Greenville — Nestled among the tree-lined lot in a historic home is one of the city’s most unique small businesses.
Lina’s Interiors Inc., founded in 1953, has been a mainstay of interior decorating options for many in the Mississippi Delta. But the business has another side that many don’t know about.
Besides selling and stocking home interior products such as English antiques and accessories along with other specialty, high-end gift items such as hand-painted ceramics, Lina’s also handles a wholesale business of selling handmade tassels, as well as ones designed by store co-owner Cary Carlson.
Carlson, along with his co-owner sister Patty Gibbs took over the business in March 2005 when their mother, Lina, passed on.
Lina started the business in 1953. She was one of the first female business owners, not only in the Greenville area, but also in the Mississippi Delta.
“She was such a pioneer and businesswoman,” said Cary Carlson. “She started in the paint and drapery business with a small storefront on Main Street. Then she moved to another location and now we’re here again on South Main Street. So we really haven’t moved too far.”
Cary started in the business in 1977 after graduating from college with a business degree. He planned to work a little while and then move on to something else. Now, 33 years later, he’s still going strong designing tassels, traveling to Italy, Hong Kong, India and other exotic locales to interact with manufacturers of Lina’s specially-designed tassels.
Sister Patty started in 1969 and has been there ever since providing custom, hands-on service to customers as well as handling various trade shows each year around the country where Lina’s special antiques and ceramics are on display.
And what started as a $300 investment in tassels and fringes with a manufacturer in Florence, Italy, years ago, has now blossomed into a home grown business with a name and reputation not only in the United States but around the world.
Now Lina’s tassels, fringes and metallic ropes from Chenille blend and jute to viscose and rayon can be found on draperies, pillows, chair ties, window treatments fringe with interior designers all over the place. Interior designers from some of America’s most prestigious design studios who have handled design work from major corporations to some of the rich and famous, have used Lina’s products in their finished designs
“We started selling to other antique dealers around the country, and word got around about what we had to offer with our business in Greenville, Miss.,” said Carlson. “But the tassels are a major part of our business. We sell a sample kit, which is available at design stores and with architects and designers.”
In fact, 60% to 65% of Lina’s business comes from the wholesale selling of tassels
Much of the work with tassels is done in a building next door to the main store where workers handle hundreds of orders and stock and store hundreds of tassel bolts and fabrics for draperies, chairs, pillows and window treatments. Along with that facility, Lina’s also has another storage and work facility on Raceway Road in Greenville.
“We were fortunate to buy some property next door in another old house that we’ve fitted to suit our needs. It saves us a lot of time and money to have this place so close with workers next door,” Carlson said.
But Carlson wasn’t trained as a designer let alone know how to design or make tassels.
“I just learned along the way. I listened to the customer and figured out what it was they wanted. Over time I was able to create and design what we wanted and then took the designs to manufacturers. So I do what I have to do to please the customer with my design work. You don’t just walk over and find it on the shelf. I have to work it up for the customer,” he said.
Carlson said, “I don’t copy what others are doing. Instead, I like to improve on it and add my own style. I see what the market place is looking for and see what’s different.”
Right now the company focuses on businesses from Texas to New York and along the East Coast.
“We don’t do much out West right now,” he said.
And operating in Greenville is just fine with Carlson and his workers.
“I wouldn’t want to be in a larger city or bigger market. I can always go there if I want to. It’s fine in Greenville. We own our property and we’ve been blessed with a wonderful client base. We have many loyal customers,” he said.
“I try to develop a new product. Nothing really stays the same. I just like creating new products to please our customers. I like seeing the creativity of whatever people see and do. I enjoy working with people. That’s what makes this job and business meaningful,” Carlson said.
Lina’s Interiors’ products can be found at such national gift expositions as the Atlanta Gift Show, Gift Mart in High Point, N.C., Las Vegas Interior Lifestyle booth at the Convention Center and at the Dallas Gift Mart.
Contact MBJ contributing writer David Lush at firstname.lastname@example.org.