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‘You’re beautiful and you are enough:’ Our Neighbor Lotoshia Newman is the boss at Bosslady Boutique

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

When stepping into the Bosslady Boutique in downtown Pulaski, one is treated to a kaleidoscope of colorful outfits, nifty jewelry pieces and most notably the friendly and upbeat persona of the Bosslady herself, Lotoshia Newman.

“Welcome to the Bosslady Boutique,” she said with her trademark smile. Newman, who most people address as “Tasha,” has a way of making a person comfortable in her presence.

Newman reopened her storefront boutique at its new location on East Main right in the middle of a global pandemic.

“Business is great,” she said with confidence. “Even during the pandemic, business has still been great.”

Newman, who is from the Robinson Tract area of Pulaski County, had a strong sense of what she wanted to do from a young age.

“At the age of seven, I was gifted a cash register,” she recounted. “From there, I knew that I’d have my own store. I didn’t know if it was going to be a grocery store or boutique, but I was determined to be in business.”

Even so, fashion has long been her passion.

“I came from a very well dressed group of women. A lot of those women are still living and I dress them today. They dressed me when I was little and now I get to dress them,” said Newman.

Her dad, Isiah McClanahan, worked at the Radford Arsenal for 40 years before retiring. Martha, her mother, worked at Renfro, LewisGale and now in the school system.

“I know what it looks like to work,” she recounted. “That’s what I grew up seeing. My grandfather was in the Army and one thing he taught us from the beginning was to save for what you want. Nothing’s ever handed to you. So, I started a savings account when I was 10 years old. By age 12, I babysat people in my community. I actually mowed grass for two or three years before I was old enough to go work at Food City.”

Newman graduated from Pulaski County High School in 2005 and then attended New River Community College before matriculating to Radford University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with degrees in Accounting and Business Management.

She was offered a job at a local bank where she began as a teller, eventually working her way up to the loan department. Her degrees made working at a bank a natural choice but one experience in particular played a part in changing the direction of her future.

“I’ve been plus sized the majority of my life,” she said. “When I first started at the bank, I would travel to North Carolina just so I could find dress pants and a blazer in my size. My thought was, ‘Why can I not get this locally? Why are we traveling to another state?’”

She married Donald Newman in 2008. He worked for Norfolk Southern railroad and made a good income but was gone much of the time.

“I was driving to Atlanta every three weeks just to see my husband and then it could have been for only four hours at a time. We could have just sat down for dinner and his radio would go off and he’d say. ‘I gotta go!’” Newman recalled.

In 2010, their daughter Nevaeh Nichelle was born and in 2012, Newman decided to open an online boutique on eBay, specifically for plus sized women. Sales were brisk but she found that more and more of her customer base was from the local area. In 2014, she decided to open a storefront on West Main Street in Pulaski. She stayed at that location until 2018, when she opened a new store in the Memorial Square shopping plaza.

In the meantime, her husband Donald found work closer to home at the Pepsi plant in Wytheville, where he still works today.

Newman ran her shop until February 2020, when she found out she was pregnant with her second daughter, Nivea Nicole, who just turned eight months old.

She kept her online business going throughout her pregnancy but closed her physical address until this past October, when she decided to reopen her storefront at its present location of 53 E. Main Street in Pulaski.

Business has been brisk and Newman attributes part of her success to the fact that she can relate to her clientele.

“Me being plus size … it’s very easy for me to sell plus size,” she said. “Because I know the trials that you’re going to find in the fit. I might get it wrong 5% of the time but when you walk through that door, I can tell you what size you are. I can tell you what style is going to fit your body shape. I grew up with full size women and I’ve been everything from a 14 to a 32, so I’ve dressed myself and I’ve dressed myself well being every size.”

“It’s not necessarily about you coming in here and making a purchase. I will inspire and I will talk to somebody because some plus sized women lack confidence. We’ve got that sign up there that says ‘You’re beautiful, and you are enough.’ Women just need that reminder. So whether they purchase here or we just have a friendly chat. I’m happy either way.”

The Newmans live on Robinson Tract in a house that they built in 2012.

“I purchased land from my grandmother,” she said. “So I was able to build a home right beside my parents. We looked other places but I didn’t really want to leave Pulaski County.”

The couple then bought an adjacent structure that serves as the Bosslady Boutique warehouse. Out of the five women she employs, two work full time at the warehouse loading and then shipping the goods to her customers. Most of her customers live out of state, as her online sales far outweigh business at her storefront boutique. Even so, Newman puts a premium on being an integral part of the community.

“The more you invest in where you live, the better the outcome we’ll all see. We sponsor sports teams, we do stuff with the dance studios, all kinds of things like that,” she said.

Newman calls daughter Nevaeh “my mini me,” and it’s easy to see why.

“My daughter has been with me ever since we opened in 2012,” she said. “Like here, she could tell you how to ring up somebody. She can ring up somebody herself and she can process an exchange. I sell plus sized clothing and she was like ‘Mom, ‘what about me?’ Last week, we actually launched her children’s boutique, “Where You Stand Out,” which specializes in newborns all the way up to teenagers. So we’re just kind of bringing up entrepreneurs as we go. It’s our passion.”

This past semester Nevaeh opted to take all of her courses online.

“My daughter is one smart little cookie,” Newman said with a smile. “She can pretty much get herself through all of her stuff and just like this morning; it’s not even 11 o’clock and she’s done her school work for the day. It’s just something we started when she was little, just like my mother did me.”

In the future, she plans to homeschool her children.

“I was homeschooled part of my life and absolutely loved it,” she said. “There’s a whole lot of stuff that you just don’t get taught, as far as how to treat people. That’s stuff you learn in real life scenarios. My child can do anything she sets her mind to … both of my kids. And I tell them all the time, we don’t force retail life on you. If you grow up and decide you don’t want to own a store, we support you with wherever you want to go. That’s what my parents did!”

The world of fashion is fast changing but sometimes it goes back to the future.

“Times have changed but a lot of things come back into style. We’re getting into the big flairs on jeans. We’re back into tucked in shirts and body suits and jumpsuits. This stuff that my mom had growing up that I said I would never wear. Now I sell it and love it!” she said.

Newman clearly loves doing what she does but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“People need to realize that when they open business, you’re investing money, but most of all, you’re investing your time,” she said. “So after my store closes at five, I’m still working late into mid hours of the night, whether I’m here or in the warehouse.”

That hasn’t discouraged her from thinking big. She has plans to open a second store in Wytheville in the not too distant future.

“My husband says I’m crazy,” she admitted. “I said I’ll have a boutique on every Main Street in the state of Virginia. It’s a little optimistic, but it’s possible.”

So what does this local entrepreneur do for fun?

“Church!” she answered without a beat. “I’ve been on the praise team since I was 12 years old. Praise and worship is my everything. I volunteer with City of Refuge. We do Roanoke Rescue mission. I go feed the homeless once a month. I do anything church related.”

Newman is a successful business woman, wife and mother who keeps her priorities straight.

“My motto is God first, family second, business third and it’s always going to be in that order,” she declared.

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