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Cleveland paint shop and art collective re-inventing itself to stay afloat amid pandemic

Posted at 5:00 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 19:36:00-04

CLEVELAND — 2020 has been a tough year for many small business owners. That’s true for one Cleveland artist and entrepreneur who is determined to push forward after a series of devastating setbacks.

From property damage to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Coco’s Chalky Paints has endured it all. But instead of giving up, owner Hikia “Coco” Dixon decided to reinvent herself and her business with her own unique and artistic flair.

“Growing up very poor, we had to be creative, and with my mom she was so creative,” Dixon said.

Instead of buying furniture, Coco and her five siblings would find pieces and fix them up together.

“So that's how I started like really, you know, painting the furniture,” Dixon said.

For 25 years, she gave away her painted pieces for free to single, inner-city moms.

“I also had a big chalk paint company - they represented me and they let me pick out all the chalk paint I needed every month which was huge because chalk paint is very expensive,” Dixon said. “So, about three years ago they said, ‘oh yeah, Coco we can't give you any more chalk paint,’ and I thought well if you don't give me chalk paint I'm not gonna be able to donate to inner-city moms.”

So, she decided to create her own line of chalky paints and powders.

“Once I had the formula I thought, okay, I've got these little bottles of paint I can make - all I need is a very small spot,” Dixon said.

That spot was a 400 square foot spot inside the 5th Street Arcades. Then, she expanded into the 15,000 square foot basement underneath, filling it with her furniture and creating an event space that opened in January.

But then, came a series of curveballs - the first coming in February.

A car crashed into Hikia “Coco” Dixon's event space in February.

“We all heard this loud, boom. Now it was like, it sounded like a bomb had set off, and we went inside and there was a car that landed 30 feet inside the event space,” Dixon said.

The crash was the first of many setbacks for her this year.

It was a major setback Coco said her team was ready to bounce back from, but then came the pandemic and the shop also suffered some damage during the riots back in May.

“Business is definitely a fraction of what it used to be,” Dixon said.

But Coco is as optimistic as ever. She’s coming up with new ways to stay afloat and attract customers, including opening a plant shop in the empty storefront next to hers.

“It's bringing people inside the space that would never have come inside the space before because they don't realize we're down below,” Dixon said.

She’s also not lost sight of the passion that led her to the Fifth Street Arcades in the first place - and will hopefully keep her there for years to come.

“During this, during my painting of the furniture and my constant painting - it relaxes me, it calms me and it reassures me,” Dixon said. “I’m hanging in there because like I said before, I know that Cleveland's coming back, and I want to be a part of it when it comes back.”

Coco’s Chalky Paints also gives back to the local community.

“The most important part to me is that every time somebody buys a piece of furniture for me or every time someone buys any chalk paint or chalk powder. It's the only paint that pays it forward,” Dixon said.

This year, with the help of donations, Dixon was able to give away $20,000 in school supplies to Cleveland schools.

“My whole mission is giving back. So since I'm not working with single moms so much now, this is my way of giving back and it's just so enjoyable,” Dixon said.

Coco’s Chalky Paints is open every day from noon until 5:30 p.m., except Sunday.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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