The first time I met Oaklin Mixon, he was on the other side of a pane of glass, making me my breakfast crepe at the Flint Crepe Co. If you went there a lot (and I used to go there a lot), it was hard to not get to know Oaklin.
In fact, after a while, Oaklin was part of the reason to go to the crepe shop at all. Oaklin is a big guy, who gives big hugs, and who just makes you feel happy. “Scott!” he’d yell when I walked in and he’d shake his head, as though it was hard to believe how good life could be sometimes. My natural state of being usually exists within a few degrees of a shoulder-shrug kind of contentment, but being around Oaklin always left me feeling that things were good—and were just going to get better.
I’m not always the easiest guy to convince on that. I’m a skeptical guy naturally—even more so as a reporter, and especially so as a reporter in Flint, where enough bad things have happened that it’s hard not to look at anything positive with a doubtful eye.
So when Oaklin told me a few years ago he was opening a clothing company while my crepe was cooking, I told him it was great. And I meant it. I want to see more businesses open up. I want to see more people taking entrepreneurial risks here. But ... when the person taking the risk is someone you know, someone you like and respect—I’ll admit it—I was worried. I was skeptical.
Not in his ability, not in his drive, and definitely not his belief in himself or the city he called home. I was just skeptical as a guy who’d written about businesses coming and going, and people with great intentions who got kicked down.
He started small, selling things online. I’d get updates now and then about his company, GoodBoy Clothing
, and he always said things were going well. Then I changed jobs, wasn’t at the crepe shop as much, and rarely saw Oaklin except to exchange a few words if we passed each other walking around town.
When I got a journalism assignment recently to look at new developments in Flint, someone told me about a new clothing store downtown, GoodBoy Clothing. A store? Sure enough, on the west side of the 500 block on South Saginaw Street, you can see the sign on the second story.
So I got ahold of Oaklin and told him I wanted to talk to him about it. I met him upstairs in his store, an open space with white walls and some furniture here and there, letting you know it’s a place where you’re welcome and can take your time. A huge window looks out onto downtown (you can see the crepe shop across the street) letting natural light flood the space. On racks and on walls were all of Oaklin’s goods—shirts, pants, hats, many of them bearing the GoodBoy logo he’d thought of when he was across the street, flipping crepes. He has 10 employees, and a back room with screen printing, sewing machines, and his desk—the place where he puts all that positivity and belief to work.
We talked about the business, about his life, how he came to Flint as a teenager in the foster system and fell in love with the city at a time when it wasn’t easy to fall in love with—no crepe shops downtown, no new businesses popping up. But this was where he wanted to be, where he wanted to stay with his wife and children, and where he wanted to make a life.
He did it.
He looked like he couldn’t believe it, but of course he’d believed it all along.
I came home that day feeling great, feeling like things were good and could get better. My wife noticed, and I told her why: I’d just seen Oaklin Mixon. I saw the good in this city. I saw his perseverance pay off. I saw dreams come true.
Scott Atkinson is a columnist for Flintside. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.