Meet Ramona Johnson – The Entrepreneur Behind Suited for You

Ramona Johnson sits behind the counter of her store, Suited for You, recalling the days of living as a young Black girl in her thriving Black neighborhood. As a fourth-generation Portland resident, Ramona proudly shares her relatives’ stories and her vow to continue their dynasty in Portland as a Black business owner. 

In the historic Albina neighborhood, Ramona’s family made a name for itself. On North Williams Avenue, her uncle, Manly M. Baltzegar, owned a studio and worked as the city’s first Black photographer. A few blocks down, Ramona’s grandfather owned a restaurant. Across the street, her aunt lived next door to the former Cleo-Lilliann Social Club, the well-known mid-century, Black entertainment locale, also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s heart-wrenching to remember as a young girl how many Black businesses were here and how many Black people were here,” Ramona said. “You see how everything changed to where you barely see any African Americans like it used to be. It feels good to have my own store now that sells things that are part of our heritage and to know that I’m helping bring it back.”

Down the street from where she grew up, Ramona opened Suited for You in 2019 directly amidst the exciting hubbub of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The store is located within the Portland Observer plaza, the African American-owned, family-run local newspaper. The building owner handpicked Ramona out of a sea of applications for the desirable location after hearing her story and all she overcame in life. 

Ramona’s path to Suited for You had its challenges, as did becoming an adult in a city that was rapidly growing with her. Through it all – drug addiction, an aortic aneurysm, her father’s passing, a business mistake – Ramona said her community, especially her mother, saved her. 

“My mother wanted us to be successful and never hang with the wrong crowds. She always gave us the finer things in life and was a good example,” Ramona said. “When I got older and got into trouble, I started thinking about where I came from and who I really am… She is my anchor.”

The mother-of-five herself was determined to bring her vision to life of building a successful apparel and wellness store right at home. However, since Ramona obtained the store space, the world was met with the COVID-19 pandemic which has since affected every facet of society, including individual lives, small businesses and beyond. Ramona felt the financial strain of 2020 and needed assistance to help make Suited for You a reality. 

Fortunately for Ramona and others in similar situations, Mercy Corps Northwest launched a grant program in July for Black-owned small businesses to assist in recovering from the brunt economic impact of COVID-19. Since applying for and receiving the funds, Ramona sees progress in her business efforts for the first time ever.

“I don’t like to play the ‘poor me’ game, but there are a lot of obstacles in the way for Black and brown entrepreneurs, especially right now,” Ramona said. “The grant was a blessing that inspired me, and after I got it, it was all action. I thought, ‘you got something to get moving with now; figure it out.’ I was ready to make the store fit me and my image.”

Ramona’s plan of action included loading a U-Haul truck with outdated inventory she purchased the year before, donating it to those in need through Volunteers of America, and beginning store renovations to make way for her newly ordered merchandise.

Suited for You is on its way to becoming a boutique for everyone looking for an “urban, suave look” for church and other special occasions. Currently, the store is stocked mostly with men’s clothing—vibrant dress shirts, elaborate matching sets, neutral suits, elegant overcoats—in addition to wellness beverages. “I don’t just want people to look good, but to be up on their health, too,” Ramona said. She plans to eventually integrate women’s accessories, such as purses, jewelry and hats like “the big orange ones we like to wear for church.” The store will also offer a layaway option for customers who need financial flexibility.

Today, clientele trickle in to say “hello” to “’Mona,” repeatedly noting how different the space looks in a matter of weeks, all in preparation for a projected grand opening in early 2021. Fresh paint and chic merchandise adorn the walls, a new computer sits at the checkout counter, a sanitation station and floor stickers promoting socially distanced shopping meet folks as they enter. 

As for continued ambitions within her community, Ramona—recipient of the Woman of Empowerment 2020 award by P.O.W.E.R., the Professional Organization of Women of Excellence Recognized—wants to eventually begin a nonprofit sector named Suited for Work.

“Suited for Work would be for when people are getting out of jail, treatment centers or bad situations of homelessness—when they come out of these places with nothing—I would like to be able to supply them with clothing like slacks and shirts, and also a class on how to interview for jobs well,” Ramona said. “Everyone who wants to recover can, they just need help.”

Suited for You is located at 4747 Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Portland, Oregon. Currently, customers can visit Ramona and shop retail by appointment only while store renovations are underway, and COVID-19 is an increasing risk. Appointments can be made by contacting Ramona directly by call/text at (503) 863-4986.

9 responses to “Meet Ramona Johnson – The Entrepreneur Behind Suited for You”

  1. Ezekiel says:

    I love her store it’s a hidden Jewel on mlk she is so kind and warm hearted I love her spirit and energy

  2. Ramona says:

    Hi this is Mona , owner of suited for you. Thank you so much for this article , I cried when i read it , and it just so happened that my family was standing near , i believe they felt it in there hearts that it meant a lot while i read the article out loud to everyone in the room through tears. thanks mercy corp🙏🏾❤️ thank you so much.

    • lscheffey says:

      Thank you for everything you do in the community, and for sharing your story with us. We’re amazed and can’t wait to see what comes next!

  3. Hi Romano, my name is Mildred. When I first saw your face, I said to my husband, she looks familiar. I kept reading about you and come to find out, I believe we were in the same Mercy Corp class for the IDA application in 2019. I would like to meet up again. I know that you are doing appointments now. Let me know when would be a good time to come by and chat.

  4. Dalya Hasan says:

    Amazing story! I had wondered what had became of Ramona. Good to see this happening for you, girl!

  5. Leonard A. Latin says:

    I’m a back in the day, good friend, of Ramona and i’ve witnessed her determination and drive to succeed and change her life around in a positive way at the same time.. The style of her clothing is fresh and new and its been a long time coming since a step above black clothing store in Portland. I wish her well and in total support of growing black businesses. Go check it out for yourself on her up coming Grand Open. Peace and love..

  6. Linda Hudson says:

    Hi Ramona!! I was so excited to read this article about you! I smiled throughout the whole thing! Congratulations!! I remember you so fondly from our time at Hooper Detox. I’m happy for you and pray you have a blessed and productive future. God Bless You Queen!

  7. Eric N.E. Resident says:

    Very proud of you for overcoming some of your life struggles and achieving one of your dreams of opening up a much needed NICE mens clothing and wellness store in the heart of the black and brown comunnity in Portland The community needs you,continued success to you and may God continue to bless you. Also thank you Mercy Corps for all you do.

  8. Jocelyn says:

    Hi Ramona I came across your article and was so amazed at your accomplishment God is good I haven’t seen you sense I came back to Portland I’m so very happy for you you may remember me Jocelyn but I’m so Happy for you and I would like to wish you well in all that you do may God bless your ministry and Business .

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