Susan Farrell: Misto Lino Owner and Fearless Leader!

In this week's blog post, we are thrilled to present a Q&A with the owner of Misto Lino, Susan Farrell! For the past 25 years, Susan has poured her heart and soul into her beloved Misto Lino, from conception to design (to remodeling!) both locations. Her talent for sourcing and buying beautiful merchandise, exquisite taste, and lifelong appreciation for quality and craftsmanship are at the core of why we always hear customers say, "This is my favorite store!"  

Without further Susan!

 Susan at an SDH photo shoot

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Germany and from there moved to an old farm in upstate New York. Most of my fondest childhood memories are from those two places. I didn’t arrive in the Bay Area until high school.

How did you get your idea/concept for the business?
I was always fascinated watching my mom weave, knit and work with textiles. She was so passionate about it and her ability to create textiles and teach others definitely rubbed off on me! My family started SDH Fine European Linens in 1986 and my love for textiles and decorating led to opening Misto Lino Danville in 1994. We've grown and evolved so much over the years, and opened the Lafayette store in 2008.

What was the mission when you started?
At that time, if you wanted to buy fine linens, you had to go to San Francisco; there wasn't anywhere in the East Bay to get them. But people in the East Bay wanted them, and wanted to understand more about Egyptian cotton, thread count and eco-responsibly made products. So we opened Misto Lino and fortunately it became ‘the place’ to go in the East Bay for luxury linens, European-inspired gifts and fine home décor.

SDH "York" duvet (color, Dijon)

What's a typical week for you?
Ha! You’re kidding right? No two days are ever the same, let alone weeks. Between my husband, kids, pets, and farm animals, every day is a new adventure! I think that’s what keeps me on my toes and so engaged in Misto Lino.

To what do you attribute the success and longevity of ML?
We have seen the retail landscape change so much over the years. Misto Lino has always had incredible products and sincere employees and when you combine the two, customers want to shop with you. Anyone can open a store, but staying power comes from the right mix of products and people and I am so proud of what we’ve created.

What do you look for when hiring a Misto Lino employee?
Genuine and honest character, and a willingness to jump in and be of service. A kind heart and a respectful manner goes far in my book.

How has the landscape of your business changed over the years?
As customers become more aware of their options and the internet is more prevalent in all of our everyday lives, we are presented with the opportunity to communicate easily with our customers, but we also have to give them a reason to buy from us rather than somewhere else. I am always striving to find special items and love to show them to our team and our clients.

What is your favorite aspect of running the business?
Visiting with artisans from around the world, shopping for inspired gifts and working with people I adore.

Custom handpainted ceramic bowl from Italy

What is the funniest/craziest thing that's every happened in your store?
There are so many. I will never forget the time two customers got in a literal tug-of-war over a sale item! On a more fun note, it’s always exciting when we get special orders from celebrities! A lot of our linens and sleepwear are featured in the movies, so it’s not unusual to have stars ordering from us directly.

Where do you find your merchandise?
Traveling, trade shows, and word of mouth.

What makes ML special?
People, products and a warm, open environment where I hope everyone feels welcomed and at home.

What motivates you to keep ML going after 25 years?
Honestly, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up! There are so many things I want to do and so many ideas in my head. I'm having so much fun.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Spending time with my family! I love to travel back to Italy and Germany and be with my family there, and love to travel around this gorgeous country as well. I dedicate most of my free time to my kids and their activities. My youngest will be heading off to college in a little more than a year and then I’ll really get to explore what “my” time will look like.

The Farrell fam! Left to right: Emmi, Susan, Kate, Michael, Jack

What advice would you give someone aspiring to open a brick and mortar shop? What does it take?
Fortitude and a positive outlook. There are so many challenges that you have to make sure you don’t get bogged down with all the hard stuff. Always be willing to talk with and really listen to and learn from others–especially those who have been in the trenches. Most of all, remember that a little humility goes a long way. I was speaking with a local retailer the other day and he said, “It’s about community, not competition,” and I thought that was kind of beautiful.

Any exciting plans we can look forward to in the future?
Many! You’ll have to wait and see…. ;-)

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