Mrs. M would not be given the courtesy of a new lease, as the building had changed management. Cachet G! was closing. Cold and calculated gentrification.
By Janyce Denise Glasper
I am certain that there is nothing wrong with the underground record store. On occasion, I walk past and see people browsing through the vinyl records and t-shirt racks. It’s a place of crisp, immaculate walls in a beige color palette offering a minimalist design approach. Organic and sterile. “They finally got it how they wanted it to look,” said Mrs. M., the former owner of Cachet G!, once located in the rebranded Fire Blocks District, developed by the Windsor Properties in Dayton, Ohio for millions. Now it’s an occupied space. So, I never want to go inside.
Nine years ago, that record store was still the home of Cachet G!, an African boutique and art gallery with its own distinct clientele. When you stepped through its chimed doors, you could smell lemongrass and patchouli candles. Every visit looked like a museum show that was continually changing. Quiet jazz filtered through the hidden speakers. Mirrors were abundant— it was imperative that you saw your reflection among colorful items from Ghana, Senegal, Kenya, and beyond. On a visit to Cachet G!, you wanted to buy every last funky patterned dress, and headwrap made from woven kente, wax, and cotton fabrics. Representational and abstract art was everywhere— in paintings, matted prints, photography, sculpture, postcards, and Black history trivia games. The store represented Africa in all of its diversity, individuality, and nuance.
Cachet G! sold pure black soap from Ghana, raw shea butter, and cocoa butter lotion. Long before CVS, Target, and Walmart, Cachet G! was Dayton’s exclusive location for Lisa Price’s Carol’s Daughter products. Black Vanilla Shampoo and Conditioner— eight dollars and ten dollars respectively. The Black Vanilla Leave In Conditioner Hair Spray – ten dollars. The creamy, afro hydrating Hair Milk— my once fervent addiction—sixteen dollars. That Gelee de Soleil Browning Oil made with Shea, avocado, cocoa and mango butters bronzed and quenched your skin during the hot, blazing summers. That sold for twelve dollars. Fruity flavored lip gloss pots for six dollars each (permanently out of stock) and sweet perfumes such as Almond Cookie for thirteen.
When I began working at Cachet G!, five months before it closed, I witnessed firsthand that this was not just a gallery to showcase local Black artists or an independent shop selling unique and authentic merchandise. People from all over Ohio (or farther) came through those doors. Within Cache G!, shoppers, friends, and community members planned the annual summertime Black Cultural Arts Festival, or discussed community outreach, and fashion. Women exchanged recipes and hair tips as though we were all gathered at a family reunion. Customers returned again and again to buy masks, jewelry, and postcards, or to purchase specialty ordered dashikis and dresses.
Working at Cachet G! was my second job after college and I was paid in either cash or store credit. The store credit total was more than the cash. I didn’t mind it because Cachet G! ultimately became my favorite shop in Dayton. One Christmas I got all my gifts there— an Egyptian King Tut sculpture for my brother, votive candles and earrings for my mother, and a miniature lion carved out of tiger’s eye for a dearest friend. Appropriately enough, I had my second solo exhibition on its walls— colored pencil Roy Lichtenstein reimaginings of exaggerated Black women complaining about hair relaxers with thought bubbles above their heads and dramatic tears falling down their cheeks. And this audience knew and understood my work without asking the uncomfortable, exhibitionistic questions that you could expect in other spaces. I thought that Cachet G!’s much needed space for healing would never be threatened.
Mrs. M would not be given the courtesy of a new lease, as the building had changed management. Cachet G! was closing. Cold and calculated gentrification. Now where else could people gather to have open conversations regarding the latest global developments while physically surrounded by products from almost all fifty-six African countries? Where would there be a similar refuge that allowed African American artists to teach about textile, art, and literature beyond Dayton’s limited educational resources? At Cachet G!, Black artists had their first exhibitions, had their work purchased, and met with new clients. Parents brought their children here. First Fridays— art related events that occurred on the first Friday of every month— were constant parties of laughter and reflection.
In Willow Lung-Amam’s Bloomberg article, “Businesses are Victims of Gentrification Too,” the author discloses the crisis of displacement that has long been happening, even while before the economic effects of the pandemic. She writes that:
“For Black- and Brown-owned businesses in gentrifying neighborhoods, the circumstances have been particularly dire. Incentivized by policy changes and public investments, private capital flows rapidly into areas experiencing gentrification. So, too, do higher-income residents. Rents increase, and neighborhoods transform, physically, culturally and economically, seemingly overnight, as developers and politicians fight to attract new residents and employers. In the process, both residents and POC-owned businesses that have kept neighborhoods afloat leave— sometimes by forced eviction.”
Cachet G! was a twenty-eight-year-old pillar for the Black community. Truly, it was for us, by us. Of the three businesses then operating on that particular strip, only Cachet G! could not be saved, while the pawn shop and the nightclub Right Corner remain. Privileged gatekeeping prevented the store from continuing to nurture and build on the foundation it had seeded.
The revamped Fire Blocks District is intended to be a hip spot featuring several expensive eateries, a social gaming bar, renovated apartments, and now that record store. Three Black-owned businesses do remain, despite the gentrification in the neighborhood. Now and Zen, a Black women owned DIY plant studio is near the record store. Across the street there is Third Perk, a Black woman owned coffee shop, and further down there is Bozack’s Cocktail Lounge, a Black owned bar. Imagine if Cachet G! was still there. The connections that could have been made.
So on Third Street, of no fault to the current owner, I vow not to ever go inside the record store and become plagued with new, unforgettable moments. There will never be another beacon in this city as precious as Cachet G!, a lost compass to Africa that deserved to be protected as a historical landmark, a legacy. Now it’s gone.
Janyce Denise Glasper is a Dayton, Ohio based multidisciplinary artist, writer, and independent scholar focused on highlighting the historical contributions of Black women visual artists. She obtained her BFA in drawing from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and her post baccalaureate certificate and MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; primarily concentrating in painting and writing. Her writings have appeared in RaceBaitr, Black Youth Project, Wear Our Voice Mag, and other publications. Currently, she is a remote contributing arts writer for Philadelphia based artblog and runs two personal blogs: femfilmrogue and Black Women Make Art.