Inventor-welder-artist-businessman and looks good, too


Charles Johnson besides Phoenix Rising
Charles Johnson besides Phoenix Rising

A man full of creativity, artistic drive, talent, and an entrepreneurial spirit, Charles Johnson is most recognized by the way that he dresses. “A Black man cannot be a well-dressed Black man unless he considers himself a player, pimp, or drug dealer,” says Johnson. “This most often occurs in our own neighborhoods, while not knowing at all who the person is, only knowing how they perceive you to be.”

Johnson was a welder for Hitchcock Industries, an airplane parts manufacturer previously located in Bloomington, Minnesota. He would come to work well-dressed, change into his work gear, and upon finishing his shift, immediately redress for departure.

“Looking good has always been a big part of my Method for Operations. I feel that it is very important for our younger generations to fully understand that importance of positive self-esteem. No matter what you may endure, as a part of your work, look good!”

“While working for Hitchcock Industries, as the first African American employee, I also had a neighborhood grocery store on 46th Street and 4th Avenue south in Minneapolis, from 1983 to 1986. It was called Johnson & Johnson. I loved how it kept me very connected to the community and the children. Through the store ownership, it kept me very connected to key community leaders as well.”

Yet, Johnson is an artist at heart: “First and foremost, I have always been an artist.” In 1995, using his welding experience and techniques, he constructed the Phoenix Rising sculpture, currently located on the north side exterior of the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis.

The Phoenix’s base is made of welded-together firearms purchased by the city of Minneapolis from street corners and owners who simply wanted to rid themselves of guns and be part of an effort to stop the violence in firearm homicides that plagued the city in the early 1990s. The Phoenix was displayed in various locations in 1995.

The concept surrounding this piece of art was based on the Phoenix Rising from the earth through the ashes of the dead during times of great death and anguish from violence. It symbolizes the need for change, transformation, and respect of all living things. The piece was conceived by the Twin Cities’ own Caren Sontage, who worked diligently in Minneapolis’ Native American communities to stop the firearm shootings and deaths.

“When I was asked to be a part of this movement and concern, there [was] no way I could refuse and say, ‘No, thank you,’” said Johnson. “You see, positive growth and development has always been a number-one part of my mission… Being responsible for welding together the Phoenix is something I am very proud of.”

Though the Phoenix sculpture highlights Johnson’s artistic skills, he has an inventive side as well. In 1983, Johnson and a childhood friend, J.C. Chappell, applied to Washington, D.C. for a patent on their Thunder Grip, a glove they invented that would help prevent calluses caused by excessive video-gaming.

“After getting legal representation and spending countless back-and-forth operational hours…just [within the last few weeks] we received our patent, and I now believe the Thunder Grip will be very applicable as a hand support mechanism that can be used for golfing and other sporting events around the world,” said Johnson.

Johnson also has a laser printing service. The L.Y.S. (Love Your Self) style series is a new logo for his Dare BExclusive’s designs, which include biking apparel.

“This is something new for me that I want to get the young people involved in. Their involvement would be from wearing it to making it,” said Johnson. “You can ride the biggest and baddest bike while continuing to be a loving and caring person!”


For more on information Dare BExclusive’s, call Charles Johnson at 612-860-1277.

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