Growing up in a housing project in the Hill District and the enlightenment he received from the community helped motivate Donnie Kyte to become a businessman.
Kyte is the proprietor of the Ike Wear 36 Clothing Store located at 648 Herron Ave. in the Hill District. He grew up in Warren Court where older men and women in the community enlightened him about becoming a businessman and the importance of giving back to the community. Looking around and seeing things in the community that he did not have, drove him to want to make a change for the better and fill the void. Ike Wear sells a variety of T-shirts, jackets, hoodies, polo style shirts, fitted hats with much more to come.
|ON DISPLAY—Donnie Kyte, owner of Ike Wear 36 Clothing Store, displays samples of his clothing line.
Kyte is a firm believer in God and he gives all credit to him. When something comes over him and it is a good thing, he knows it is from God.
“He gives me the intuition to see things in a different light. God is in me so much that he really makes me drive in a positive direction all the time. Every time I’m in contact with people from the community, I always plant seeds to others. Some people tell me that I’ve had a positive effect on them and that is a good thing. They also have a lot of respect for what I’m doing with myself and the community,” Kyte said.
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, he said that it is always good to have your own business and do things for yourself.
Kyte was one of the first people in the community with FUBU and Nappy Headz clothing. They were both major clothing lines that originated in the late 1990s. FUBU, which stands for For Us By Us was founded in 1992 by Daymond John with a line of hats made in his house. FUBU was a national clothing line and Nappy Headz was a local clothing line created by Fletcher and Shenita Jones. Nappy Headz Clothing Line was a major hit in Pittsburgh.
Both clothing lines showed Kyte a lot on how to get started in the clothing business. When he purchased his first FUBU shirt it was also a major inspiration for him. He saw the card attached to the shirt and it blew his mind because there were four young African-American men on the card who looked like him.
“Back in the day, we bought Cross Colors, Knock Out and Boss and there really wasn’t a clothing line out there from African-Americans. When I see the members of FUBU sitting around a table having a meeting on television, it really made me want to start my own company. I immediately brought it to the hood and let everyone see what was going on because they were not aware of this clothing line. I started with two shirts at first in Warren Court. Rich Brown and I tossed some names around and Ike Wear stuck. Once we showed it to the community, they loved it and received it well. I went to Fletcher and Shenita, who showed me how to place my logo on the shirts and the rest, is history. Ike Wear started in 1998, which is also the year that Terrance Jones passed away. He was a great friend of mine and that is why you the number “36” on all of my clothing to represent him. The name of the store came from friends in the street that I grew up with from my neighborhood. Alphie Palmer is the person who nicknamed my late friend, Sean Harris Ikey –Dog. People from the Hill District broke down the name from Ikey Dog to just Ike. When Harris passed terminology “Ike” became legend. I came up with the name Ike Wear Clothing 36 based off of the terminology and it was immortalized ever since,” said Kyte.
Kyte started out slow, but now things are great. Once he decided to open a clothing store, his friend Derrick Dawkins motivated him to get the word out about the clothing line.
“When I first opened up the clothing store, I tried to give other clothing lines a spot in the store. The community was not buying their clothes as much as they were buying Ike Wear because we have diehard Ike Wear fans. I gave them an opportunity to shine in my store because we are all from the Hill District and we are all Black entrepreneurs. I ended up just selling my own clothing line as a result. Whenever I’m doing something for others, it’s genuine and from the heart. I don’t expect that in return because I know it’s not reality, but it hurts,” said Kyte.
He is also very heavily involved in the community. When others are speaking about what should be done to make the Hill District a better place, Kyte is going beyond the call of duty by taking action to make things happen.
“The reason why I started doing kick ball and other activities in the community for the kids are because I want to bring some sense of community back to the neighborhood. Also the children have too much idle time and they need something to do. I see a lot of kids hanging out on the block and the parents are not being responsible. I came from a situation pretty similar to what these kids are going through today. I also could have lost my life a million times over and God was with me the whole time.
“You can also be on the lookout for our annual skating party, which is a big hit. All of things we are doing are a good way to promote, market and get the word out about Ike Wear 36 Clothing Store. If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, I would suggest to anyone to do a lot of research. When you have your own, it’s a beautiful thing because you have a lot of freedom. The bottom line is that I’m doing what I’m doing to bring the community together. It is really important for our youth to have love and respect for each other instead of hate,” Kyte said.