Basho Apparel’s first month of business since opening their new location in the Oregon District has exceeded their wildest expectations, according to Brian Johnson, co-owner of Basho with fellow artist and New York native Paul Baker.
“Opening is always really exciting and completely terrifying at the same time,” says Johnson. “It can be hard to gauge the reaction you’ll get from the public. But we were selling later than the bars in the Oregon on our opening night, and since then we’ve had a steady flow of new customers from Dayton, as well as holding on to many of our regulars from Yellow Springs.”
Basho is a full-service screen printing shop located on E. Fifth Street. The store offers clothing and accessories designed by local artists, as well as using water-based ink in their printing process that is more environmentally friendly than that used by much of the industry.
“It’s a lot of work,” Johnson says. “At Basho we do all our own tricks… any construction or painting is always kept in-house. I guess that’s one of the benefits of working with a bunch of cool designers and artists.”
The store’s local focus is also important to Johnson.
“We offer artist-designed, locally made apparel,” he says. “Also, every First Friday we work with a local artist to release a short-run retail line. It’s a fun way to reach out to the community, not to mention help someone who may not be able to start their own line.”
Baker opened his first store in Yellow Springs in 2000, but Johnson didn’t get involved until a few years later.
“Paul and I first met when I started working for him in the summer of ’05,” Johnson says. “He needed someone to run a cash register at his store in Yellow Springs, and it was a fun temporary job for me.”
“Fast-forward six years and I’m having a single artist showing at Fifth Third Tower in Dayton,” he continues. “I’d invited Paul, but didn’t expect him to come – he hates leaving the house. He showed up though, and we ended up talking business. Paul had come to a point where he didn’t want to handle the administrative aspects anymore; he wanted to focus on his printing and design work. A few months later everything started rolling, and we made the arrangement official.”
The partners opened their Dayton location earlier this year with the help of Activated Spaces, a volunteer organization seeking to boost Dayton’s economy by filling empty storefronts downtown with art installations, short-term (or “pop-up”) retail spaces, and longer-term businesses.
“Everybody I talk to seems to think that Dayton is a risky market for retail,” Johnson says. “But I live downtown, I go to shows downtown, I get coffee downtown, and I make probably 95% of my purchases downtown. And I am, by far, not the only one.”
“There’s been a huge surge in business openings on the east side of the Oregon District within the last year,” says Johnson. “If that’s not evidence that there is a blossoming, eclectic economy growing in Dayton, I don’t know what is. And we want to be a part of it.”