After meeting soon-to-be business partner Christian Petronelli in Ohio, Liz Sontag packed it up and moved back to her native state of California. There, in 2011, she and Petrnoelli decided to open a clothing boutique named Elison Rd. With that, they figured they’d merge their two talents: Sontag’s penchant for fashion and practicing attorney Petronelli’s legal expertise. The two fell in love with the quaint, seaside town of Seal Beach and its supportive clientele. Just two years later, they opened their second store in the equally charming coastal town of Long Beach’s Belmont Shore. We caught up with Sontag at the original Edison Rd. location in Seal Beach and spoke to her about Elison Rd.’s clothing and philosophy. Interview by Rebecca Paiement

Interior of Edison Rd.
Interior of Edison Rd.
What is your background in the industry?
I started working in the retail field when I was 16. I worked at Gap for eight years and got some amazing training in all aspects of running the store, most specifically in visual merchandising, which I loved. I then moved on to Aerie by American Eagle where I helped open up one of their first stores in the Ohio area. During this time I got to work with an amazing district manager and because the company was so new I had a chance to work with their buyers and really enjoyed giving feedback and playing an active role in choosing merchandise that would be carried in the stores. Without knowing it, all of my hands-on experience gained at both of these companies prepared me for the future opening of my own store.

Who is your typical customer?
I would say our typical customer ranges from a student looking for a cute, everyday wardrobe without spending too much to a mother that wants to be comfortable while still staying trendy, and everyone in between. But we even get grandmothers that shop regularly at our store.

sales associate Alexis Bach
sales associate Alexis Bach
What is your buying philosophy? How do you find and choose the apparel? Trade shows? Showroom visits? Please explain.
My buying philosophy is to find clothing and accessories that are comfortable, trendy and well made but that I can offer at a reasonable price. I use many avenues when choosing merchandise for the store.
We started off exploring the trade shows, still visit tons of different showrooms and I am always researching companies online.
Now, after being established for over three years, we are starting to get approached by multiple apparel and accessories companies that would like us to carry their lines in our stores.
I love the challenge of finding merchandise that looks and feels expensive but that will be affordable. Most of our clothing is under $45.

What is selling best right now?
Right now, our best sellers are tops that can be dressed up or down. Rompers and jumpsuits were a huge hit this summer. Kimonos seem to be a popular item for all ages. And people are really rocking the bells this year.

What do you feel will be your strongest seller going into fall?
In addition to bell-bottoms, people are still asking for boyfriend jeans, funky overalls and it looks like those slouchy sweaters are still going strong.

window display
window display
What is the future for your store? Do you see even more locations than what you have now?
For right now we are content with our two busy locations. We might pursue a third location down the road but want to focus on our online store because of the overwhelming demand from all of our out of town customers that discovered us while visiting California.

What are some of your favorite brands at the store?
Some of my favorite things that we carry are 31 Bits Jewelry that is made by women in Uganda out of recycled paper. I also really love our Cleobella Bags. They are designed by a woman in Seal Beach, Angela O’Brien, and are blowing up right now. We also carry Montane Designs Soy Candles and I love The Birthday Cake Scent. It has sprinkles on the top and makes me hungry every time someone opens it.

What else should our readers know about your store?
That we have a wonderful group of young woman who work for us that make it possible to juggle two stores successfully and who allow me to focus on providing a nice collection of affordable, trendy clothing and accessories. I couldn’t do it all with out the help of my amazing staff.  In addition we are proud to give back to the community that embraced us and given us so much. I am currently a member of the Board of Directors on our local Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce and honored to have just been voted “Seal Beach Business Woman of the Year” by the Chamber members. I am also a member of the Seal Beach Lions Club and make a point of donating whenever we can to the many amazing charities and fundraisers that make these communities so great.

Elison Rd.
211 1/2 Main Street
Seal Beach, California 90740
phone: (562) 296-8022