Adelaide Elliott had no idea that a lunch at Wyatt’s Cafeteria and a rainy night of wheeling racks of clothes down the street would turn into a career that’s lasted 25 years.
She was working as a librarian at McCulloch Intermediate School when Irene Mylan, owner of the Clothes Circuit, took her on what they now call their “recruitment lunch.”
“She had asked me to work [for her] two or three times, and I said no,” Elliott recalled.
At the time, her involvement with the shop was strictly as a customer. But her two sons, both Highland Park High School graduates, were attending school at Rice University — her own alma mater — and she was sending money along to help them out, as many moms do.
She just happened to be in the shop the night Mylan was moving to a new location in Preston Center.
“She helped us roll racks, because it had started to rain,” Mylan said. “And that’s in her nature, to just be helpful.”
That experience, plus the need for extra money, sealed the deal for Elliott, and she came on board. In her mind, the store’s social connections are just as important as the inventory, if not more so.
“Many people come in two or three times a week, and you know people’s names,” she said. “It’s like a family.”
But of course, the merchandise part isn’t so bad either.
“I’ve always liked pretty clothes and kind of escaping into fantasy land [with them],” she said.
Though she didn’t have previous experience, it didn’t take long for Elliott to develop her eye for retail.
“She has a real appreciation for fine leather goods and designer jewelry,” Mylan said. “She sort of looks at pieces that come in and has an immediate imagining of who would like it.”
The shop has been in existence for 30 years. With a total staff of 21 people, Elliott manages a dozen employees. Her official anniversary with the shop will hit on Dec. 8.
Mylan has even distributed a flier celebrating her recruit’s accomplishment. But to Elliott, her success has been the result of natural instinct.
“You know what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling, and it’s just a lady thing,” she said of her customers. “Clothes and socialization are important to women.”