Many small businesses don’t make it past the first year, and many families don’t make it past the first course of a holiday meal without breaking into an argument. So how has the ENAZ clothing boutique in Highland Park thrived for 22 years with a mother and three daughters at the helm?
“The beauty is that we spend so much time outside of the store together. As much as we fight like sisters, we love like sisters too,” said Lena Blitstein, whose mother, Susan Lurie, founded the store in 1993.
While their mother is still an owner who oversees the business, Lena and her two sisters, Melinda Kaplan and Samantha Shapiro, continue to run the Highland Park store as well as ENAZ for Life in Northfield and ENAZ on the Park in Libertyville. ENAZ stands for Energy, Nature, Attitude, and Zest for life, and the women select clothing, jewelry, and spa items that reflect those ideals.
“It’s truly a mother-daughter store. We have an older clientele, but also cater to women in their 30s and 40s, because that’s who we are,” said Samantha. As a specialty store, they prefer mixing in unique merchandise rather than carrying only name brands.
They test merchandise in Highland Park, and then bring successful items to their other locations. ENAZ has 18 employees who all work in each of the three stores. They cross-promote and know the inventory in every store.
The sisters share a mutual loyalty with their staff. “The employees are all moms, and we all cover for each other,” said Lena. “There’s no difference between being an owner or an employee, because we’re all in it together,” added Melinda.
Some of the new trends for fall are fringe and high-waisted flared jeans with shorter tops. ENAZ will also carry “pieced together layered tops” which are collared shirts with a sweater sewn over it. “You get the career girl, girl who wants to look polished and the preppy girl,” said Samantha
The sisters are also proud of their bi-annual jewelry warehouse sale where 90% of the jewelry is from local artists. The next warehouse sale is scheduled for January.
Melinda is the CFO and handles the invoices, Samantha does visuals and merchandising, and Lena does advertising and promotion. Both Samantha and Lena are in charge of the buying in New York and LA
“Being sisters we’re very different, but it actually works in this environment, because we all have separate responsibilities, so we can work in harmony for the most part,” said Lena.
Melinda, the official “tie-breaker” of the family, said it best, “We’re all working toward the same goal, since it’s our mother’s legacy.”
Their mom started the business out of her house. She made leather handbags, wrap belts and pillows, and her daughters would help sell at art fairs. When they were about eight years old, Samantha and Lena set up their own little table and sold hair bows and pins that they made themselves.
The store opened in 1993, and Melinda started working there one year later after she graduated from college. Samantha and Lena also helped out by walking over to the store after school in junior high.
The sisters are appreciative of all that their mother has done for them, but they haven’t always taken her advice. When Lena was nine months pregnant with her first child, she attended the Style Max show at the Chicago Merchandise Mart. Her mom warned, “If you go to the show, you’re going to have this baby today.” Lena went anyway, and several hours later her water broke.
Lena explained, “We lined the seat of the cab with paper towels, and raced to the hospital. I barely had time for an epidural, because the baby was born so fast which was very unusual for a first child.”
Melinda, Samantha and Lena all have daughters, and hope that one day they’ll take over the family business.