Downtown Yellow Springs’ most-cherished businesses
- Published: May 26, 2022
The following article appeared in the 2020–21 Guide to Yellow Springs: Downtown, Then and Now. Click here to read more articles from that year’s guide.
“What Yellow Springs store or restaurant — now closed — do you miss the most, and what did you love about it?”
In September 2020, the News posted that question to two local Facebook discussion groups and received more than 1,000 responses.
Current and former villagers shared their memories and reminisced about places that were true local institutions.
Below is a sampling of responses, with some additional background on some of the most beloved places.
Far and away, Grote’s Dari-Korner is the local shop that villagers said they miss the most. Grote’s is remembered as much for its food — hand-cut fries, giant ice cream cones and made-from-scratch sandwiches — as for the kindness of its co-owner and chef, “Mrs. Grote.”
“Mom Grote said I drank too much pop so she started making me drink unsweetened iced tea … still ate a lot of fries (cooked in lard!). May I have a footlong coney and onion rings?” —Eric Clark
Started in 1967 by Ann and Jack Grote, who also ran a Marathon service station next door, the restaurant was modest. It was small, takeaway-only, seasonal and served simple foods like chili dogs and milkshakes. When they opened, the Grotes “bumped out” the building to create an order window, which can be seen today in the strange shape of the space, located at the northeast corner of Xenia and Corry and now occupied by Subway.
John Grote, the son of Ann and Jack, remembers working in the shop as a kid — all his siblings did. His mother cooked as many of the foods from scratch as she could, including its egg, chicken and tuna salads. “She did it all by hand,” he said. “She went in really, really, really early in the morning.”
The Dari-Korner was frequented by the lunch crowd from Vernay, Morris Bean and Antioch Bookplate, along with many local kids who would ask for “mess ups,” ice cream orders that weren’t quite up to snuff, which they were given for free. It had many regulars, and the Grotes would always remember their orders, a personal touch that many recall fondly.
“First on the list is Grote’s. Footlong with everything possible and a banana malted!” —Dale Bryce
“First on the list is Grote’s. Footlong with everything possible and a banana malted!” —Dale Bryce
“Someone could walk up and you already knew what they wanted,” John Grote said. “People would order the same things day after day after day.”
Above all, Mrs. Grote was generous, and helped those who needed it with a free meal, while impressing upon her children the importance of helping others. “She treated everybody pretty decent,” her son recalls. “People who couldn’t pay, she would just slide it out the window.”
Grote’s Dari-Korner closed around 1990 after a 23-year run. Villagers, though, can still taste the French fries. It was a small and mighty restaurant that will live long in people’s hearts.
“For being just a little small, nothing, out-of-the-way place, it did good business,” John Grote said.
Ellie “Gabby” Mason is remembered locally as much for his generosity as his cooking.
He served his barbecue all over town — from his home on South Stafford Street, in his downtown restaurants, at a Clifton speakeasy or at any number of local gatherings and political meetings. Along with his barbecue, he also served up a signature catchphrase that exemplified his kindness — “It’s nice to be nice. Try it!”
Mason was so beloved, the community began a tradition known as Gabby Day to honor him, both before and after his death in 1992.
“The best Gabby’s was when it was a hole in the wall on the Dayton Street side of Jake’s Party Pantry.” —Jim Peters
After moving from Springfield to Yellow Springs in the 1960s, Mason operated restaurants downtown under the name Gabby’s BBQ. One restaurant was in a building shared with Jake’s Party Pantry on Dayton Street, now Trail Town Brewing, and the other was in the building that now houses the Wind’s Wine Cellar. His specialties were smoked meats — including his famous ribs — sandwiches and fried foods. When asked the secret to his culinary success in 1991, Mason told News reporter Amy Harper, “First, I enjoy people. You gotta do that to cook. That’s my life — people.”
For decades, cheap essentials could be found in the heart of downtown. Everything from penny candy to underwear to sewing materials was sold at Village Variety, which was in the space that now houses Current Cuisine and Dark Star Books and was open from about 1977 to 1996.
“I miss getting a sack full of penny candy, some issues of the ElfQuest comic and lots of vibrant colors of embroidery floss from their upstairs to make friendship bracelets.”
“I can still picture the upstairs when I’m in Dark Star. And I can still remember the sugar rush biking home with a sack of candy swinging from my fist.” —Sommer McGuire
Prior to its incarnation as Village Variety, a similar “five and dime” store operated at the same site for at least a decade. Then, in the late 1970s, Larry and Luella Acomb moved up from Cincinnati to buy the shop, turning it into Village Variety, an everything store that looms large in the memories of villagers. “It was like a local version of K-Mart,” recalls Sandy King, whose in-laws at the time ran the store.
