Building a Jewelry Store While Breaking Down Barriers Jewelry Store Breaking Down Barriers

By Maya Pow SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS)- When the pandemic hit, many found ways to cope like exercising, drawing and for Julia Schwenderman- making custom jewelry. Soon, their friends started paying them to make jewelry; that’s how QWLRY, the online jewelry store known for being queer-owned was created.

“It was really just about giving people an outlet to express themselves and just making jewelry fun and accessible,” said Schwenderman.

The store sells earrings, bracelets, keychains, rings, necklaces, cufflinks and more. Schwenderman also works for an LGBTQIA+ nonprofit for college students called Campus Pride. They said they enjoy taking inspiration from the organization and the members for their custom jewelry.

Emma Williams is a large supporter of Schwenderman and their store. After publicly coming out over the summer, they immediately bought a queer-coding green aliens pair of earrings from QWLRY.

“Part of being someone who supports marginalized communities and feminism is supporting their businesses and their success,” said Williams. “So I think I do try to go out of my way to purchase from those stores.”

2021 is officially the worst year in history for LGBTQ state law attacks, according to the Human Rights Campaign. This directly impacts the community and its businesses, including QWLRY.

“Choosing to establish a brand as a queer-owned brand makes people that don’t identify as members of the LGBT community sometimes uncomfortable,” said Schwenderman. “I think internalized homophobia being a thing like “oh well if I’m wearing something like this or I’m supporting a store like this, are people going to think I’m gay?”. I think that’s a big thing for people even though I think it’s kind of stupid.”

Although there are struggles with running a queer-owned business, Schwenderman has no regrets about linking their identity to their store.

“Having some sort of identity tied to the ownership of your business. I think it’s also very empowering and is also really great for others to see themselves represented in the brands they’re purchasing from,” Schwenderman said.

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