Sometimes joining the family business is inevitable; sometimes it takes a slight detour. For Mik Hollis, it was both. His mother, Susanne Hollis, opened her namesake showroom-cum-warehouse-cum-treasure trove some 30 years ago in Pasadena, California. Upon her recent retirement, Mik took over, launching two new eponymous showrooms, one in Pasadena, the other in nearby San Marino—both in the midst of the COVID pandemic; bold moves indeed. But perhaps not for someone, “who grew up in the business,” Mik recalls. “I even did deliveries as a kid.”
Hinting at international glamour, the duo’s draw to furnishings goes back to the 1970s. The family was living in Taiwan where Mik’s father was an international banker and Susanne “had a passion for antiques,” he continues. “She purchased pieces to decorate our home in Taipei.” What was she buying? A mix of Danish modern and Chinese, all of which found its way to Pasadena when the Hollis’s returned stateside. Ultimately, so did almost anything design-savvy customers, especially designers, could crave. Susanne, with a curatorial eye, had cultivated sources throughout the world, leading, too, to a first-hand education in the decorative arts for Mik. Throughout his teens, he accompanied her on buying trips throughout southeast Asia. Back home, he learned the artistry of restoration from craftsmen in the workroom that was part of the business. What struck and stuck was “the importance of being in front of a client in their home to be in touch with what they want.” Ergo his love of retail.
For a while, though, he explored elsewhere. Gravitating to the fine arts, he moved to Northern California where he directed the Aerena Gallery’s locations in Yountville and Healdsburg. Returning home, he sold the original warehouse and directed energies to developing the new locations. One is a 10,000-square-foot former garage on Pasadena’s popular Lincoln Avenue. It has a 1940s vibe with roll-up garage in the back and street presence out front. Like its predecessor, it’s a hybrid, both showroom and workshop where Mik’s team of five plus on-call specialists in glass, leather, and gilding not only restore pieces, but create them as well. In fact, he attributes 30% to 50% of business to custom pieces. San Marino is another story. “It’s a 1,500-square-foot jewel box within a shopping village.” Even during the pandemic, he reports healthy interest in both from his designer clientele. Leading him to envision more of these intimate shops throughout southern California.