Passion for sneaker culture turns into business for Flint native

FLINT, Michigan -- Like many passionate shoe collectors, there are not many releases that Flint native Samuel Johnson misses. 

“I’m a sneakerhead,” said Johnson, who grew up on Flint’s northside. “An opportunity presented itself. Somebody asked me if I’d start finding them shoes, I went to start looking up shoes and then seeing the resale prices and a bell rung in my head.”

After talking with Ray Tyler, a childhood friend who owns the Prime Eight Ten restaurant, Johnson said they decided to open a store.

Hermione’s, located at 3309 Martin Luther King Avenue, opened on February 1. The store sells exclusive and hard-to-find sneakers and also features clothing from several Flint clothing companies, including Eight One Zero, Chasing Chicken, Panda, and more.

“Everybody in here is local,” Johnson said.

Johnson found several different resources to get shoes from, redid the building the store is located in, and got a contract with Nike. He says in the next couple of weeks, they’ll have Nike signage in the windows. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. So far, the response has been great. For people in search of specific shoes or ones that are rare or difficult to find using sneaker apps, Johnson said that he can usually find them.

“It’s just coming in and asking, can you find this shoe or get this shoe?” he said. “Most times, I can still get shoes even after they’ve sold out. If it’s not on the shelf, I can usually order it.”

The presence of the store in the neighborhood has also been a positive.

“I was born just two streets over on Jamieson, then my parents moved to Pulaske Street when I was three and I was raised over there,” Johnson said. “But to be born over here, and everyone over here still remembers my parents, my brothers, my sisters, and remembers me as a baby  and they find out that this is mine, they’re like, ‘Wow, good job.’ Just to see them saying it's good that we’re doing something good over here and bringing something back, this is big. We’re coming in trying to make it look right, cleaning it up and doing what we’re supposed to over here.”

Johnson said that the plans for the area don’t end at just the store. He’s hoping to see a restaurant open up nearby by the end of the summer, as well as a barber shop, and a factory that does direct-to-garment shirt printing.

“The traffic we generate can affect everyone’s business over here, we’re gonna open this whole strip up,” he said. “We’re trying to bring the community back and give some people jobs and bring some sort of hope and a great aesthetic look back to the community.”

He’s also planning to open a Hermione’s in Detroit by the summer.

“Hopefully it just branches out into something bigger,” Johnson said. “I want to have a whole factory, I damn near want to be bigger than StockX -- why not have a dream and set it out?”

Find out more about Hermione’s on their Instagram page.

Read more articles by Patrick Hayes.