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Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— In 1982, Theresa Hammons was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her first daughter, Ashley, when she and her husband Greg opened Ashley’s Pastry Shop in Oakwood.
Nestled in a building that has housed one bakery or another for more than 90 years, Ashley’s has been a household name in Dayton for generations when it comes to doughnuts, cakes, cookies and other fresh pastries.
The key to the couple’s success is no secret at all. Sure, one Ashley’s butter cookie will give you an extra bounce in your step that will last the rest of the day. But most people in the community would agree that Theresa’s genuine kindness, which greets each person with who comes through the bakery’s door, is what has made the shop a local staple.
Theresa met her husband, Greg, while they were both students at the University of Cincinnati, but moved to Detroit after graduation where Greg worked in the restaurant business. When the building on Park Ave. in Oakwood became vacant, the couple saw an opportunity to move back closer to family and jumped at it.
With Theresa’s marketing skills and Greg’s food production expertise, Theresa said they have been the perfect team ever since they opened shop.
Ashley’s Pastry Shop won the Best of Dayton 2017 “Best Bakery” category, and Theresa Hammons is our Daytonian of the Week.
🍩 What has been your biggest joy from running Ashley’s Pastry Shop?
“From the little kids who are on their way to school in the morning stopping by to get a doughnut, or that stop by after school because they got a great grade on their project. We get to see the beginning of generations right here, right before our eyes. There’s people that come in every single day — we can set our watch to it.
It’s really neat because we have people that come back to our bakery when they’re in town for class reunions or visiting family and they walk in and one of the first things they always say is, ‘Oh, it smells just like I remember.’ Because we are truly a bakery that still does all our baking on premise. So, when you open our doors, you smell the bakery, you smell the aromas in the oven and you see the activity in the back of the shop. It’s just a great testament to that things change in life— and my gosh everything changes so very much— but it’s so wonderful that there are things that remain the same.”
🍩 You studied marketing in college. After 36 years, have you been able to learn the ins and outs of the actual baking side of the business?
“I can really do just about everything. The thing about running a small business, especially one that is service-driven, there’s not really any definition of ‘this is my job description’ and ‘this is all I’m gonna do.’ I think that’s what enables me to love what I do as much as I do, because each day is so different. I may be mixing, pulling things in and out of the oven, then running deliveries and then cleaning the pans.
Especially when you’re working in a small business as close as we are with our employees. They know me and my husband are going to be right there beside them working with them. It enables a great sense of employee relationship with us.”
🍩 Are you ever overwhelmed with being surrounded by so much sugar every day?
“It’s like you get almost a sugar high in a way. It’s almost like over stimulation. I find that if I come in the morning, if I don’t start to nibble, then I’m ‘okay’ throughout the day. But if I come in and I have a little cookie, or bread, or danish— I just find myself not being able to stop the rest of the day.
🍩 What product are you and your husband most proud of creating?
“I probably would have to say the Sand Tart cookie, just because it’s been like a connection that’s enabled us, you know, it’s been a staple of this bakery forever so it just reminds people of their past from so many years ago. Keep in mind, the Orville home is right at the top of this street here. So there’s a couple of things that we make that they would come and get (at one of the bakeries preceeding Ashley’s). Being in this bakery and imagining, ‘Oh gosh, Orville and Wilbur (shopped here).’
Also, the Cronut is a trademarked name, so we call ours glazed croissants. Very similar, but we were making them long before the gentleman in New York. We just didn’t trademark it.”
🍩 How does a bakery know when they’ve got a great doughnut?
“Freshness is of course the best thing ... One of the things we’ve started to do when we were in business 36 years ago, is what we don’t sell in a given day, we donate to Catholic Social Services. Because we want our product, when someone’s buying it, to be the freshest it can be.”
🍩 Why Did you and your husband want to make giving back to the community such an important part of Ashley’s?
“We’re very fortunate that we have the ability to give back to the community that has been so tremendous to us and has supported us for the last 36 years. That was just a big committment that my husband and I made. When you make that delivery down to St. Vincent’s, or you connect with House of Bread...and you see the ounce of difference we can give in terms of a loaf of bread, or a dozen cookies, or a few coffee cakes— the difference it really makes in the lives of people that really aren’t that far from us. You don’t really have to go that far to realize the need is so prevalent right here in Dayton, Ohio. ... My husband and I have to have a passion about the organization and then we’re on board full force.”
🍩 Dayton: why do you love it so much?
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 10:26 AM
— Blink and you might just miss this Fireball-selling fire cracker.
Rachel Jensen seemingly spreads unicat dust, goodwill and alcoholic cheer wherever she goes.
We caught her just long enough to crown her the latest Daytonian of the Week.
Why are you a crazy cat lady?
