Today we’d like to introduce you to Elisa Bruley.
Elisa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Fashion … shopping, rather, was in my DNA. My mother was a true bon vivant, and some of my most memorable experiences growing up were the times we spent shopping together. This was how we bonded. We would hit the department stores in Downtown LA on a monthly basis (back when department stores were first-rate) and spend hours together poking through every rack, searching for the best bargains and typically coming home with much more than we needed.
As a teenager, my best friend and I would spend our weekends at the Del Amo Mall in Torrance. Without Mom in tow, we didn’t have the resources to shop, but we did find ourselves fantasizing about opening our own boutique one day.
Cut to: womanhood. After pounding the pavement as an aspiring actress, and subsequently working uninspired 9-5-ish jobs in the entertainment industry, I decided to revisit my teenage fantasy in 1993 and dive head first into opening my own store. Old Pasadena seemed a natural choice, as the district was in the middle of a historic redevelopment project. I had also recently moved to Pasadena from the Westside and found the specialty boutique offerings quite scarce.
I knew, instinctively, that I would fill a well-needed niche, and without any retail experience (aside from shopping), I managed to cobble together a business plan, secure a loan and sign a lease at the newly-developed One Colorado, in the heart of Old Town Pasadena.
Along the way, I’ve opened (and closed) a second location at Santana Row in San Jose, closed my One Colorado location in 2014, created two pop-up stores, and re-opened on Holly Street in Old Pasadena in 2015. We recently launched our online store, and I’m thrilled to report that I’ll celebrate my 25th year in business this summer.
Has it been a smooth road?
You’re always on a bumpy road when you own your own business, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The challenges are not only what keep you up at night, but what motivates you to keep going and to forever be on your toes.
There are things you have little or no control over, i.e. the weather, the economy, election season, etc., then there’s the stuff that you DO have control over that you learn from, i.e. personnel issues, over or under-buying, dealing with difficult clients, security problems, etc. I can go on and on about these things, but one thing one I’ve learned over the years is that it all works itself out.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Elisa B. story. Tell us more about the business.
We carry curated contemporary women’s fashion from brands such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang. ALC, Helmut Lang, Milly, Opening Ceremony and Tibi.
Our customer service is what I’m most proud of. I believe it’s what sets us apart from the others (and what I hope we’re known for). I place a high premium on my staff adhering to our customer service standards, which are set in stone!
I also believe we’re known for our merchandise mix. I do all of the buying for the store, and I find so much excitement and inspiration in that part of my job (shopping!). I think our customers respond well to my sensibilities, along with my ability to respond to their needs.
Oh, and our events! We’re definitely known for our in-store events and parties. Some of the most memorable: Camp Shopalot, Cinco de Buy-O, 50 Shades of Black Friday, Ho-Ho-Ho-Chella, and the Hear our Vote Women’s March event, to name but a few.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Oh, god — this is where I get flummoxed! Ok, well I have FINALLY responded to the shift towards online shopping.
As a tried and true brick and mortar retailer, I didn’t feel I had and online store in me. But the need to stay relevant kept pushing me in that direction. It all came together when a former employee recently came back to work for me.
Since she left Elisa B. 10 years ago, she honed her skills in the web industry and was able to apply her craft to our revamped website and E-shop. It’s been a true labor of love for her and a real learning experience for me, and, while this whole .com thing is still so perplexing for me, I’m incredibly grateful for her help and encouragement.
Another big shift and one that I’ve wholeheartedly embraced is social media — Instagram, in particular. It’s an exceptional marketing tool and an absolute necessity in this day and age.
- Address: 16 E. Holly Street Pasadena, CA 91103
- Website: elisab.com
- Phone: 626-397-4770
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @MyElisaB
- Facebook: Facebook.com/MyElisaB
- Twitter: @ElisaBPasadena
- Yelp: Elisa B