Fire Blocks loses beloved business; but much more has been added

“It’s become a really strong mixed-use area in our downtown,” said Sandy Gudorff, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “The place that’s happening right now – it’s got a great vibe and a lot of activity.”

Children walk along East Third Street in the Fire Blocks District. CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

Children walk along East Third Street in the Fire Blocks District. CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

Downtown Dayton Optical is closing after more than 13 years in business at 112 E. Third St., which patrons say is a big loss for downtown. The store went out of business last week, but is still filling 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 concerns.

Downtown Dayton Optical sells single vision glasses for $40 (or two pairs for $60) and two pairs of lined bifocals for $100 – prices that many customers say are very hard to beat.

A pedestrian walks past Downtown Dayton Optical on Wednesday. CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

A pedestrian walks past Downtown Dayton Optical on Wednesday.  CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

A pedestrian walks past Downtown Dayton Optical on Wednesday. CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

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

Harrington makes and fits glasses himself, a talent he picked up when he worked 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.

Downtown Dayton Optical opened in the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Blocks neighborhood in 2009. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Downtown Dayton Optical opened in the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Blocks neighborhood in 2009. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Downtown Dayton Optical opened in the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Blocks neighborhood in 2009. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The neighborhood 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 renovating a group of buildings in the area.

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

They joined relatively recent additions Two Social, a bar and gaming lounge; Bozack’s Lounge, bar; Jollity, a restaurant; Salt Block Biscuit Co.; and Third Perk Coffeehouse & Wine Bar.

A man walks through the Fire Blocks District on East Third Street in downtown Dayton. Numerous buildings have been rehabilitated in the district with the help of state historic preservation tax credits. CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

A man walks through the Fire Blocks District on East Third Street in downtown Dayton.  Numerous buildings have been rehabilitated in the district with the help of state historic preservation tax credits.  CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

A man walks through the Fire Blocks District on East Third Street in downtown Dayton. Numerous buildings have been rehabilitated in the district with the help of state historic preservation tax credits. CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

Since Windsor entered the picture, only a few of the area’s existing businesses 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 now fills Binger’s space. Wells & Co. Custom Tattoo has been operating in the Fire Blocks area for about five years.

Several other businesses in the area predate Windsor’s current revitalization efforts, such as Don’s Pawn Shop, DND Uniforms Inc. and Dayton Church Supply.

Several of the buildings on the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Blocks neighborhood. CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

Several of the buildings on the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Blocks neighborhood.  CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

Several of the buildings on the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Blocks neighborhood. CORNELIUS FROLIC / STAFF

Windsor filled most of the retail space on the first floor of Fire Blocks.

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

On the south side of the block, Windsor has yet to fill a retail space at the corner of Third and Jefferson streets, in the Elks Building. A few years ago, this 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,” Dorsey said. “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 convert it to ground-floor retail and upstairs residential, he said.

Dorsey said Fire Blocks thrive because people want to be at the heart of Dayton’s diverse community.

“We only see Dayton growing and becoming a vibrant, thriving, prosperous city of art and industry,” he said.

Gudorf of 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 clustering housing, shops, 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 a concentrated area, it works,” she said.

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