Confidence comes from within...or underneath. That special Valentine's Day outfit might need a little something extra, and Antoinette Wade knows what it is. The secret to perfecting a woman’s outfit, especially that special occasion ensemble, is a good bra.
In 2007, the former computer programmer and longshorewoman stepped out on faith and opened at 328 Glenwood Ave. in Bloomfield. The shop has become a haven for plus-sized women in search for hard-to-find bra sizes and figure-flattering lingerie and other undergarments at reasonable prices. Yet the store also sells a variety sizes for smaller women as well.
“There just wasn’t a place to get plus-sized lingerie in the area,” Wade recalled. Her customers now come from many miles away; a number of South Orange residents are regulars.
Originally, Wade intended to open an online store, but opportunity and the right price came knocking when the previous owner of the storefront, who also sold lingerie, decided to sell the store.
“It hasn’t been easy and I’ve learned a lot about managing a business,” Wade said. “The things I’ve learned aren’t really taught and one day I just want to write a book telling people the real work that goes into a keeping a business afloat.”
In an effort to keep her business profitable in what has been a tough two years for many local retailers, Wade has increased her stock of traditional dancewear for adults and children, as well as praise wear or worship wear. Many churches, such as South Orange's own First Baptist Church, have performers who praise God through lyrical dance.
Wade has become a one-woman marketing machine, getting the word out through mailings, churches and local dance schools. Her strategy is working.
“The number of customers is growing because many of the local dance schools are reaching out to us now, and we are offering more liturgical dancewear,” Wade said. “Many of the praise dancers have to get their outfits specially ordered. It can be hard to find. But we have it and if we don’t, we can get it.”
Wade’s regular clients include Arts High School in Newark and Cicely Tyson School of Performing Arts in East Orange.
Wade added that she has stayed open in a tough economic climate because she offers more than lingerie. One customer chimed in, “they also offer friendly service and a good location.”
“Some people are not always in the mood to go the mall to get a good bra or Berkshire pantyhose. I really don’t worry about competition from other businesses,” Wade said. “It’s good to have something local.”
The store is also a family business. Wade’s mother works the register and her niece greets customers.
“They have good prices too and are personable," said one customer. "That’s why I keep coming back.”
To find out about prices and brands the store offers log on to Toni’s Lingerie and Accessories or call 973-743-3273.
This article originally ran in February 2011.