Because cat noses are the cutest, cat paws are the softest and cat cuddles are the bestEST.
What are you passionate about in Dayton?
Charity. I am a huge fan of The Dayton Art Institute’s Art Ball and Bourbon and Bubbles, as well as Dayton History’s Dayton Fight Night. Dayton has a very charitable heart. If someone is sick or a business has an unforeseen disaster, the rest of the community does everything in their power to bring them back up.
Where do you go for a great time?
Lately, Gem City Catfe. They make an amazing Cinnamon Honey Latte and house 12 adorable adoptable kitties. Also, cat people are friendly people. So if you go alone you'll make new furry friends and meet new people friends.
What would you change about Dayton?
Year-round patio weather, please. Several Dayton restaurants and bars have the best patios in the Midwest. And I would love for someone to bring the First Four Festival back.
What should people know about Dayton?
Dayton is a big warm, fuzzy and friendly mix of everything.
The Flyer and Raider support is legit.
The LGBT Community shines.
There’s a great selection of arcades with bars. You can release your inner child again with a cocktail in hand. My favorites are Hole in the Wall, DK Effect and Canal Street Arcade and Deli.
This town has a strong presence of female chefs. These women aren’t afraid to create some of the most inventive dishes in the tri state.
What’s your favorite Dayton hidden gem?
Air City Wine and Liquor. This is where Century Bar, Lily's Bistro, Canal Street Deli and Arcade and Basil's on Market purchase their liquor from. They have an extraordinary selection of scotch, bourbon, whiskey & unique spirits (like Fernet Branca Menta -- a Lily's favorite). You will not be able to go there and get a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, but you will be able to find the knowledge and guidance you need from owners Adam Boyd and Chris Anders. These guys are top-notch when it comes to customer service and conversation about a good bottle of whiskey. After a few visits you will consider them your friends.
Why did you decide to settle in Dayton?
Dayton has a small-town friendly feel but big city ideas and culture. There's always plenty to do without breaking the bank. The people you meet here are kind and genuine. This is a very sincere community full of huggers and friends.
How did you get involved in your line of work?
I got the bug in my early 20s at Uno's in Downtown Dayton. I went from being a Theatre Major to a restaurant manager quickly. I loved the chaos and excitement of the business. I moved onto managing at Brio Tuscan Grille and then to a bar manager position at Vue Ultra Lounge.
While bartending at Vue I became passionate about creating cocktails and learning about various spirits. I loved bartending there, but having a young son made me want to strive for more consistent hours and weekends free to be a mom. I then decided to apply for the job I have now and I love it.
Published: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— The story of Tina Hightower, one of Dayton’s best-known drag queens, began in 1995 in Louisville, Kentucky.
In her world of performance, sequins, lashes and lipstick masked a difficult struggle with addiction. Battling with alcoholism and drug abuse took its toll on the performer, eventually forcing her to stop performing all together. The winding road to recovery finally began 10 years later.
In 2012, with seven years of sobriety beneath his belt, Jason Wright – the person beneath Tina Hightower’s drag disguise – finally found love and stability.
“I had accomplished most of the things I had waited a lifetime for,” Wright told us. “I had a good job and long-term relationship with my now husband, Bobby.”
But there was something missing. There was a void in his life that owning a home, settling down and staying on a clean path couldn’t fill. That void was performing.
Slowly but surely, Tina Hightower began to reemerge – and this time, her big personality was matched with a commitment to sobriety.
“Slowly I started checking out the local scene here in Dayton, and finally, I decided to give it a try,” he said. The transition wasn’t easy, though.
“I was 47 years old standing outside with 20-somethings in line for a club for an hour to get on list for open stage.” Eventually Hightower found friends to connect with, and rediscovered the stage – this time, without the presence of drugs or alcohol.
Wright celebrates six years as a performer in Dayton this year. In light of all the achievements, including winning Dayton.com’s Best of 2017 Drag Queen, here’s an in-depth look at his life both on and off the stage.
How does Dayton inspire you and your work?
Dayton inspires me because it's my home...we have a small but great gay community and plenty of 12 step meetings. Also, I find I encounter way more open-minded folks here in Dayton doing drag than I ever thought I would. I lived in other cities and I find being happy with myself will always be the key to appreciating where I live.... because wherever I go, there I am.
Are there any particular clubs where you regularly perform?
In the beginning, I did open stages at Masque and eventually started accepting paid bookings. Two years ago I moved on to MJ's on Jefferson, where I am now a featured hostess and a regular performer. I host weekend shows once a month and Drag Bingo the second Wednesday of every month. I’ve also been employed full-time with Kroger for the last 16 years, working in customer service at the store level.
With your Best of Dayton win noted, what honors or awards have you received?
