Fire blocks lose a beloved business; But it added a lot

“This has been a really strong, mixed-use area in our downtown,” said Sandy Gudorff, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “It’s the happening place right now – there’s a great buzz and lots of activity.”

Children walk along East Third Street in the Fire Block District. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Children walk along East Third Street in the Fire Block District. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Downtown Dayton Optical is closing at 112 E. Third St. after more than 13 years of operation, which patrons say is a big loss for downtown. The store stopped taking walk-in business last week, but it’s still fulfilling outstanding orders before closing its doors for good.

The Dayton Daily News was unable to reach owner Kevin Harrington for comment, but several workers and customers said the business has closed due to health issues.

Downtown Dayton Optical sold single-vision glasses for $40 (or two pairs for $60), and two pairs of lined bifocals for $100—prices that many customers found too hard to beat.

Walking distance from downtown Dayton Optical on Wednesday. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Walking distance from downtown Dayton Optical on Wednesday.  Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Walking distance from downtown Dayton Optical on Wednesday. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

“They do a great job, and I hate to hear they’re closing,” said Theresa Nash of Dayton, a repeat customer.

Harrington made and fitted the glasses himself – a talent he learned while working as an apprentice at West Milton Optical. Last week his store staff distributed business cards for West Milton Optical.

When Downtown Dayton Optical opened in 2009, the Fire Block District was a far cry from what it is today.

Downtown Dayton Optical opened in 2009 in the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Block District. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Downtown Dayton Optical opened in 2009 in the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Block District.  Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Downtown Dayton Optical opened in 2009 in the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Block District. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

The district, built around the 100 block of East Third Street, has changed dramatically in the past four years since Columbus-based Windsor Companies acquired and began redeveloping a group of buildings in the area.

Empty storefronts are filled with restaurants, bars and other independent small businesses. Newcomers to the district include Tony & Pete’s, a new market and sandwich shop, and Now and Jane DIY Studio, a terrarium building studio.

They join two recently added socials, a bar and sports lounge; Bozak’s Lounge, a bar; Jollity, a restaurant; Salt Block Biscuit Co.; And Third Perk Coffeehouse and Wine Bar.

A man walks through the fire block district on East Third Street in downtown Dayton. Many buildings in the district have been rehabilitated with the help of state historic preservation tax credits. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

A man walks through the fire block district on East Third Street in downtown Dayton.  Many buildings in the district have been rehabilitated with the help of state historic preservation tax credits.  Cornelius Frolic / Staff

A man walks through the fire block district on East Third Street in downtown Dayton. Many buildings in the district have been rehabilitated with the help of state historic preservation tax credits. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Since Windsor entered the picture, only a few existing businesses in the district have closed or relocated.

Departures include Binger’s Bar, which closed in 2016, and Wells & Co. Custom Tattoo, which moved to Vandalia last year.

Bozack now fills Binger’s spot. Wells & Company Custom Tattoo had operated in the Fire Block District for about five years.

Some other businesses in the District have benefited from Windsor’s recent revitalization efforts, such as Don’s Pawn Shop, DND Uniforms Inc. and pre-date the Dayton church supply.

Some buildings in the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Block District. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Some buildings in the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Block District.  Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Some buildings in the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Block District. Cornelius Frolic / Staff

Windsor fills a large portion of the commercial space on the first floor of the fire block.

The company has about 4,000 square feet of leasable storefront space available at 117 and 119 East Third, said Jason Dorsey, executive vice president of property management with Windsor Companies.

On the south side of the block, Windsor still hasn’t filled commercial space in the Elks building, at the corner of Third and Jefferson streets. A few years ago, the space was expected to become a new restaurant, but the project fizzled.

“Interest is high and we don’t expect these spaces to last long,” Dorsey said. “The list of potential tenants is too long to list.”

Windsor in 132 AD. Some work has also been done on the former Birdcoin building on Third St., though the company has not yet decided what to do with the property, Dorsey said.

Windsor is rehabilitating the old Price Stores at 52 Jefferson St. (also known as the Home Telephone Company building), with the ground floor becoming commercial space and the upper floors residential uses, he said.

Dorsey said Fire Blocks has thrived because people want to be at the heart of the diverse Dayton community.

“We just see Dayton growing and transforming into a vibrant, thriving, thriving city of arts and industry,” he said.

Gudorf, with the Downtown Dayton Partnership, said it’s unfortunate that Downtown Dayton Optical is closing.

But she said the fire block district is improving, and Windsor’s strategy to cluster housing, retail, dining and other uses in a compact area has proven to be a “recipe for success.”

“When you have people working, living and entertaining in a concentrated area, it works,” she said.

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