Second to Fifth
I park in the shadow of the witches tower. The gray chunk of abandoned manufacturing facility stands looming to my right. It’s decorated with spray paint and surrounded by the loose remains of a chain link fence. Having lived in Dayton Ohio my entire life I remember this structure quite well. I remember being a child in the back seat of my mom’s car. My sisters voice yells out “The Witches Tower!” And we both duck down so that we might not be visible through the car windows.
I remember lying in the back seat looking up through the window as we pass. The Witches tower back then seeming so ominous and intimidating. I remember waiting until it was well out of view before sitting back up. The Witches Tower now stands next to 2nd street market. It’s sort of an unpleasant reminder of our cities decay but I suppose I see it with sentimental goggles on.
The parking lot back wall is spray-painted with Dayton love. Some graffiti tags and fruit paintings accompany a familiar dragon who seems to be waving welcome to me. I smile at my welcome and walk across the bricks to find my way inside.
The fact that the small city of Dayton has a market of any sort is fantastic. I always try to support 2nd street market and preferably a different vendor every-time. It’s hours are extremely limited so I’ll admit my visits are at best, six times a year.
Inside I am confronted by a mixture of aromas and voices. There is a lady selling lotions and candles to my immediate right. She asks me to try out the product but I hurry away. Let’s not waste anybody’s time. I’m not the sort of girl to drop $15 on a bottle of lotion no matter how well it may moisturize.
I check Friends of the humane society having my new kitten in mind but find nothing that sparks my interest. The homemade dog cookies are cool I bought some last year and they went over quite well.
The handcrafted vendors always have the coolest stuff but I am a girl on a budget so I can only stare longingly as I pass. The food too is always tempting. I ate at Cheeky meat pies the last time I visited and they’re fantastic.
I find my way to Caffeine. I’ve never been able to visit the market and say no to them. On the specials board I see a frozen red velvet cake frappuccino. I splurge and it’s absolutely worth it.
There are many other vendors all with cool stuff, but what I find unnerving is that there are a few missing from my last visit. With such limited hours and so many people unaware of it’s existence, it must be hard to make money from the market. I find two new stands at the very end. One offers flavored olive oils and flavored vinegars imported from Venice. I do like the idea of enjoying the same thing trending in Italy. There are some really cool flavors all of which you are welcome to try out. The bottles are rather large at $15 a piece but the girl working there tells me she’s trying to get smaller packages and wants to offer a variety pack for Christmas. I know someone who would love that as a gift so I make a mental note to come back in December.
The other new stand seems to specialize in Amish preserves. I buy a jar of chow chow for my sister for Christmas. The owner of the stand tell me to be sure to tell my sister where it came from.
Before leaving I check out the earings in Asian Collection and find out that he also owns a store in Yellow Springs which I’ve been to and always liked.
After tossing the jar of Chow Chow in my car I walk out of the parking lot towards third street. Abandoned buildings and discarded trash stretch out of the rights I approach the stop light. I remember the stories my Grandmother told me of what Dayton had been like in the 1950’s. I try to imagine it but I can’t really. Dayton has always been a struggling weary thing as long as I can remember.
On third street I am again confronted by the deterioration of my city from the economy. Basically British has closed. It’s fancy hand carved wooden doors now open to an empty barren room. The wind seems to blow a more bitter chill as I sigh in a visible cloud.
This walk for me is more than bittersweet. If all goes as planned I’ll be moving out of Dayton this summer. I applied to transfer to Ohio State University after I graduate from Sinclair Community College. And although I’m sure I’ll make this walk again this might be my last time to make it alone before I go. I thought It might be a nice reflective stroll which I could get a closer look at my city but increasingly it just seems to bum me out.
Therapy cafe is cool so glance inside as I walk past. I’ve only been there on Tuesday nights when it’s free entry and once for poetry night. The drinks may be more expensive but they offer some varieties of liquor that the other bars don’t carry. My memories of a warm summer night in that crowded place with several friends seems a distant dream to this cold empty daylight.
Looking down from Therapy you’ll see that Mendelsons liquidation outlet is straight across. I know that the Dayton Dragons stadium is right by that. This puts into perspective how very small my city really is.
At the corner there once was Wimpy Burger. It had been super cheap and my favorite 50’s style dinner. Now it is Olive and It’s a bit outside my price range. Still I’m happy that cute little dinner is actually being used. The other corner is White Lotus another favorite of mine. The spicy coconut soup is amazing. God help us all if they go out of business.
I turn down Wayne ave and pass fourth street. To the left you’ll see the Garden Center. That place is really cool. I hope they keep adding and growing for a long time to come. I’d love to volunteer but I can’t find time for the life of me. I’m on the right side of the street by now so I can only stare. Anyway it’s cold.
Walking past Press coffee I hide my Caffeine cup so they don’t think me a traitor and hurry past. The Oregon district seems to be it’s usual day time self. The restaurants are all on lunch and most of the bars aren’t open yet. The stores are cool as always, particularly the new ones. Brim sells some unique and stylish well made hats. Clash consignment has vintage clothes, art and handmade trinkets. I buy a cute dress there. The counter guy tells me that the place next door, which had hand-sewed and handmade goods imported from third world countries, is gone. I do hope they have moved vs going out of business. In good news Clash is going to expand and make use of that space. They’re going to make it a like a gallery art section I believe.
I’m sad to report that the newer bookstore has closed. The one with several cats roaming around and a very laid back atmosphere. At least we still have Bonnets and I’ll admit they had a better book selection. Towards the end of the street are two more restaurants closed down. Both of these being more due to poor management and shady business tactics than lack of business, so I expect something to eventually fill those locations.
I finally decide to stop at Smokin BBQ for food and to my surprise is it’s quite full inside. The food is great and despite this busyness the service doesn’t suck. I sit facing the window watching the street. I see people walking into the Neon movie theater and I watch people walking down to the new galleries located beneath the Sinclair lofts. I see people walking further up fifth street towards Spaghetti Warehouse or perhaps the cool new Vintage Barber Shop.
So maybe Dayton isn’t the biggest city and maybe our businesses have to struggle, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t growing in some way. Maybe it’s a slow spread. Yes we’ve lost some along the way but for the first time today I feel hope. The people of Dayton might finally be taking notice of the cool things hiding down town. I suppose it’s rather arrogant to be worried that all the small businesses will close without my support once I move away. I can only hope that some of you might try to support our down town businesses a little more after reading this. Our city isn’t so steady on her feet and she needs your support. I leave her in your hands, don’t let me down.