I do drag pageantry. It works like regular beauty pageants with judges, talent, evening gown, on-stage question and interview categories. I am a former Miss Miami Valley USofA placing in the top six at Miss Ohio USofA. Recently I stepped down from Miss Gay Miami Valley, after placing 2nd alternate last year at Miss Gay Ohio. I will be competing for Miss Gay Ohio again this year.
Who inspires you to create something new to wow your audiences?
My mom inspires a lot of what I do. She 94 years old and filled with unconditional love. She occasionally comes to shows and really appreciates the jewelry and fashion side of it all! She likes to steal my purses! Also seeing the people smile keeps everything going for me.... if one random stranger says "you are beautiful” to me at a show my job is done for the night! I can go home knowing I made someone happy. But don't get me wrong -- I like getting paid too.
What is your favorite “look” to create/channel (i.e., old Hollywood, a particular person, etc.)?
I love glamour. Big hair, lots of jewelry, gowns, red lips! I'm a 53-year-old dude in a dress -- I need to be over-the-top beautiful! I also do a crazy bingo lady and a nun.
When you’re not dolled up as Tina Hightower, what do you do for fun?
For fun, I do a lot of behind the scenes prep... sewing, creating props, styling hair and of course, shopping! I still attend weekly 12 step meetings and hang with my sponsor. Other than that, it's nice to stay home where it's quiet.
If there were one thing you would change/improve about Dayton, what would it be?
I lived in the Oregon District for 6 years and loved the downtown area.... but there is no shopping. I think it would be great to have a downtown that offers restaurants, businesses and groceries like we have in the suburbs.
Dayton has been moving forward for the last 15 years in some areas...park system is good and baseball came to town, the Schuster Center, The Kroc Center were built, major improvements were made to Miami Valley Hospital and there has been a housing boom for a few years now downtown. I hope to see these things continue over the next 15 years. I fear for the public-school system in the future. Also, the crime and drug issues will continue. If not heroin, something new will replace it.
What’s one word you think people would use to describe you?
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I received and use is take care of your skin. I have been washing and moisturizing my face since I was 19. The best piece of advice I received and do not use was from my grandma. She always said save your pennies; I love to spend the money!
Share a memory with us about Dayton that resonates with you (I’m sure you have tons!).
My best memory is meeting a fantastic counselor named Carla McConnell at Greene Hall outpatient when I started there in the beginning of my sobriety. She helped me change my life and I will be grateful for her forever.
Recently, through Miss Gay Ohio Pageantry I've started raising money (in drag) for Ronald McDonald House Charities. Last year was my first year, and (it) will always be one of the best times I've had doing drag. I held a huge fundraiser at MJ's On Jefferson in the summer with help from the ladies of Femme Fatale Fitness and some close friends, held a private drag bingo fundraiser here at my home. In total, we raised $2240.00 for RMHC of Dayton! Also, I did an interview on the RMHC radiothon. It was a great year!
Do you have any upcoming shows or events?
I will be hosting bingo at MJ’s on Jefferson February 14...Also I will be starting pageant season by competing for Miss Gay Capital City (Miss Gay Ohio prelim) in Columbus Ohio on February 10.
Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— His name may have never appeared on a ballot certified by the Montgomery County Board of Election, but Andy Rowe, the bearded assistant manager of Blind Bob’s in the Oregon District, could certainly make a case for claiming the title “Mayor of Fifth Street.”
Below we catch up with Andy, a key organizer of a bingo night at Bob’s in support of employees impacted by the recent fire at Salar Restaurant and Lounge, and who has been crowned Daytonian of the Week.
The father of three said he organized the Salar fund-raiser because it was the Oregon District thing to do.
“When Blind Bob's opened 10 years ago, I was surprised that instead of being adversarial and territorial, all the neighboring restaurants and bars were amazingly supportive, and I wanted to pay that forward,” he told us.
Q) What do you do and how did you get involved in it?
A) I have been the assistant general manager at Blind Bob's since we opened in August of 2008. My close friend Nate approached me about managing a bar his family was looking at opening, and I was enthralled with the opportunity to build something focused on providing things I love (good food, good beer and local music). I was also elected to the non-profit Oregon District Business Association board in July 2016 and have served as its secretary since January 2017.
Q) What is your hidden talent?
A) Sleeping in. I've also been quietly teaching myself programming. Initially this was so I could make video games, but it actually led me toward my fascination with Bitcoin, which I've been obsessed with since 2013.
Q) What do you love about life in Dayton?
A) Dayton is just small enough that most people are polite enough to still say hello to a stranger (when I'm in big cities it seems like nobody acknowledges people they don't know, even avoiding eye contact), yet Dayton is just big enough that there's always something new to discover, explore and do.
Q) What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton?
