"You didn't attend class in sweats, and guys formally asked girls to attend football games with them-and we'd wear cocktail dresses," she remembers. The experience made her appreciate Ann Arbor all the more.
"I had to leave to realize that I wanted to come back," says Elias. "There's no place like it."
Though she had worked in the family business since she was fourteen, progressing from salesgirl to bookkeeper to buyer, running it herself wasn't originally part of her master plan.
"I sort of felt that people would look at it as a fallback for me. Like I wasn't able to cut it anywhere else," Elias says. But she liked the freedom the store gave her, and her inner entrepreneur emerged. She and her mom did have to make adjustments as co-owners. "A lot of times we fall into a pattern of 'mother-daughter,''' she says. "But my mother does trust my opinion."
And Elias-whose first name, Leif, means "heir"-likes keeping the business in the family. "I have a responsibility," she says, "not only to my parents but to my employees, the community, and the artisans we work with to keep the cycle going."