Biljana Abel, 40
CEO of the Equus Group
Eastlake is “a small but mighty city,” says Biljana Abel.
In November 1999, Abel immigrated to Eastlake from Germany as a Bosnian refugee with her family at the age of 18. The adjustments were plenty, but Abel describes a city with open arms.
“We felt almost like we went back home somewhere,” Abel says.
Eastlake’s Croatian residents eased the transition, but Abel remembers the personal touch of the broader community, too.
“Even, at the time, the mayor of Eastlake stopped by my uncle’s house where we first moved to say hello to us,” Abel says. “You would never receive something like that in a big city.”
When her mother’s tailor shop, Fashion in Style, opened in 2002, the mayor was also one of their first customers.
During her time as a student at North High School, Abel remembers her teachers, particularly Mickey Steigerwald, who helped her navigate applying for college.
“You wonder, Will I be able to go? Can I achieve my American dream?” Abel says. “[She was] a really great reason for me actually getting into college right after high school.”
When the pandemic hit, Abel’s mom kept the tailor shop open. Last April, Fashion in Style produced more than 2,000 masks — about 20% of which they donated to Lake County school districts. Community support made it possible.
“People came to buy masks to help pay for her business,” says Abel. “That was pretty incredible.”