Hillary White Jean: Check Mate

Hillary White Jean

Debts, Parties, And The Unraveling Of Hillary White Jean

by Melissa Jacobs

The First Wayne Store

In October 2021, Hillary opened HJ Boutique in Wayne, a town in the heart of the Main Line. To Wayne, Hillary brought some vendors she’d had at her short-lived boutique in Glen Mills, including jewelry from Jill Jacobson and vintage pieces from the collection of Nancy Volpe Beringer, a Philadelphia designer and “Project Runway” alum. Hillary also had the same PR person as in Glen Mills: Sarah Dohney.

With Dohney’s assistance, Hillary hosted a well-produced grand opening party. Both women were dressed to the nines and broadcasting their goal of bringing Rodeo Drive to Wayne. Together, they batted away questions about the quick demise of the Glen Mills shop, stating that the Main Line was the right place for Hillary’s boutique. Why? Unclear.

By June 2022, the Jeans were looking for another, bigger space in Wayne. Claudel wanted to open a men’s boutique; the Jeans decided to find one space that could hold menswear and womenswear. They settled on 209 E. Lancaster Ave., a building across the street from their first Wayne boutique and prepared to vacate their space – and their lease. “We decided to move out. I’ve broken leases many times,” Hillary says. “Some landlords go after you. Some don’t really care,” she says.

Did this one care? Hillary confirms that the landlords are suing her for more than $476,200. “They did go after me for the remainder of the lease, but not because I owed them money,” Hillary says. “The lease was paid until I moved,” she says. “To be clear, I don’t owe them that money.”

Paying rent until you feel like leaving is not how leases work. When pressed, Hillary shrugs this away and says, “It’s just business.” She seems to really believe that, neither apologizing nor expressing remorse for walking out on multiple leases. She owes The Wayne Hotel, too, having left before her lease expired. Is she so used to owing people money that it no longer bothers her? Or does she keep doing it because she gets away with it?

The Second Wayne Store

By July 2022, the Jeans had moved into their new space, which is owned by the Tehrani brothers, who have owned a well-respected Oriental rug emporium since 1977. The Jeans filled the store’s large windows with chicly dressed mannequins and stocked it with clothes and accessories for men, women and children. But this was not a new start for Hillary White Jean. It was the beginning of her end.

Hillary Jean White

Things soured between Dohney and the Jeans. Hillary produced copies of emails and texts showing how toxic the relationship became. Dohney believes that the Jeans owe her money. The Jeans say that Dohney bullied them into signing contract extensions, which they terminated via an email. The Jeans did pay Dohney’s YUBpr company $10,000 and more than $700 worth of clothing, as evidenced by an invoice provided to Main Line Tonight. “I do not owe Sarah Doheny any money,” Hillary states. “To be clear, I don’t owe her a dime.”

But she owes a lot of people a lot of money. Hillary admits this, saying that the boutique was not doing well and she did the best she could to pay vendors. She was robbing Peter to pay Paul, she explains, trying to make ends meet even as her debts accumulated. She paid Volpe Beringer $4,700 but owed her more than that. Hillary says that she was in regular communication with Volpe Beringer about payments that were overdue.

The Arrest, The Party and Dorinda

On July 18, Hillary was having lunch at Christopher’s in Wayne when she got a frantic call from her employees. Radnor Twp. police were at the boutique and looking for Hillary. She left the restaurant, walking down Lancaster Ave. towards her store. She didn’t make it back to the boutique; the police intercepted her on the sidewalk and arrested her for issuing bad checks.

Bail was set at $10,000 and Hillary bailed herself out with $1,000. She returned to her boutique and got back to work. Rent, vendors and PR people could wait. She had a party to plan.

Hillary White Jean

On Sept. 29, the Jeans hosted a lavish grand opening for 209 E. Lancaster Ave. Dorinda Medley from “Real Housewives of New York” was the guest of honor and elegantly presided over a party that featured a top-shelf bar, generous buffet, 10-foot tall step-and-repeat, and a popping DJ. Photographers snapped pictures as guests danced, drank and shopped.

