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'Hippie' cleaned up in fashion

April 13, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Frank Fearnow took one glance at the scraggly looking, long-haired youth and turned him down for a job at Ingram's Men's Shop.

Twice.

"I was just a wild kid in high school ... but by today's standard, it was just being a typical kid," said John McCoy, 58. "He was very reluctant (to hire me)."

But McCoy, in a telephone interview April 7, said he knew Ingram's was the pre-eminent clothier in Hagerstown in those days, just as he knew fashion was in his future, so he refused to take no for an answer.

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Fearnow sensed McCoy's sincerity and relented in November 1964.

"He was a real hippie, he was a senior in high school and he came looking for a job. He said 'I want to make this my life's work, so I'll work a couple of weeks for nothing,'" said Fearnow, who owned Ingram's for 30 years from the late 1950s until he sold it to his son, Frank Jr.

"I told him 'I'll hire you if you clean yourself up, but you won't work for nothing," Fearnow said. "I'll pay you, just clean yourself up.'"

Learning from Fearnow the importance of customer service, McCoy said he went on to a distinguished fashion career as founder and president of the multimillion-dollar Components by John McCoy.

Although he went from Hagerstown's West End to Manhattan's East Side, he still holds his hometown close to his heart and makes trips back to visit family.

"You have fond memories of running in the weeds and playing in the fields and everything, it's almost like the sense of smell," McCoy said, recalling the times he and his father would hunt rabbits in his parents' back yard. "It was a great place to live, and a great place to grow up."

On Tuesday, he returned to deliver the keynote address at the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's seventh annual Celebration of Business.

"He was just kind of the one that just rose to the top," EDC Director Tim Troxell said of McCoy's selection. "The theme that has kind of run throughout the years has been inviting back someone who was usually born and raised here in Washington County and gone on to become successful."

The son of a railroad worker, McCoy did not characterize himself as a model student.

McCoy said he finished St. Maria Goretti High School with poor grades and enrolled in Hagerstown Junior College - now Hagerstown Community College - where then-Dean Atlee Kepler put him on academic probation and, in doing so, forced him to apply himself to his studies. He said it was Kepler who suggested he move on to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where he returned in 2004 to accept a Marvin Feldman Award during the school's spring commencement at Radio City Music Hall.

After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology at the age of 24, McCoy worked for several companies, including Pierre Cardin and B. Altman & Company, before forming his own company, Fitzgerald by John McCoy, in 1977.

That venture enjoyed mild success before it folded. He formed a second company in 1985. Components by John McCoy Inc., was more successful in the New York fashion scene, he said, and other clothing lines came knocking at his door after he picked up the Italian clothing line Saint Andrews.

Components now distributes and manufactures clothing brands including Alfred Dunhill London, Gran Sasso and Lenor Romano, a popular line which he helped his wife, Lenor Romano, establish.

He formed a new company under the name of Johnny M., L.L.C., which is gearing up for production of a new line of Mack Trucks Inc. clothing to be launched this spring.

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