Elizabeth King’s passion for parties prompted her to shift from a career in advertising to catering, but her big dream was to own a restaurant. That came true in 1994, when she opened Kings’ Carriage House in a charming two-story building on East 82nd Street. The décor was as important as the food to King. “My inspiration was to recreate a manor house-style restaurant furnished to feel like a private home,” she says. She imported many of the tabletop linens from England and Ireland and, due to demand, began to offer collectible teapots, silver serving pieces and Irish linens for retail. She soon expanded to paintings and prints, small pieces of furniture and lots of blue and white platters and wares. Ten years later, in 2004, King opened The Linen Shop in New Canaan, CT, where she sells many of these fine linens and accessories.
How did you transition from one career to the next? I’ve done many things but, looking back, one can see how they are all related and have helped build my strong visual repertoire. I have a fine arts education. Out of college I started in advertising, but all the while I loved entertaining and was a passionate hostess, creating unexpected occasions to throw parties. Then my guests started to ask me to do their events—big and small, social and corporate—and without realizing it, I had launched a catering business. In my daily life, food, flowers and festivities are always intersecting with décor and design.
Who has been your most influential role model or mentor? I would have to say it’s my mother who was able to fit so much into every day, juggling a professional career with the endless responsibilities of raising five busy daughters and made it look so easy. Only now, as a mother myself, can I appreciate the depth of what she was able to do, and I am so grateful that she propelled each of us to achieve. She led by example and instilled in us to see opportunities, not obstacles.
What has been the best business advice you’ve ever received? If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. Surround yourself with great people. That’s just what I do and I am so lucky to have such a loyal staff. At KCH, we have people at all ranks who are still with me since the day we opened over 23 years ago, and the rest have been there more than 10 years each. The same is true at TLS. We have a great team with long tenure.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it? Balancing a busy life that comes with running two businesses and being a mother—and I can’t say that I have mastered this yet.