Clothing, gardening supplies, toys and pretty much anything people needed was sold there. Many fondly remember the upstairs, which had a wide selection of fabrics and sewing materials. And those who frequented the store as kids haven’t forgotten the candy section, which was the place to go after school.
Simple food served in a homey environment describes Carol’s Kitchen, a popular lunch spot in the village in the 1980s and early 1990s. The vision of Carol and Bruce Cornett, the restaurant revolved around Carol’s breads and Bruce’s soups.
“I always loved Carol’s kitchen. The potato chips were awesome!” —Tanya Ellenburg-Kimmet
The couple opened it in 1984 in an old building that housed the town’s post office and now hosts Trail Town Brewing, and before that, William’s Eatery. With a few Hobart mixers and scales, they set up shop in Yellow Springs and decided to offer various “bars” — including a salad bar, sandwich bar and fruit bar. Completing those items were the soups, two 20-quart pots of them, made fresh each day, and served with a thick slice of bread. Bruce’s cheddar potato soup, Carol recently recalled, was “outrageously popular,” and her onion dill bread was legendary. “You could eat real well at Carol’s,” she said.
Patrons could watch Carol prepare food on a huge butcher block in the dining room, eat on picnic tables in a plant-filled greenhouse they added to the building and enjoy good food and conversation. “The air was always full of baking smells and you could communicate with everyone,” Carol remembers. The couple sold the restaurant to Pam Moon in 1988, who ran it until 1995, when a national essay contest to find a buyer was unsuccessful.
“Trash with class.” That was the motto of the Molladoor, a secondhand shop filled with, well, everything, and which was a fixture in town for 30 years. A joint venture of Patty Maneri and Evelyn Sikes, the store was piled high with clothes, furniture, jewelry, clocks, lamps, home basics for Antioch College students and other treasures they purchased at auction. Sikes said the shop was definitely not “neat and tidy.”
“When people would ask me what I did for a living, I would say I ran a junk store,” she told the News recently. “It wasn’t just a classy secondhand shop at all. It was a ‘have everything and lots of luck finding it’ store!’”
Sikes and Maneri started out running separate shops, sometime in the early 1970s. Sikes’ The Blue Door, located in the building now occupied by Asanda Imports, was a consignment shop filled with local arts and crafts, such as Corinne Whitesell’s weavings, Pam Hogarty’s glass ornaments and art by local youth.
Maneri’s Mollading on Dayton Street was a resale shop of items she bought at auction, Mollading being a “filler word” auctioneers used between bids. They joined forces, combined the names and the Molladoor was born. The two women bought lots at a Springfield auction a few times a week. “It was fun to go to the auctions, they are a real free show!” Sikes recalled. In addition to old treasures, the store stocked music supplies and also wood stoves.
The Molladoor moved around quite a bit. It was in the Bonadies building, the building that now houses the Emporium, above the Winds, a spot on Dayton Street and next to the Yellow Springs News. Perhaps its most prominent location was in the building now owned by Dunphy Real Estate after the Village Bakery moved out in 1974, with a wood stove installed right in the middle of the shop.
“Cooking dinner and discover you need a food mill or 6 more dessert plates? Problem solved for less than $3 and a two block walk.” —Krista Magaw”
During the store’s last 20 years, Patty and Evelyn played Scrabble every day; the board was kept under the counter. Reflecting on her time in the store, Sikes said it was all fun — finding unique items at auction, being with her good friend and getting the scoop on village news.
“They could have been in the Guiness Book for longest running Scrabble games.” —Marcia Wallgren
“It was fun to know what was going on in town. We knew everything,” she said. “And also to get to know people who otherwise we wouldn’t have. There were some real characters in town back then.”
In the last incarnation of Molladoor, Ed Dietz, an antique dealer who ran Calumet, shared the space next to the Yellow Springs News with them. Both closed in 2005.
Responding to the fact that there were no restaurants that would serve Black people in the community, Goldie Williams and her husband Hillard “Com” opened Com’s Restaurant in 1945.
“An after-Friday-night Antiochian folk dancers’ hangout in the ’60s. Great pizza, quarts of Blatz beer, and Aretha Franklin on the jukebox!!” — David Kuder
“Soul food, Black-owned, some of the best food and atmosphere ever.” —Andrea Cobbs-Waterman
Opening the restaurant involved moving the building that would house it from its original location at High and Davis streets to a site just west on Davis Street.
Specializing in Goldie’s fried chicken, the restaurant flourished and was popular with people of all races and ages. The first interracial eating establishment in Yellow Springs, it was owned and operated by Williamses for 27 years. The restaurant later operated as DG’s, Tricia Di’s and Sharon’s before it closed for good and became a private residence.