A) In 2013 I took the love of my life, Eden, on our first date for tacos at Taqueria Mixteca, then we checked out the planetarium at Boonshoft, and finally we had coffee at Ghostlight. Actually she drove so I guess she took me? Either way she was putty in my hands after that day.
>> ON THE MENU: A burrito to end all burritos at Taqueria Mixteca
Q) What makes the Oregon District a unique place?
A) Its history is pretty amazing. A lot of the buildings are quite old with more than a couple having been built in the late 19th century. Fifth Street was primarily a rail hub adjacent to the canal, and you can still see clues in areas around Fifth Street of the tracks that ran under where there's now roadway. I don't think it's coincidence that a few local business names allude to trains and trolleys either (Oregon Express, Trolley Stop). Presumably the railroad connected to tracks that would bring you out to the state of Oregon. The story of the neighborhood pulling together decades later to restore and preserve the district is inspiring. I was raised in East Dayton and got to see a bit of the tail end of the neighborhood's resurgence. I have fond memories from my youth visiting my uncle Butch, who tended bar at the American Saloon which operated where Lucky's Taproom is now. Butch lived above the saloon and had a huge pot-bellied pig. Also noteworthy when it comes to the pronunciation of Oregon is here many usually pronounce it ore-uh-GONE, while folks in the state of Oregon I'm told cringe unless you pronounce it more like AURA-gun.
Q) What should people know about Daytonians?
A) Daytonians really are inventive. People know we invented airplanes (even if Kittyhawk has yet to get memo), but few realize how prolific Dayton is when it comes to the density of patents and the creation of new intellectual property. Search engines, pop- top cans, cash registers, digital scales, ice cube trays, chrome plating, artificial hearts and kidneys, microfiche, black lights, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Describing the music that comes from Dayton as inventive too would be pretty accurate.
Q) What inspires you about Dayton?
A) People from Dayton are determined. Dayton's teachers, artists and business owners are all stubborn and in the best way. It's evident in the people who never give up in the face of the continuous challenges the city seems to be constantly presented with, and that stubbornness is a sign of our strength.
Q) What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
A) I am optimistic Dayton will grow, continuing to invent and reinvent itself. It is my hope that city leaders will take a proactive approach to embracing the future. Increasing access to information by making a real commitment to bringing broadband access to the entire city would say to the world that Dayton really is a tech town. Embracing and exploring technology like Bitcoin Cash would put the city at the front of what's being made possible via open-source, programmable money. Lastly, and perhaps most important, a renewed and serious commitment to the education of Dayton's youth is needed. Teaching every student about our local history and being honest about the effects that the 1913 flood and desegregation had on Dayton and the surrounding communities is an important tool needed to help people understand and truly begin to undo the city's legacy of racial tension, which we all should agree belongs exclusively in our past.
Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 @ 6:00 AM
— A well-known face in the Dayton food and drink community is Amy Zahora, Executive Director of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association (MVRA).
It’s natural to hear Zahora’s name buzzing about this time of year, or before any major festival or Restaurant Week.
Since we're smack-dab in the middle of 2016 Winter Restaurant Week, we thought there was no better time to introduce Zahora to those who were interested in reading up on one of Dayton’s most influential foodies.
As the Executive Director of the MVRA, which plans Dayton's Restaurant Weeks in the winter and summer, Zahora has done so much to help build Dayton up as a prized food and drink destination for foodies local and everywhere else.
If you’re in love with the food scene here in Dayton, Zahora is a key person to thank. What do you do, and what is the most fulfilling aspect of your work? Zahora: I am the Executive Director for the Miami Valley Restaurant Association. The most fulfilling part of my job is building a relationship between independent restaurants and their community.
What’s the biggest way you believe your work impacts the Dayton community?
Zahora: Introducing people in the area to new restaurants and cuisines. We [who live in Dayton] have some of the finest locally-owned restaurants around, and it's so fun to get people to try them at one of our many events. People like getting out and trying new things and new places. And our events are a great place for them to do so.
Label yourself. Zahora: Ultimate Foodie Event Planner.
What is your favorite Dayton food and recreational activity?
Zahora: Food. Any Miami Valley independent restaurant -- depends on my mood. Recreation. Spending time with my family and supporting local teams and events.
What do you love about life in Dayton?
Zahora: I love that there are so many different options for dining. We truly are fortunate to have so many different cuisines and amazing chefs.
What would you change about Dayton?
Zahora: I wouldn't change a thing about Dayton - #daytonrocks. If you are going to make me choose something, [it would be to] increase awareness on supporting local.
What’s the biggest way you believe your work impacts the Dayton community?
Zahora: By creating awareness and building bridges between local small business owners and the community.
What do you wish people knew about Dayton?
Zahora: We are extremely well diversified in food, art, and music.