decided I was going to open a shop about 2 ½ years before I actually opened the doors. I started a savings account specifically for my future store, and little by little I started planning. I’ve built this massive spreadsheet and each time I come across an interesting brand or product, I add it to the list. By the time I signed my lease on the space I’m now in, I had hundreds of brands and makers and just started reaching out to people about their wholesale programs. If you’re someone who’s thinking of opening a shop, I think those two steps are great starting points. Creating a savings account specifically for your business makes saving so much more meaningful, and you’ll know that your cuts on spending are going directly towards your dream. Had I not had that spreadsheet of products at my fingertips when I finally found my space, I think it would have been overwhelming to start the buying process from scratch.
Another important lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to admit what you don’t know. Throughout my career I always wanted to be taken seriously, but there will always be unknowns and it’s so much more efficient to ask the right questions rather than to pretend to know what you don’t. Whether it’s a business concept or something as mundane as understanding how the electrical works in my shop, I’ve started asking more questions and as it comes from a place of genuinely wanting to learn and grow, there’s absolutely no shame in that.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about Miller Lane, what are some must-haves in the shop right now?
A: 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, finding an appreciation for what you have, and paying more attention to the little things in life. Ever since I was young I’ve been enamored with things like greeting cards and product packaging at the grocery store. These little oddities have brought me so much happiness and I think making conscious choices about the things we surround ourselves with makes the days endlessly more enjoyable.
At Miller Lane, we carry a wide range of homewares including kitchenware, gourmet pantry items, ceramics, pillows and throws, stationery, bath and body products, and women’s accessories. We’ve brought in a really incredible candle line called The Floral Society whose taper candles come in the most beautiful shades and really add something special to a dinner party or night in. Our jewelry case is stocked with wares from Uni out of Portland – the designer Kiersten has an amazing vision for her brand and each piece has a really organic, understated quality about it. Lastly, Samantha of Settle Ceramics in Austin is creating beautiful yet practical pieces for the kitchen that customers have really been gravitating towards.
Q: Describe your personal style in three words. How is this reflected in your shop?
A: I’d describe my style as being casual, refined, and timeless. If you looked in my closet you’d find a sea of white, grey, cream, burnt orange, and navy. I pretty much live inside this cozy little color palette, hah! When it comes to clothing, accessories, and even home decor, I purchase pieces that are well-made and classic, rather than follow a current trend. I think my style has naturally oozed out into the shop through the decorative choices I’ve made as well as the simple fact that Miller Lane is filled with products I either own myself or wish I had in my own home. I constantly have customers asking me where I’m originally from because I think the store aesthetic reads more New England than Colorado, which is something that happened organically as an expression of my personal taste. I love western and desert vibes, but that’s not the feel you’ll get coming into Miller Lane and I’m glad I’ve been able to bring some of the northeast to this city.
Q: What's the retail/boutique scene in Denver like? Any cool local brands or artists to shout out?
A: There are so many incredible makers here in Denver, from jewelry designers, to ceramicists, to folks making the most delicious gourmet pantry items. If you ever have a chance to visit the city during one of our Denver Fleas, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a great way to learn about the creative scene here and discover some really special products. In terms of brick and mortar businesses, the retail scene has expanded a ton even in the few years I’ve lived in Denver. Miller Lane is part of the Tennyson Street business district and within our little community there are a bunch of women-owned businesses which I think is so rad. My neighbors, Blush and Dona Forta are women’s boutiques that are each bringing something really unique to women’s clothing in Denver – I feel super lucky to have them next door! Lady Jones is just a few blocks away and offers a really fun shopping experience with brands you won’t find elsewhere in Denver. Aside from Tennyson Street shops, Fig + Yarrow Apothecary is a must-see in my book – anytime I have friends in town, a visit there is on the list. They’ve created such an inviting, peaceful space and you can see how much care goes into each of their products. Lastly, Sacred Thistle and Meek Vintage – they’re just around the corner from each other so you can hit them both up in one trip. Sacred Thistle is an insanely cool florist-meets-home shop, and Meek has been a pioneer in the Denver community when it comes to well curated vintage clothing and homewares.
Pretty awesome, right? If you do happen to live in Denver or get a chance to see the shop while visiting, please DM me or email me letting me know about your experience! This of course is on my list of places to see the next time I’m out there (maybe in fall or winter of 2019?) so I will keep you all posted on my visit too :) In the meantime, Calli is also working on developing the shop’s website and wants to have an e-commerce component to the business too. For now, if you are remote like me and see anything on her Instagram account that you’d like to purchase, just DM her and she will be able to ship to you directly for the time being. Easy as that!
Keep on chasing your dreams, everyone! Magical things can happen, like Miller Lane Mercantile.