When Elias entered her mother's business, she brought in more clothing. It's aimed at younger women, with form-fitting skirts and pants in contrast to one-size-fits-all skirts and ponchos. Though most items still come from the developing world, some are made in America, and recently she had a few pocketbooks for sale from China (though she generally doesn't like buying Chinese products because she can't easily monitor production conditions there). Last summer, she opened a new store in Lansing, called La Bodega, patterned after the warehouse. She'd like to open other stores.
Carved wooden Buddhas displayed on shelves and the sweet smells of jasmine and incense heighten Orchid Lane's exotic quality. But many customers shop for practical items. Elias welcomes the holiday season, because some of her best- sellers are winter accessories-wool, fleece-lined hats and mittens made in Nepal. A close second: reversible silk skirts made from recycled Indian saris.
A fiercely independent only child and Huron High grad, Elias attended college at Vanderbilt University, where she majored in math and computer science engineering. The school's old- fashioned traditions startled her.