Milwaukee Clothing Brand The Northside Streetwear Represents Childhood Memories and Milwaukee Culture

Pandemic Lay-Off

It was during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 when Robert Mercado, professionally known as Rob Northside, was laid off from his chef position. He was a chef for three years where he started off selling plates at home, which landed him a job at the Bartolottas Italian Community Center.

“I was trying to make a career of it but COVID hit and forced me into a different direction,” said Mercado.

Instead of dwelling on what he had lost, he took time to figure out how to make money creatively. That creativity ended up molding into the Milwaukee clothing brand The Northside Streetwear to pay homage to Mercado’s community, Milwaukee’s culture, and his childhood.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Mercado said he used to know all of his neighbors and they all knew him, even the corner store owners. Through his brand, he wants to bring that nostalgic feel back.

“My friend’s parents used to call me son,” he said.

Robert Mercado of The Northside Streetwear.
Robert Mercado of The Northside Streetwear. (Picture by Ron Z)

He remembers the hot summer days, riding bikes, and being outside all day. For him, everyone was more connected and that’s something he wants to bring back through his brand.

“We have our own culture. We have our own identity,” said Mercado.

Although Milwaukee is now becoming known for its music scene, with artists like J.P., Mercado says Milwaukee has always had a dancing culture.

The Northside Streetwear is paying homage to the Milwaukee he knows and loves. Mercado does want to note that his brand has nothing to do with one side of town being better than the next because Milwaukee is all one community.

“This is one of the best cities in the world,” he said.

Building A Stronger Milwaukee

Mercado sees Milwaukee has a hidden treasure, like many Milwaukeeans. He says the food is great and so is the creative scene but it takes for those in Milwaukee to make it a better place for everyone to thrive.

He wants to encourage the community to come together as a community, which means acting as neighborhood watch, reporting crimes, and showing love to one another.

“We have to make our environment a safe place,” Mercado said. “It starts with us.”

From Behind Bars to Business Owner

Mercado was candid about his past and being in the system, but he didn’t let that stop him from moving forward. As a justice-impacted individual, he is building a life he wants and deserves.

“It ain’t never too late to do the right thing. I turned my life around.”

– Robert Mercado

Nyesha Stone founded Carvd N Stone in 2017 to cover positive news while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Stone has a B.A. in Journalism. She has raised over $30,000 to award grants and scholarships. She has also been featured in ESSENCE and worked with the American Black Film Festival.

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