Faces of Duluth: Sarah Herrick-Smíšek

Faces of Duluth tells the stories of the people behind Duluth’s iconic attractions, hidden gems and everything in between. Traveling to Duluth? Learn the locals’ tips and tricks for seeing all the city has to offer.

We heard putting on a DLH hoodie feels like being wrapped in a warm hug. So we sat down with the founder and owner of DLH Clothing to hear about how she got started, the meaning behind the iconic logo and what shoppers can expect when they walk in the doors this holiday season.

What’s your Duluth story?

I was born and raised here in Duluth and was involved in the community from a young age. When I was in high school, I served on both the Duluth Youth Advisory Board and the United Way Youth Board (neither of which are still in existence), which helped me foster citywide relationships. A few decades later, those experiences still come into play for me.

I do have to admit that I spent about a total of four years outside of the area to see what was beyond this hillside city, but nothing ever quite felt like home. I’m so incredibly happy to be raising my family here, with the bonus of having grandparents only 10 minutes away. 

What’s the inspiration behind DLH Clothing?

The inspiration came from the love that my husband, Mike, and I have for this area and the desire to create a way for people to show their Duluth pride with designs that didn’t look too touristy or gimmicky. At the time we started discussing this idea, I had been booking a lot of travel for work, and I had the airport code (DLH) stuck in my head, so I suggested the name DLH Clothing. Mike immediately started sketching up logo ideas and one of the very first iterations is what we chose.

The logo isn’t just three letters connected to Lake Superior though. The slants at the top of the letters are the buildings on the hillside that lead you down to the lake, while the angle at which the full logo is pointed represents the entire Arrowhead region.

When did you first open DLH Clothing?

We started online in October 2014 and soon after started popping up around town. We offered local pickup long before it was a common offering, but because we didn’t have a dedicated space when we started, I would meet up with customers all throughout town. It wasn’t the most efficient, but I remember every interaction I had with every customer, and it never felt inconvenient.

We offered our first VERY small shoppable space during the holiday season in 2016 above the Electric Fetus, expanding our space a few times, until 2019 when we moved to our current location in Lincoln Park. We also still have an online store, so even if you can’t get to Duluth, you can still cozy up in our gear.

What made you choose Lincoln Park for your storefront?

We were watching the growth of the neighborhood and already had a small footprint there, both from pop-ups we had done at Bent Paddle and a partnership we had with Frost River. We took a big leap when we heard of a space that was becoming available, knowing that the Lincoln Park Craft District was the perfect fit for us.

Nine months after we opened our doors in Lincoln Park, Covid had us temporarily closing them. But the way businesses showed up for each other in the neighborhood was truly amazing. This neighborhood is what it means to be a part of a community, and there is just so much dang heart.

What is a typical day like for you running your own small business?

Every day is different, but holds similar tasks: Communicating with my team, planning social media posts, sourcing products, working with makers and artists, fostering community relationships and collaborations, and a long list of mundane/unglamorous tasks that are just status quo when owning a small business. When I’m in the shop, no job beats getting to talk to customers. The conversations I have throughout a day are my favorite thing to talk about when I get home.

When I’m able to take my DLH hat off, I provide some behind the scenes support to our other business, Šek Design Studio as well.

Holiday shopping is here! What can visitors expect when they walk in your door? Do you have any seasonal specials?

Yes, it is officially the holiday season, and our shop is all dressed up and stocked up for it! We welcome everyone from furry four-legged friends to sugar-crazed kids that just left Love Creamery. Parents – we have a small kid’s area to keep the little ones occupied while you look around. Not a shopper? That’s ok! Take a break in one of our cozy chairs around the shop – that’s what they’re there for!

DLH Clothing has so much to offer. What goodies can shoppers find in your store?

We have a large selection of items from local makers and artists including artwork, jewelry, home goods, chocolates, teas and so much more! Top items lately have been our DLH x North Shore or Nowhere mugs, Mayana Mini Chocolate Bars, Tis the Damn Season Candle and artwork from Schaefer Design Co.

And of course our shelves are full of the soft, cozy DLH garments that we are known for, in sizes for the entire family. Pssst: We were once told that putting on a DLH hoodie felt like being wrapped in a warm hug!

What do you love about Duluth?

This is a tough one to narrow down, but always on top of my list is the lake. I’ll never stop being in awe of its vastness, beauty and strength. In the same vein, the access to trails and green spaces throughout the entire city is never lost on me.

I have always had such a sense of community here as well and feel so fortunate for the way it has evolved and changed throughout my life.

What are some of your favorite things to do in Duluth with guests from out of town?

Well, not to mention Lincoln Park again, but it’s seriously such a great spot to bring people. You can park once to enjoy shopping, drinking, eating, artwork and more. Plus, if you feel like hopping on a trail, dipping your toes in a creek or climbing on the infamous Elephant Rock, the actual Lincoln Park park offers all of that.

Chester Park is also a great spot to bring people as well – whether for hiking, a picnic or concerts in the summer. Plus, you can never go wrong with brunch at At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Café, which is nearby.

Posted on December 13, 2023