From Ghana with love

Cecilia Richardson

Photo By Evan Tuchinsky

In the heart of the Garden Walk in downtown Chico sits a gateway to the world. For the past 14 years, Cecilia Richardson has operated the African Connection, a store featuring clothing, art and handicrafts from around the globe, mostly from her native continent. She was born in Ghana 62 years ago and came to Boston for college. In a chance meeting at a party, she reconnected with a childhood classmate, Albert Richardson, who became her husband. They lived in Nigeria and again in Boston before Albert, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, was hired by Chico State in 1989. So west they went with their three children. Cecilia had a degree in business management, so it only made sense that she went into business. As for why she chose this particular business … well, we’ll let her explain.

How did you get to this little corner of Chico?

When we got here, I decided to open a store. First I went in with a friend, in the front [of Garden Walk], and then she decided to home-school her kids. We closed that store and I moved in here.

Was it the same type of store?

She was doing consignment, and I was doing the African stuff, but then we would buy things from different parts of the world together. My aim was to carry goods from all over the world, to make it more interesting. We were buying from nonprofit organizations—and I still do buy some of my items from nonprofit organizations that help market the work of artisans from around 48 different countries.

So the African Connection is a world connection?

A world connection, yes. This is your connection to the rest of the world.

Is this business a product of your college degree, your time in Nigeria …

I have always been in business! [Laughs] I come from a business family. My mom owned a bakery, so when I went to Nigeria, I looked around, and the bread was not good. There were a lot of professors from Ghana who didn’t like the bread, so I was making bread and cakes and snacks, and supplying gas stations. Then when we came back to Boston, every time I wore an African outfit, somebody would ask, “Where did you get that?” So I would sometimes make some for them, but time became scarce, so when I’d go to Ghana I’d get stuff made—or there were Africans who’d come and supply me, especially with carvings.

What are your favorite things in the store, the things you’re proud to carry?

The carvings, and the baskets, because they help people. The artisans can use extra help. And when I go back to Ghana every couple of years, I give business to tailors and seamstresses.

What’s the best part of having this store?

The people—I get to meet all kinds of people.