“It’s become a really strong, mixed-use area in our downtown,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “It’s a happening place now – it’s got a great vibe and lots of activity.”
Downtown Dayton Optical is closing after more than 13 years of operation at 112 E. Third St., which customers say is a big loss for downtown. The store went out of business last week, but it’s still fulfilling backlogs before closing its doors for good.
The Dayton Daily News was unable to reach owner Kevin Harrington for comment, but multiple workers and customers said the business is closing 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 said were too hard to beat.
“They do great work and I hate to hear they’re closing,” said Theresa Nash of Dayton, a repeat customer.
Harrington made and fitted glasses himself – a talent he learned while working as an apprentice at West Milton Optical. Employees at his store last week handed out business cards for West Milton Optical.
When Downtown Dayton Optical opened in 2009, the Fire Blocks District was a far cry from what it is today.
The district, built around the 100 block of East Third Street, has changed dramatically in the past four years since Columbus-based Windsor Companies bought and began redeveloping a cluster of buildings in the area.
Empty storefronts have been filled with restaurants, bars and other small independent businesses. Newcomers to the district include Tony & Pete’s, a new market and sandwich shop, and Now and Zen DIY Studio, a terrarium building studio.
They joined fairly recent additions Two Social, a bar and gaming lounge; Bozack’s Lounge, a bar; Jollity, a restaurant; Salt Block Biscuit Co.; and Third Perk Coffeehouse & Wine Bar.
Since Windsor came into the picture, only a few of the existing businesses in the district have closed or moved elsewhere.
Departures include Binger’s Bar, which closed in 2016, and Wells & Co. Custom Tattoo, which moved to Vandalia last year.
Bozack’s now fills Binger’s space. Wells & Co. Custom Tattoo operated in the Fire Blocks district for about five years.
Several other businesses in the district predate Windsor’s current revitalization efforts, such as Don’s Pawn Shop, DND Uniforms Inc. and Dayton Church Supply.
Windsor has filled most of Fire Blocks commercial space on the first floor.
The company only has about 4,000 square feet of storefront space available for lease at 117 and 119 East Third, said Jason Dorsey, executive vice president of asset management with Windsor Companies.
On the south side of the block, Windsor has yet to fill a commercial space at the corner of Third and Jefferson streets, in the Elks Building. A few years ago, that space was expected to become a new restaurant, but the project fell through.
“Interest is high and we don’t expect these spaces to last long,” said Dorsey. “The list of potential tenants is too long to list.”
Windsor also has done some work on the old Birdcoin building at 132 E. Third St., although the company has not yet decided what to do with the property, Dorsey said.
Windsor is also renovating the old Price stores at 52 Jefferson St. (also known as the Home Telephone Co. building), to become commercial space on the ground floor and residential uses upstairs, he said.
Dorsey said Fire Blocks has thrived because people want to be at the heart of Dayton’s diverse community.
“We only see Dayton grow and become a vibrant, thriving and prosperous 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 Blocks District continues to improve, and Windsor’s strategy of packing housing, retail, dining and other uses into a compact area has proven to be a “recipe for success.”
“When you have people working, living and playing in one concentrated area, it works,” she said.