By BRIAN BOHNERT
When Joe Johnson recalls his experiences as a defensive powerhouse for both the Fostoria Redmen and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, he fondly remembers the solidarity he felt with his brothers in uniform.
The colors, whether red and black or blue and metallic gold, forged a deep connection that would bond him and his teammates for life.
“When I see someone with a Notre Dame hat or shirt on, it automatically connects me with them,” Johnson said. “It’s that camaraderie.”
Now, more than three decades since he last set foot in Fostoria, Johnson has returned to resurrect an old downtown business and give the community that gave him his start the same feeling of unity.
The former All-Ohio defensive player of the year purchased Custom Corner Ltd. back in January with five other investors in order to spur economic growth throughout the Fostoria area. Under a new name, Connexions aims to offer high-quality customized products like apparel, awards and promotional items at an affordable price.
“Our whole focus is connecting people, purpose and passion,” he said. “We know that one thing that brings people together is apparel; it’s about feeling like you’re part of a team. And, we feel that customized apparel does that.”
Much like Custom Corner, which closed its doors more than a year ago, Connexions will offer unique and customized products to suit the needs of individuals, organizations and teams throughout northwest Ohio. Unlike its predecessor, however, the company will look to change the game, upgrading Custom Corners’ business model for the 21st century.
“It was a good business when it was up and running, but I think there was a great opportunity to take the business to the next level,” he said. “Not only does this present a tremendous opportunity to bring an apparel customization business to northwest Ohio, but it also gives us the chance to offer our services all across the United States through a state-of-the-art digital platform.”
The digital platform, Connexionsink, will allow customers located throughout the country to log on and fully customize their own items directly from the website and have their order delivered to their home or business within 10 business days. The plethora of options available, he said, gives individuals the power to choose everything from fabric and colors to custom names and artwork.
“Customers do not have to come down to a physical location,” he said. “They can actually sit in their office or in the comfort of their own home and browse thousands of items to find the one that best fits their needs … Be it in Columbus or Los Angeles, California, it really doesn’t matter.”
For this business venture, Johnson enlisted fellow Fostorians Jeff and Greg Mullins, No Colorline Owner Ray Foster, and Donald Hampton Jr., as investors. Mike Larkin, former Notre Dame teammate and brother of Cincinnati Reds hall of fame player Barry Larkin, also invested in Connexions, he said.
To Johnson and his partners, Connexions is more than just a name; it is a brand. Long-term plans for the business go far beyond customizing products for individual customers. Johnson said he and his partners hope to one day bring their own brand to the market, featuring a definable logo that will bring people together the way his team colors did on the gridiron all those years ago.
“We named the company Connexions because that’s what we want to do. We want our brand to connect people with other people,” he said. “When a person sees someone else wearing Connexions brand clothing, we want them to say, ‘hey, I can connect with that person.'”
Connexions will have a soft opening late next week in which people throughout the Fostoria area will be able to stop in, browse the showroom and place orders via an in-house computer station. An official grand opening will take place the week of the Fostoria Gus Macker Tournament, which is set for June 14-15, in an effort to capitalize on the city’s increased foot traffic.
Connexions is located inside the former Custom Corner Ltd. storefront at 110 N. Main St. The company’s website, which is still under construction, will be www.connexionsink.com.
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