Boutique owner goes from foster home to fashion

Buffalo Next

Noelle Wellington overcomes obstacles to open a clothing boutique, Queenz

Noelle Wellington entered the foster care system at the age of 2 and did not leave until the age of nearly two decades later.

“People used to tell me I’d be nothing, or be on drugs like my mom, and stuff like that,” she said. “So my ambition and determination has always been through the roof.”

Noelle Wellington, owner of Queenz

Noelle Wellington poses for a portrait in her Queenz store.

Joseph Cooke/Buffalo News

Coming out of the foster care system means making the difficult transition to adulthood without a support system — often after a lifetime of trauma — and all the statistics were against it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ advisory group. Half of the foster children who come out of the system become drug addicts. A quarter will not have a high school diploma or GED. And more than one in five will end up homeless.

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Wellington made a conscious decision not to go to college because she wanted to avoid debt. She was also entrepreneurial and loved to work. She often worked 80 to 90 hours a week between retail jobs and home health care.

Noelle Wellington, owner of Queenz

Noelle Wellington inspects a coat in her store.

Joseph Cooke/Buffalo News

Then, at age 25, she had a car accident. Two years later, she received cash as part of a settlement and put every penny into opening her own clothing store called Queenz at 2577 Bailey Ave.

“I never really had clothes growing up. I used to go into my closet and pray over my clothes and say, ‘God, please multiply them,'” she said. “And then, years later, I have a clothing store.”

Sadly, that year was 2019, which meant Covid-19 was right around the corner. Wellington had to close the store, but was still responsible for rent and other bills. She stuck to her e-commerce operations and built a clientele.

Earlier this month, she reopened the brick-and-mortar Queenz boutique. It sells men’s and women’s clothing, women’s lingerie and accessories such as handbags.

She acknowledges that the road to get where she is has been difficult and there may be more bumps to come. But she also believes that owning a clothing store is nothing short of a miracle.

“It was a dream come true, and I have to give all my credit to God,” she said.

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Slow hiring in the Buffalo Niagara region is due to a shortage of workersand local officials are beginning to look for ways to alleviate the crisis.

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Five reads from Buffalo Next:

1. Bounce Back for Buffalo Niagara’s Economy: The value of all goods and services produced in the region, which had fallen by 3.4% during the pandemic, came back strong last year, with a gain of 5.3%.

2. The bills make me want to shop: How Buffalo Bills merchandise is one of the hottest local gift items this holiday season.

3. How Higher Education Institutions in Western New York Recovering from Covid-19? Enrollment in some local schools is holding up, but others are struggling to attract students.

4. New life for old stones: How a Buffalo company is finding new uses for old bricks and stones in construction projects.

5. Big changes are proposed for state energy marketsand it could change the way residents heat their homes and cook their food for years to come.

The Buffalo Next team gives you insight into the economic revitalization of the region. Email tips to [email protected] or contact Associate Business Editor David Robinson at 716-849-4435.

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