City High grad skips college, starts business

City High graduate Markeece Johnson recently opened up a new retail shop, with no previous business experience but a clear vision.


Tate Hildyard

Finer Streetwear Co. owner Markeece Johnson poses for a portrait on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Finer Streetwear is a new, independent clothing store in Iowa City, run by an 18-year-old City High graduate.

Katie Ann McCarver, News Reporter

City High alum Markeece Johnson has taken an unconventional path to follow his dreams by starting a business shortly after graduating from high school.

After one semester in college, the 2018 high-school graduate returned to Iowa City and opened a retail shop, Finer Streetwear Co., on Highway 1. Johnson said entrepreneurship has been a dream of his since junior high.

“I always knew I wanted to be my own boss, because I don’t like people telling me what to do,” he said.

The store launched online in August, he said, several months before he opened the shop itself. Finer Streetwear sells primarily menswear right now, he said, but he’s planning on expanding to women’s clothes and other options.

“When I was in school, I always liked dressing,” Johnson said. “It’s ripped jeans, jean jackets, hoodies. Not casual wear but streetwear.”

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He never really enjoyed school, Johnson said, but he decided to give college a try anyway. It was at the end of one of his college tours he decided to sell clothing online and, later, in person.

“After the tour, I was just like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to go,’ ” he said. “When I went, I was already doing so much. I was working a full-time job, I was trying to do all these things, and I didn’t have time for school.”

Although Johnson was sure about his decision to leave college for business, he said, his mother was very much against it. He initially sneaked behind her back while getting Finer Streetwear on its feet.

However, he said, his grandmother was supportive, as long as he was doing something positive for himself and others. His cousin Ronetta Jenkins said she was proud of him, but she wanted to ensure he opened the retail shop the right way.

“I’m pretty blessed and happy to see him taking off and doing some good things in the community, because he’s only 18,” Jenkins said. “I want to be different and separate myself. I think Markeece decided the same thing.”

Jenkins said Johnson first told her about his dreams for a retail shop while they were traveling in Georgia, so they made the rounds and visited different businesses managed by black entrepreneurs.

“I took him to one place to talk to another guy who started his own clothing line and kind of took off with it,” Jenkins said. “Once we got back, [Johnson] started to get a lot more involved. He started to show a lot of leadership.”

So he found a building to operate from, Jenkins said, but didn’t want anything too big because he doesn’t plan on staying only in Iowa City. Seeing African-American store owners with his same vision inspired Johnson, she said, and watching him grow was cool.

“I hope to see his mindset grow, get more open-minded about things,” Jenkins said. “I hope he’s able to connect with people.”

Johnson said his favorite part about Finer Streetwear is the opportunity to meet new people.

Xavier Doveel, one of Johnson’s close friends, said he’s not sure what Johnson’s next move will be, but if it becomes as much of a success as he envisions it to be, there may be numerous stores opening in the future.

“Considering he was so young, I was always supportive but a little shocked to say the least,” Doveel said. “I’ve never seen one that age so much of a boss.”