In June 2008, Jan Polach and her daughter Alex opened their store Zēlaz to provide age appropriate clothing and accessories to tween and teen girls.
First located in Ridgedale Center, Zēlaz settled in Excelsior 15 months ago.
“Excelsior is very welcoming to small businesses,” Polach said.
Zēlaz was born out of their frustration with finding clothing that wasn’t too old for younger girls like Alex at the time. The high volume, big stores didn’t have many appropriate options available, Jan said.
Alex, who will be a senior at St. Louis Park High School in the fall, and her mother are business partners who go to market together to choose the merchandise for their store.
“Our sweet spot is sixth, seventh and eighth grade girls,” Jan said. “We offer girls’ clothing from size 10-14 and junior sizes.”
She said some mothers also find that clothing available at Zēlaz works for them too.
“After we opened, we realized we had a market for small women too,” Polach said.
With a tagline of “Express your inner beauty through your outer fabulousity,” Zēlaz encourages girls to celebrate their individual style with comfort and confidence.
“My girls love the clothes at Zēlaz because they are hip and unique,” Heather Walker of Minnetonka said. “Being on the short side, they are unable at times to fit into the clothes that are more grown up, and the store offers them in the perfect sizes and the quality is very good.”
After seeing results from a similar survey in More magazine, Polach sent a survey to her customers in the spring of 2011.
While More magazine asked “how old is too old,” Polach asked "how young is too young" for wearing various clothing popular among the tween and teens.
Not surprisingly, the 75 responses she received varied according to who completed the survey.
Daughters felt they should be allowed to wear miniskirts, bikinis, and short shorts at age 12. However, moms felt the age should be age 13 and fathers opted for age 15.
“What was interesting to me was the difference in responses between moms, dads, and daughters,” Polach said.
Polach offers seminars to help with these important conversations and decisions. She has done in-store workshops, as well as community education programs, visits to churches and schools and she even sat in on a mother-daughter book club meeting.
She added that group settings allow frank and important conversations to take place before the shopping trip. Polach said the key question is what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.
“It’s a tough conversation for moms and daughters to have,” Polach said. “Moms have to say ‘no’ and they must set limits.”
The brands offered at Zēlaz include Hazel, M. Rena, Mine, Gypsy Girl, It Jeans, Anoname Jeans and more. Zēlaz sells casual clothing for every day, as well as for special occasions like homecoming and other school dances.
Zēlaz helps schools and other community groups with their fundraising efforts, sponsoring fashion shows using the students or girls in the group as models. A percentage of sales at the events are donated back to the school or group.
The store also gives 5 percent of their revenues to charities that help young girls. Over the years, they have given new merchandise to several organizations in the Twin Cities.
For more information about Zēlaz, visit www.zelaz.com.