Fashion is in Elisa Bruley’s DNA. As a child, she raided her mother’s closet and played dress-up. One Halloween, she wore her mom’s clothes, jewelry and make-up and went trick-or-treating as “a lady.”
A California native, Elisa lived in San Pedro and Harbor City, but recalls spending her formative years at the huge Del Amo Mall. She and her two best friends haunted the hippest stores and dreamed of opening their own shop one day.
“Our initial concept was a boutique called ‘Hello, I Love You,’ after The Doors song. We would carry cool clothes for both guys and girls.”
Elisa also power shopped with her mother. The duo would hit the month-end sales at Robinson’s, Bullock’s and other upscale stores and if Mrs. Bruley couldn’t find what she wanted for the right price, she went home and pulled out her trusty sewing machine.
“My mom was an incredible seamstress. She could examine a dress or suit in a store, then recreate it at home. She sewed for me, too. I had some incredible Easter dresses!,” says Elisa. “She was also a great cook and pianist, and she had a knack for making everything look, taste and sound absolutely perfect.”
Still, Mrs. Bruley’s little darling didn’t make a beeline for a fashion career. She studied theatre, dance and art history before pounding the pavement as an actress and ultimately landing an administrative job at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1988, she went on to work for an entertainment public relations agency, where her clients included Le Cirque du Soleil, the Pasadena Playhouse and the Los Angeles Festival.
In July 1993, she opened Elisa B. in Old Pasadena. Running a store is an all-encompassing pursuit, but she did find time for romance. In 2005, she married location scout Bob Bonk—and not just because his last name begins with “B.” Or because he serves as the unofficial store photographer.
Today, Elisa continues to keep track of trends and look for emerging designers on both coasts. She stays in touch with her customers through Twitter and Facebook. And, of course, the store email list!