Hikia "Coco" Dixon is creating a creative labyrinth inside the 5th Street Arcades

Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only.”


Ever inspired by Chanel, Hikia “Coco” Dixon knows this well. As the founder and creator of Coco’s Chalky Paints, Dixon is constantly upcycling and painting secondhand furniture to make more fashionable spaces and showcase her chalk paint products. For the last two years, Dixon has run her chalk paint business out of a 400-square-foot shop in the 5th Street Arcades, but this year, Dixon has taken it next level to occupy 20,000 square feet of previously vacant space.


“Because the landscape was changing inside the Arcades and shops were being boarded up, I wanted to stop the closings,” says Dixon. “I decided to grab up two additional [adjacent] spots and open more cool shops.”


Dixon and shop manager Jesse inside Coco's Chalky PlantsEnter Coco’s Chalky Plants, a design-forward shop carrying live plants and succulents, crystals, incense, and jewelry. Dixon opened the new shop adjacent to Coco’s Chalky Paints just a few weeks ago in hopes of reviving the space after the previous tenants left in the wake of the downtown protests this summer.


Dixon has also opened up an entire lower level with a furniture showroom of sorts, a 250-person event/workshop space, and private rentals for local creatives of color. Currently, she rents five private rooms starting at $250 per month, with tenants including antique flea market 5th Street Underground and seamstress Regal Boulevard.


“My mission is to rent to Black and Brown business owners,” shares Dixon, adding that she has two rooms still available for rent. “These rooms allow them to have their own location or studio, and spread their wings for a very low cost each month.”


Dixon's Gratitude Wall displays thank-you letters from students who received her donations.Such affordable rents in a downtown space may seem like a stretch, but that’s just how Dixon rolls. This year, Dixon donated $20,000 worth of supplies to Cleveland elementary schools, and the seeds for her business were first planted when she began chalk painting furniture for single moms and reimagining their spaces for free.


“After I got divorced from my husband of 27 years [retired Cleveland Browns player Hanford Dixon], I realized I had left everything in our really big house and I didn’t have any furniture,” says Dixon. “I started looking for stuff to fix up, and after I got stable, I thought, ‘Why can’t I do this for other moms?’”


Though Dixon started as a hobbyist, a chance encounter in 2017 changed her career trajectory forever. As an Airbnb host, Dixon regularly rents rooms in her Cleveland home, and when a guest from Germany came to stay for several months, Dixon found an unlikely partner in creativity. “I learned that he was a scientist and chemical engineer who specialized in chalk,” says Dixon. “For the next 90 days, he set up a lab in my kitchen, and we came up with a formula for chalk powder.”

Dixon calls the encounter a case of "divine intervention at its finest," and she now sells her powders and paints at her 5th Street Arcades shop for what she calls a “fraction of the price” of more expensive chalk paint brands. "Other cities have IKEA, Cleveland has Hikia," she jokes.

And though it's been a challenging year—due to both COVID-19 and a car crashing into the lower part of the space in February—Dixon knows she's found her purpose. "We may be going through a pandemic," she says, "but I know God has a huge plan for how Cleveland will come back, and I know I will be a big part of it."

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.