Local baker Dick Harwood’s midnight donuts were legendary. Even Jorma Kaukonen, an Antioch student who went on to play in Jefferson Airplane, has reminisced about the late night treat and the all-night folk music hootenannies that took place there.
Harwood, of Springfield, came to town when he was recruited to be the baker at a new deli that some locals were starting here in the 1950s, among them Dr. Martin Cook, Mary Porter and Walter Anderson. It was located where the Winds Wine Cellar is now. After working there several years, Harwood bought the deli and turned it into The Village Bakery. He later moved the business down the block to what is now the location of the Dunphy Real Estate office.
“I was still pre-adolescent, but when our family went to a Cincinnati Reds night game, we would arrive back late and get some still-warm donuts, which were delicious.”
“You could sit on the steps eating the warm donut and watch the bank clock spin.” —Dan Schiff
The Village Bakery exemplified the term “scratch bakery,” where everything is homemade and fresh, according to a News article. The business was also the center of life at night in Yellow Springs. Many villagers, especially students at Antioch College, would frequently be found outside the bakery around 11:30 p.m., waiting for the first batch of Dick’s hot, fresh donuts. Harwood called it an “oasis in the night.”
After 17 years of continual operation, Harwood closed The Village Bakery in 1974.
Dick And Tom’s
A local institution for more than 30 years, Dick & Tom’s was a coffee shop and restaurant owned and operated by Dick and Babs Bullen in the space now occupied by the Sunrise Cafe.
It all started in 1948, when Brenner’s Meat Market, which formerly occupied that space, was going out of business. At the same time, “Doc” Erbaugh, of the Erbaugh Drug Store next door, was looking to get rid of his soda fountain, and suggested that Dick and his brother-in-law, Norm Thomas (“Tom”), move into the former meat market and start a restaurant there. They purchased the soda fountain and booths from Erbaugh for around $500 and added a grill. Dick and Babs became the sole managers and owners a few years later.
“There was a door between Dick and Tom’s and the drugstore. Everyone ate there. It was like a neighborhood bar without alcohol. In addition to the booths, you could sit on the stools and eat with people from all walks of village life and get to know them. Real community builder.” —Marcia Wallgren
The operation didn’t change much over the decades. For years, Dick and Tom’s served the “early bird” breakfast: bacon and eggs at a bargain price. The “wimpy” was a staple from the beginning, as was homemade meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, smoked sausage and vegetable soup, according to a News article, which did not define what a wimpy was. The restaurant’s clientele was always almost exclusively local, and 60% of it connected to Antioch College, the couple told the News in 1979.
“I miss Dick and Tom’s terribly. Totally working class diner where they called you ‘honey.'” —Jennifer Berman
The restaurant closed soon after, in 1981, when they retired. It then became the Village Coffee Shop, operated by Mary and Don Boles until 1990, when Jonathan Brown opened the Sunrise Cafe. Although the space looks a lot different, one can still get a good cup of coffee and meal at 259 Xenia Ave.
Other missed places
Restaurants, bars & coffee shops, food & beverage: Iko’s Harmony Cafe, Chili Lites Cafe, K&N Deli, Main Squeeze, Back Chat Cafe, Brother Bear’s Coffee Shop, Gypsy Cafe, 68 Grill, Eddie’s Drive-Thru, Tastee Freeze, Top of the Glen, George’s Deli, Pizza King, Carlisle Meat Market, Organic Grocery, Ninth House Life Foods, Antioch Tea Room, the Black Orchid, Meskie Brown’s Ethiopian Restaurant, Yellow Gulch Saloon and Restaurant, MaJaGa, William’s Eatery, the Spiral, NutHaus, Webb Coffeehouse, Party Pantry.
Stores & shops: Erbaugh & Johnson’s, Phantasm Arcade, Ken Simon’s Drum and Frame Shop, “would you, could you” In a Frame, Mysteries from the Yard, Movieworks/Photoworks, Yoga Springs, C&O Skate Shop, Rexall’s Drugs, Ott Shop, Oten Art Gallery, Senior Citizens Thrift Store, Hole in the Wall, Standing Room Only, Records & Fresh Vegetables, Clockworks/Bruning’s Clock Shop, Cream O’ the Crop, La Llama Place, Hasser’s Barbershop, Mr. Fub’s Party, Knowles Green, No Common Scents, Love and the Great Outdoors, Furay’s Gift Shop, Village Lanes, Emmett’s Barbershop, Joe Holly’s Cleaners, Moody Shoes, Rita Caz, Colbert Collection, the Black Orchid, the Four Directions, Elsewhere Books, Axel Bahnsen’s Photo Studio, Stag’s Cleaners, Kings Yard Goods, Village Gallery and Guitar.