Nestled among South Street’s jewelry stores, cigar shops, and clothing stores sits a new shop adorned with red balloons and a “Grand Opening” banner.
In the window stands a silver mannequin in a black sweatshirt and sweatpants with the words Fallen Angel across the chest. The outline of a red baby cherub holds a gun behind the words.
A group of friends, family, and prospective customers waded in and out of the store, named Premiére Bande, sharing memories of their fallen angel.
“It’s like he’s right next to me,” said Dawud Savage, brother of slain entrepreneur Sircarr Johnson Jr., for whom the store is in memory.
Johnson, 23, died on July 4th. While he hosted a cookout at his first store, also named Premiére Bande, on West Philadelphia’s 60th Street, a man jumped out of a car and rained bullets on the crowd, striking and instantly killing Johnson and 21-year-old Salahaldin Mahmoud, a cousin of State Sen. Sharif Street’s wife, April.
A 16-year-old girl was injured.
Tears streamed down Savage’s face as he talked about his older brother’s influence and legacy Saturday at the South Street store.
“I didn’t have anything in my mind, what I wanted to do with my life. And he was the major change in it,” the 20-year-old said. Due to his brother’s guidance and support, he is now going to college.
The store, located at 327 South St. and featuring urban streetwear and tracksuits, is not just to sell Johnson’s designs and to remember the ambitious young man, who was also a father, said Pamela Owensby, Johnson’s mother.
Johnson’s family and those who will work at the store will host bookbag drives, coat drives, and other charitable events throughout the year, said his father, Sircarr Johnson Sr.
“The store is like me being with him,” he said. “I come down here, I sit here, and I stare at his mural. I sit down and I talk to him.”
Each new person who walks up gives Owensby hugs before entering the muted store.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” she said.
Clad in a long cardigan, she showed a palpable excitement despite the sad circumstance.
“I’ve had a really, really rough last couple of weeks, especially because of the holidays and everything,” she said. “But just knowing, like, what we’re trying to do, is trying to give me some hope.”
The store, which sells adult and kids’ clothing, was a longtime dream of Owensby and her son. She was proud of him and for how much he accomplished at his last store, which opened in 2018, but always wanted him to be in a safer location.
Although she always knew it could happen, the Philadelphia mom is still having a “very, very hard time” coming to terms with joining the hundreds of others who have lost sons and daughters to violence in the city.
As of Friday, there have been 22 homicide victims throughout the city this year, up 29% from around the same time last year. At the end of 2021, there were 562 homicide victims, a record high and up from 499 in 2020.
For Johnson’s family, though, he is more than just a statistic. He inspired his friends and family to push themselves. Each time he reached a goal, he wanted to raise himself up even higher and bring his people with him. His West Philadelphia store was staffed by friends and young people in the neighborhood.
“He was a good person that loved to help people,” Andre Owensby, Johnson’s older brother, said.
The new store follows in the same tradition, as it is being staffed by Johnson’s fiancée and others from the area.
“He may not be here … but what he came up with in his mind is still gonna be here,” Andre Owensby said.