It’s still business as usual for Michaelle Graybeal, owner of All That JAS in downtown Elon, but it won’t be for long. As she celebrates 20 years in business, she is also preparing to celebrate her upcoming retirement.
“It went right away to tell you the truth,” Graybeal said.
Since opening, the store has moved locations three times and changed its inventory all the time. Everything JAS started in Graybeal’s basement before moving to downtown Burlington. It moved to the Faucette House on East Trollinger Avenue before finding its most recent home in the downtown Elon location, where it has been for more than 10 years.
The idea for the name came from the original location, which sold fan uniforms. The women who worked there encouraged Graybeal to start making clothes for society.
We were like, ‘Well, what are we going to name it?’ because my fandom was jumping and screaming — JAS,” Graybeal said. “So then we were like, ‘Well, okay, it could mean joining a group of friends, jewelry, accessories, shirts. It could be anything , so we ended up with All That JAS.”
Graybeal said she wanted to retire so she could spend more time with her four grandchildren and her family in High Point. But she didn’t have to look far to find her replacement. The new owner is Kaitlyn Brooks, a family friend and former Graybeal employee. The two reconnected last year through family and friends.
“I just wanted to go back to my hometown,” Brooks said. “I wanted to be part of the community. I wanted to be involved on that kind of level, and so it’s very different from what I was doing before.”
Growing up, Brooks lived near Graybeal. She went to high school with Graybeal’s son and worked at All That JAS when she would come home for college breaks. A former attorney who practiced criminal law, Brooks recently moved to Elon from Apex, North Carolina. She wanted to pursue a career that was more convenient for her family and to have more time to do activities such as picking up the children from school each day.
One of the first tasks Brooks is taking on is renovating the store. From new paint and shelving to a new register and inventory, Brooks is making the gift and clothing store her own. Graybeal said she was excited that Brooks wanted to change the yellow walls in the store. It’s something Graybeal has wanted to do for years.
“I still feel like we still have a lot of good things to offer, but I was looking for someone who could continue what we’ve been doing for 20 years and take it to the next level,” Graybeal said. “I think Kaitlyn is definitely that person.”
Brooks said some of her favorite products in the store right now are the colorful bags with customizable patches and their selection of earrings. Customers can choose letters, symbols or emojis to make it their own.
“It’s a lot more fun and lively than what I was doing before,” Brooks said. “I think it suits my personality. I’m excited to be a part of the community.”
Being a small business owner allows Brooks to work in a career that is still fast-paced, but not as high-stress as what she did before. Making samples for showcases is how Brooks likes to show customers what’s possible.
All employees remain on staff at All That JAS during and after the transfer of ownership. Brooks said she’s enjoyed getting to know them so far. According to Graybeal, most of the staff have been with him for at least 10 years. There is no set date for Graybeal’s retirement, and she said she is always thinking of new tips and things to remind Brooks of.
“It’s that every moment of the day is worth 20 years of stuff in this brain,” Graybeal said.
Graybeal said an Elon intern worked with employees this summer to create a manual for inventory, accounting, customer service and other departments so all employees know how to do each other’s jobs.
“I have to keep doing something on a daily basis anyway, so it’s nice to still be here and be able to help,” Graybeal said.
Graybeal said one of the aspects of running a small business he will miss most is the ability to jump on trends as quickly as they develop. She said 90% of their business used to be letter shirts for sororities and fraternities, but now, no one knows what a letter shirt is.
“It’s nice to be able to change at a moment’s notice, which you can when you’re a small business,” Graybeal said. “You wear a million hats and you have to learn to do all these different things.”
As the new academic year and a new recruiting season begins, Graybeal encourages students and community members to come to the store to support Brooks and see the changes. She said that regardless of academic year, Greek affiliation or age, there is something for everyone.
Graybeal said she and her staff follow up with student workers and community members, and that’s something she will continue to do after she retires.
“We can see what they’ve done in their lives and their children,” Graybeal said. “I mean, 20 years, these kids have kids going to high school, some of them, and it’s exciting to see where my people have ended up and what kind of work they’ve done and what their lives look like, how as well as mine.”