A clothing brand that pays tribute to the past by telling stories through wearable art that encourages people to dream and achieve recently opened its first Dayton-area storefront.
Omotayo Obayanju, the owner of The Chipmunk Chronicles in downtown Miamisburg, said he initially dreamed of opening a sneaker store. That changed in 2013 when he purchased a T-shirt by Philadelphia based illustrator Ron Ackins, one featuring Claire Huxtable from “The Cosby Show” and the first Aunt Viv from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
“When I saw that I was like, ‘I know what I want to do. I want to do something like that’ paying homage to my favorite TV show, ‘A Different World’ because it had such an impact on my life,” said Obayanju. “That definitely was the spark.”
Armed with a childhood love of comic books and caricatures, he launched The Chipmunk Chronicles in 2016, commissioning Ackins to create caricature T-shirts featuring characters from “A Different World” and other popular shows and movies.
“I’m not an artist,” Obayanju said. “I can do a rendering, I can do a sketch and I’ll talk to somebody. I’m more of producer. I just do stuff that makes me feel warm inside and sometimes people connect to it and sometimes they don’t.”
Chipmunk Chronicles apparel also features “A Different World’s” Hillman College, a fictitious school modeled after an Historically Black College or University or HBCU, plus a popular “Hope Dealer” line that features an upraised Black Power fist in place of the letter “P” in the word “Hope.”
“Black Americans need hope more than anybody, but hope is something for everybody. Anybody can be a hope dealer,” he said. “Most of us are hope dealers and we’re unaware of it. It can be an encouraging word, it can be a good deed, it could be your child telling you that you look beautiful today. That does something for us.”
Obayanju said he decided to name the brand Chipmunk Chronicles, a tribute to Dwayne Wayne’s nickname, because he wanted to tell the character’s story through his own lens. He said “A Different World” represented “the first glimpse of seeing Black and brown people in a college.”
“It introduced to the world the whole idea of an HBCU,” he said. “That still resonates with people and just the storytelling throughout the year. It was a comedic show, but it had very good social topics and they were based on things that mean stuff (even) now like the AIDS epidemic or domestic violence or classism or even colorism.”
Obayanju said a “pretty big year” in online sales last year at chipmunkchronicles.bigcartel.com led to the decision to open Chipmunk Chronicles’ first brick-and-mortar location, a 350-square-foot storefront at 15 S. Main St.
“My wife and I live in West Carrollton, so Miamisburg is close to home,” Obayanju said. “This is also an opportunity to encourage other minorities to open small businesses in the area.”
March’s soft opening will be followed by a grand opening with several in-store exclusives on June 19 — Juneteenth, the oldest celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
Hours for now are 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, but Obayanju, a unit director at Boys & Girls Club of Dayton, said he plans to expand on those hours and hire people to staff the Chipmunk Chronicles storefront as the business grows.
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