Trio of family-owned fashion boutiques thrive
ENAZ in Highland Park is 23-years old this month
by Tina Johansson
If not for some scraps of leather Steven Lurie brought home from work several decades ago, the ENAZ women’s clothing boutiques may not have come to fruition.
Started in 1993 by Susan Lurie, the flagship store in downtown Highland Park marks 23 years this month. The others are located in Northfield which opened six years ago, and Libertyville which has been around slightly more than two years.
There are 18 employees for the stores, taking turns working in each of them, getting to know the clientele and the merchandise.
The boutique’s moniker is an acronym for Energy, Nature, Attitude and Zest for Life. The second oldest daughter of the Luries, Lena Blitstein, who is buyer and head of marketing for ENAZ, likes to say that her mom took the letters of her name and jumbled them around, adding a “Z” at the end. “She has two other daughters so she couldn’t use my actual name for the store, but this way it was OK. And what the letters stand for, is what we represent.”
How it started
“My dad works in the textile industry, and in the 80s and 90s he’d sometimes bring home large samples of leather. My mom would make things with them: handbags, wrap belts, key chains,” said Blitstein of Chicago. “When going out, she’d often get stopped by people asking where she got her beautiful belt or handbag. She’d tell them she made it.”
Because of the compliments on her creations, Mrs. Lurie began selling things from home and at local art fairs. “She had the western vibe going on,” said Blitstein. She loved her cowboy boots and she made stools with cowhide on them. She sold T-shirts and candles—everything she loved.”
The Evolution of ENAZ
Soon Lurie opened a 500-square-foot leather-working studio, across from the family’s house in Highland Park.
It wasn’t long before she realized the need for more space. Lurie leased a larger spot in an old movie theatre in downtown Highland Park in which she combined two storefronts, forming a unique horseshoe shape. The store remains here in the fashionable shopping district at 444 Central Avenue.
When going out, she’d often get stopped by people asking where she got her beautiful belt or handbag. She’d tell them she made it.” – Lena Blitstein on her mother Susan Lurie, founder of ENAZ fashion boutiques
A family affair
Working with the founder-mother of the business are daughters Melinda Kaplan, 45; Blitstein, 38; and Samantha Shapiro, 37. Each are co-owners, and each brings their own unique fashion flair.
“At Northfield and Libertyville, our mom made all of the major decision and helped with the design layout,” said Blitstein. “But we’ve taken over her legacy.”
Kaplan, of Lake Forest, is a former school teacher. Having worked with her mother’s business for close to two decades, she is director of operations and CFO.
Younger sisters Blitstein and Shapiro previously worked together in the fashion industry in Los Angeles. Blitstein is now buyer and head of marketing for ENAZ, while Shapiro is also a buyer and merchandiser for the family business.
Shapiro takes pride in the displays at all three shops. “When you walk into our stores you see carefully chosen pieces on clean and organized racks and mannequins with the season’s hottest looks,” she said.
Each of them mothers, the sisters work hard juggling their jobs and families. “We are very independent, career-driven women and we got it from our mom who started the business,” said Blitstein.
Since working with their mother, the sisters have helped grow the business. “When we came on board we wanted to broaden the merchandise,” said Blitstein.
The unique wardrobe pieces at ENAZ are stylish, and some are also classic. “My sisters and I love fashion and we try to bring special things you can’t find anywhere else. We stick to what feels right for us. Sometimes it’s not the trendy stuff, because as you know, trends come and go, but it’s what feels good on our bodies,” said Blitstein.
Kaplan stated that customer-service is key, and ENAZ is much more than just a store. “We listen carefully to the personal and professional fashion needs of our clients and make sure they go home confident in their selection,” she said. “We truly care about how they look and feel in their different environments.”
Each store offers distinctive items for that particular customer-base, yet some of the clients cross-over, shopping at each of the ENAZ locations.
“It’s always been a mother/daughter environment,” said Blitstein. “I think that’s a really beautiful thing because that’s how we grew up—we shopped with our mother. We’ve even had grandmothers come in with their grandchildren.”
After working with her sister in L.A., Blitstein moved to New York where she continued in the field, working for Suzanne Lerner, fashion icon and president of Michael Stars. Recently she saw her mentor again while on her annual New York Fashion Week buying trip. She worked with Lerner for five years while in New York, and calls her “an extremely brilliant businesswoman.”
Besides coming back with some of the hottest fashions, including those from Michael Stars, Blitstein said she brought with her a greater appreciation of Lerner’s contributions to the industry.
Though it seems far in advance, Blitstein and Shapiro’s haul is for the fall season. The items for later this year feature ‘70s-style including lace up details, burnt oranges and browns, a continuance of the fringe accents, flared bottom pants and skinny jeans. Some of the lines purchased include BB Dakota, Cupcakes & Cashmere, Dylan Clothing, and Greylin. The store also has denim by Canadian-based company Dex Clothing, for sale under $100.
Shapiro said the shopping trips to New York are a lot of work, but doing so “makes every upcoming season so fresh and exciting.”
Bling is the thing
The ENAZ stores are known for its jewelry and accessories.
In fact the boutiques were recently named by a North Shore publication for selling the best accessories in the area.
“It’s evolved into a crazy phenomenon. One side of store is all jewelry,” said Blitstein. Ninety percent of it is made by local artisans, and the price-points are broad. “You can get a $20 blessing bracelet, to a $2,800 diamond necklace. A lot of women send their husbands or boyfriends in to have them get something on their wish lists.”
Another popular addition to ENAZ is a custom spa bar at the stores, where customers can mix their own lotions and oils. “People will call in or order online because they are addicted to a certain scent,” said Blitstein.
ENAZ on the Park is at 111 W. Church St. in Libertyville, 847.680.1111; ENAZ for Life is at Happ Rd. in Northfield, 847.446.5551; and ENAZ is at 444 Central Ave. Highland Park, 847.433.6466 or visit www.enaz.com.