MY BIZ

Finer Streetwear hits one-year mark

Nineteen-year-old aimed to be his own boss

A patch on a hoodie sweatshirt at Finer Streetwear Collection at his shop in Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A patch on a hoodie sweatshirt at Finer Streetwear Collection at his shop in Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Just a year out of high school, Markeece Johnson’s planning his business’ next big move.

“When I was in junior high, I was sure I wanted to be my own boss,” Johnson, 19, said one morning this past week. “But I didn’t know what I wanted to be my own boss in.”

So Johnson thought about what was important to him. He found he was wearing his answer in the form of his favorite clothing and shoes, and the seed was planted for what became Finer Streetwear.

“This is my passion,” he said. “This is what I chose.”

Johnson, a 2018 City High graduate, opened shop in a tiny storefront along Highway 1 Nov. 3 of last year, a few months after launching his website.

“We were looking at places downtown, but that was really expensive,” he said.

On Thanksgiving weekend, Finer Streetwear will have a location in Coral Ridge Mall for the year’s biggest retail event. His lease on a storefront next to Old Navy runs Nov. 28 through Dec. 1, but “if I do good that weekend, I might stay there,” he said.

That would represent substantial progress on Finer Streetwear’s one-year anniversary.

“When I first started, it was really, really slow,” he said. “It’s been good ever since, but I’m still struggling to get my name out.”

Finer Streetwear specializes in the styles Johnson and his friends like to wear — “ripped jeans and chill hoodies.”

“Me personally, I like big hoodies, things of that nature,” Johnson said.

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A successful Black Friday weekend could propel Johnson’s business to its own original designs. He’s so far been selling others’ fashions he’s found online, but not in local stores.

“I didn’t want to get started on my own designs right away,” he said. “I wanted to get my name out first. They didn’t have streetwear clothing in the Coral Ridge Mall. That’s why I’m a bit different.”

Johnson plans eventually to hire designers to create original fashions.

“I’m not a design person,” he said.

Johnson intends to hire friends and family for the Black Friday pop-up — a big step for what’s until now been a one-man operation.

“I like to handle everything myself,” he said. “But I found out that in this business you have to hire people. My idea was, I wanted to do everything myself.

“And that’s how you’re going to fail. I had to ease up.”

Not that Johnson lacks experience. He manages the Iowa City Culver’s location where he started working five years ago.

“All the (business) funding came from Culver’s because I saved my whole high school career,” he said.

Johnson expects his managerial style will carry over as he hires Finer Streetwear’s first employees.

“Treat people how you want to be treated,” he said. “I’m not the type of person who yells at people. Treat me with respect, and I’ll give that back to you.”

Johnson’s five-year plan?

“I plan to be in bigger malls,” he said. “More locations.”

Overcoming a slow start has only fueled Johnson’s ambition.

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“When something negative comes to me, I just think about how I want to be my own boss,” he said. “Everybody in high school knew I was going to be something — they just didn’t know what.”

Know a business that could make for an interesting “My Biz” feature? Let us know. Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

AT A GLANCE

• Owner: Markeece Johnson

• Business: Finer Streetwear Collections

• Address: 441 Highway 1, Iowa City

• Phone: (319)-499-0540

• Website: finerstreetwearco.com

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