Remembrances > 'Recent' Dayton history- Front Street Coffee House
'Recent' Dayton history- Front Street Coffee House
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blue J
139 posts
Sep 17, 2014
1:58 PM
I'll call this recent Dayton history because it dates back only to the mid-1990s. That was a time when many people considered downtown Dayton to be 'dead'. But there was this coffee shop- the best I've ever enjoyed, among the many that seemed to spring up in a wave of coffee popularity at that time. It was at 35 E. First Street (on the north side of First, between Main and Jefferson)- a place that as of this writing is an Avis car rental store. But I digress. Twenty years hence, I remember Front Street as if it were yesterday.

It was a fairly narrow space, and the building dated back to the latter half of the 19th century, at least. I remember there was a really ornate, painted tile mural on the wall behind the coffee bar itself that dated to the 1870s or 1880s.

There was the great coffee, but they also served really good food- I would get half a pot of French Roast coffee, and their great cream of potato soup, which was served in a 'bowl' that was actually a big hollowed-out loaf of sourdough bread. It was great! I also got a salad there on a regular basis that was very good, but for the life of me, I can't remember now what was in it.

There were a few tables and a couple of booths in the front, around the bar, and then you followed a narrow hallway back to a larger room with more tables, which we always called "the back room". I was among a whole cadre of regulars who frequented the establishment- mainly all of us were writers, artists, bohemian types. It was a great atmosphere, and I still remember a lot of great people I knew from there, even though we've all moved on now.

Tuesday night was poetry night, where we writers and performance artists would read our own work, or other things, and it was well attended by people who we all came to call our friends.

I moved away from Dayton in 1995, but returned eighteen months later- and when I returned to Front Street in the late summer of 1996, it had definitely changed. To give you a sense of the tight-knit community that we were, I remember running in to the guy who was working behind the bar, Chris, who was a friend of mine from before I had moved away, and when he saw me, he said, "Hey, I haven't seen you for awhile- what have you been up to?", as if we hadn't seen each other for a month or so. And I told him I'd been living out of state for a year and a half...

But as I said, the complexion of the place overall had changed. Front Street closed under a cloud of suspicion in about 1998. And the man who owned it, and was always working there during the more glorious days I remember in 1994 and '95, named Mike Barrett, passed away in 2009.

Oh, but what memories I have of that glorious place...I miss it dearly.

Last Edited by blue J on Sep 17, 2014 1:58 PM
luv my dayton
941 posts
Apr 05, 2015
7:42 PM
You have a great memory for detail and enjoyed your telling of a moment in time as though you were still there. Was anxious to visit the place until I got the drift it was there no longer. Thats the sad part about Dayton as the older amongst us remember what Dayton was with her industry, many restaurants, movie theatres, diners, and the shops of every kind and the people who were downtown were different in a good way. Very friendly and polite. Going downtown was an adventure and something the Malls never had. They are just a place to go for something to do. I myself haven't been to a mall in years. Thanks for sharing your memory of long ago.
blue J
160 posts
Apr 27, 2015
1:46 PM
Thanks, LMD- I'm glad to be able to convey a sense of something that was really positive and extremely memorable and important to me, even though it was at a time when the conventional wisdom was that downtown Dayton was 'dead' (in the mid-1990s). I guess I can't argue with that, for the most part, but I feel that there have always been things to find and enjoy. Or maybe I was just very fortunate for that, at that time. (I was only born in 1973, so I missed out on much of the classic, thriving scene in Dayton, and downtown specifically. But I remember certain things from when I was very young).

I drove by the front of the Arcade building on W. Third Street last week, and I travel down Fourth pretty regularly, from the Kuntz building and down the back side of the Arcade...I remember the grand re-opening of the Arcade in 1980, and how much promise there was surrounding it then. I appreciate the things that have happened downtown in the past 10-12 years or so to bring more people back downtown, but there is still so much potential that is going unfulfilled. And I know it all comes down to money, unfortunately, and for whatever reason people want to tear down the old and build something different, rather than to renovate structures that are already there, that have been part of the fabric of this city for a century or more.


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