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Columbus teen builds sneaker restoration business amid pandemic

By Rita Price, The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) on

Published in Fashion Daily News

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Antonio Davis, like so many teens, spent the early weeks of the pandemic unsure of what to do with himself. Then he switched off the television and started a business.

Laurise Johnson did the math. As an education specialist at an East Side after-school program, she's all about the math.

Binge-watching 16 seasons of "Grey's Anatomy" adds up to about 60 days of television, Johnson discovered. Quite a feat, even for a bored teenager.

Johnson suppressed the urge to laugh a little. If it was true – and Antonio Davis really had devoted that much of this spring's COVID-19 shutdown to his favorite show – then Antonio's mom, Misha McNeil, was right: Something had to give.

"This has been hard on a lot of kids," McNeil said. "I think he was just kind of over it at that point."

McNeil reached out to Johnson, whom knew Antonio well from their time together at Directions for Youth and Families, where the teen had served as a counselor-in-training. He was Johnson's "right-hand man" until the pandemic shuttered buildings and shoved students' worlds online.


"What can we do?" McNeil asked Johnson in a text.

Maybe, Johnson thought, this was the time for Antonio, a "sneaker head" with both flair and skill, to get serious.

Has he ever.

"I'm 15 and I go to Metro (Early College) High School," Antonio now says when he introduces himself. "I'm also a small-business owner."


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