Hillary wasn’t paying her bills, but she was spending cash like it was Monopoly money. The grand opening party came with a $15,000 price tag. Medley got $6,000 for her appearance, and Hillary showed documentation that she paid event coordinator Hank Stampfl $7,800 of his $10,500 fee. She says that photographer Phil Kramer was paid $2,500 of the $5,000 he charged for the evening. Of course, paying part of the fee isn’t the same thing as paying the whole fee. And many other vendors were not paid at all.

Being Black On The Main Line

By that time, local media were celebrating Hillary’s store as the first Black-owned business in Wayne. One problem: It wasn’t true.

Over the last 20 years, more than one Black-owned business operated in Wayne. Hillary clarifies that hers was the first Black-owned fashion boutique, which seems plausible. The media’s miswording of Hillary’s statement may not be her fault, but she didn’t correct them.

The Jeans feel that racism played a big part in the failure of their business and the flogging they received on social media. There’s no denying that racism exists everywhere, including on the Main Line. Were the Jeans discriminated against? Probably. But in the end, the only color that mattered was green. They owed people money, and that was the real problem.

The Exit

Hillary says she loved her second Wayne store. She’d skipped out on many leases, but this one she wanted to maintain. And yet, she wasn’t paying rent. By October 2022, the Tehrani brothers had enough. They tried to change the locks on the store.

“We were negotiating,” Hillary insists. But negotiating leases is usually done before tenants move in, not when they are already occupying a space and delinquent in their rent.

Hillary worried that a court could seize the assets inside the store, which she says totaled more than $200,000 in artwork and inventory. On Dec. 31, the Jeans’ moving truck arrived to empty the store. “I was devastated,” Hillary said. “But I would be in much more trouble if they locked it again and I couldn’t get my stuff.”

Soon after, Hillary declared bankruptcy because civil suits were being filed against her. She’s no stranger to bankruptcy, having declared it several times. “I had businesses that didn’t work out,” Hillary says. “Bankruptcy is the last resort. It’s something I have to do. But it’s not something I love to do. I absolutely hate it.”

She wouldn’t have to do it if she stopped spending money she didn’t have. Hillary says many times that bankruptcy is just about business. But every person she owes also has a business. While Hillary White Jean is making headlines, they have their own stories, both personal and entrepreneurial, that are now sideswiped by the Jeans actions. Bankruptcy is not a victimless situation.

There are limits on how many times people can declare bankruptcy, but there are different kinds – or chapters – of bankruptcy and a maze of loopholes that can be manipulated. Still, bankruptcies stay on credit reports for 7-10 years. But do florists, party planners and other small businesses run credit reports on prospective clients? Not usually. They are the true victims in this story. “I will pay the florist and 7 West Carpet,” Hillary pledges. “But that’s it. Everyone else goes through the bankruptcy.”

The Next Chapter

After the Wayne store closed, there was more legal trouble for Hillary, including a Feb. 9 arrest for witness intimidation charge. It happened in the lobby of a courthouse before a hearing in which Hillary was to face Volpe Beringer, the Tehranis and other people. Hillary took a photo of the people gathered against her. Taking a photo in a courthouse is illegal in Pennsylvania and qualifies as witness intimidation. Hillary says she took the photo to send to her husband, then was speaking to him on the phone in Haitian Creole, their native language.

“I saw a woman named Susan who sold me jewelry and she said that I owed her money, but I paid her,” Hillary says. “So what in the world was she doing there? And then I saw her talking to Nancy [Volpe Beringer]. I said, ‘How did those two connect?’ I was blown away. It was a whole gang. I was on my iPad, then I took a picture to send to my husband and say look who is here and make him feel bad.”

Despite all of this, Hillary White Jean is not leaving the Main Line. She’s writing a memoir titled “Being Black On The Main Line,” an astonishing title considering that she’s lived here for about one year.

Hillary White Jean

And, she plans to open a new business. “The story will unfold. Hillary is not going anywhere,” she says. “The best is yet to come. I will be back. And when I come back, I will be ten times stronger – mentally, and most of all, financially. Hillary is going to have her own store, if not her own building. I have three high profile investors right here on the Main Line. I’m not a quitter. I don’t ever give up. Never.”

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