log in to manage your profile and account
- Create your account
- Receive up-to-date newsletters
- Set up text alerts
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 11:44 AM
When Tom spots you, you’ve been spotted.
Over the last few years, Tom Gilliam has become the go-to photographer for Dayton.com, snapping photos at most of Dayton’s major events every weekend.
We caught up with Tom, our latest Daytonian of the Week.
>> RELATED: Meet Tom Gilliam, founder of DaytonGram
What do you do and why do you do it?
My full-time career is in IT support for Charter Communications. I have been working at the same company for over 22 years (even though it has had many different names) since I was 17 (I'll be 40 in July).
Freelance photography is my second job. On most weekends, I cover at least two events and/or festivals in the Dayton area for photo galleries that are published on Dayton.com the following Monday or Tuesday. Additionally, I write and photograph an ongoing series about historic buildings in the Dayton area called The Buildings of Dayton, also for Dayton.com. Various companies and organizations hire me for commercial photography jobs as well.
Even though computers and technology have always been an interest of mine, I work an IT career as my primary source of income to provide for my wife, son and daughter. Photography started out as a hobby but is now a second career which further helps in supporting my family. With that being said, I still have much love for photography. There are aspects of it that I do for no other reason than simply having fun and creating art.
I'm currently in my fourth year serving on the Dayton History Bell Board at Carillon Historical Park. The board plans and executes two major fundraising events every year (Fleurs de Fête & Ringing In The Holidays). I also contribute my photography for the "Views Around The Park" section of Dayton History's quarterly member magazine, "The Heritage." Giving back to my community is important so I do what I can with the small amount of extra time I have to spare.
I've been playing in Dayton-area bands on and off since 1997. Before I started doing photography, music was my main hobby and only artistic outlet. The name of my band is called Ghost Town Silence. My bandmates are my closest friends Gavin Spencer (bass/co-lead vocals/songwriter), Jason Johantges (rhythm guitar/songwriter) and Brian Winter (drums/percussion). Our name was The Rebel Set from the time we started playing in 2005 until 2014. I play lead guitar, sing co-lead vocals and co-write our songs. We have released the following albums: "Ghost Town Silence" (2008), "Across The Relentless Sea" (2009) and the EP "Shadows" (2015). We're currently writing our 4th album and hope to record it this year. Playing music with my friends is always a lot of fun. The only challenge is lining up our schedules.
What superpower would you love to have?
I would love to have the ability to clone myself in order to be everywhere I need to be and want to be at the same time. My favorite movie is “Back to the Future” so it would also be nice to have the power as a human to travel through time without the aid of a time machine (even though the DeLorean time machine is amazing). Using my time travel superpower, I would go back in time to experience Dayton's past starting in 1796 (the year our city was founded) and visit during important moments in the history of the DYT.
What do you love about life in Dayton?
We really do have it great here. The cost of living in the Dayton area is so much lower than most of Ohio and the rest of the United States. I live in a Cape Cod style bungalow in the Belmont neighborhood in the City of Dayton. Immaculate Conception Church & School plus Belmont Park are closeby, so it’s definitely a nice area to walk my dog Simba and get a little peace and quiet at the Shrine of Our Lady of Belmont. This is definitely considered cliché by some people, but going to a Dayton Dragons game at Fifth Third Field is a special thing for Daytonians and should never be taken for granted. We get to see future Reds players in an early stage of their careers plus current Reds on rehab assignments. The ballpark was also an early catalyst for the redevelopment renaissance we're seeing in downtown Dayton today.
I love that Dayton is a big city with a small-town feel. I can always count on running into a friend or acquaintance when I'm out around town.
There are so many talented musicians and artists here in Dayton! Where do I even begin?
What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton?
Dinner at Blind Bob's followed by a walk in the Oregon District.
>> PHOTOS: Take a look inside the former Schantz house
How did you get involved with photography?
In late 2011, I downloaded the Instagram iPhone app and created a personal account. At the time, my son (who is now 10) would fall asleep in the car after leaving the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Carillon Historical Park and many other places I'd take him to. I started to take drives in downtown Dayton while he was napping since I didn't want to wake him. In order to pass the time and do something productive, I'd pull the car over, park and stop for a minute or two to take pictures of buildings with my iPhone. The first building in downtown Dayton that I posted a photo of was the Conover Building (aka American Building and RTA Headquarters/Wright Stop Plaza). That's where my fascination with photography started. Close to the time that I started posting photos on Instagram, I discovered Dave Schmidt's @cincygram account and we started following each other. Dave's photography of Cincinnati inspired me to start @daytongram on July 10, 2013. I didn't see anyone else on IG at the time with an active account showcasing the Dayton area exclusively so I figured I'd give it a shot. What started as a fun hobby took on another meaning when I realized I could use my photos of Dayton to get people more excited about the city.
What are your favorite things to photograph in Dayton?
Interiors and exteriors of historic and architecturally significant buildings, especially old theaters and churches.
The Dayton Arcade is definitely at the top of my list. In 1993, the arcade was open during Christmastime for "Holly Days", part of the Downtown Dayton Partnership's Dayton Holiday Festival before closing for good after the holidays. I was 15 at the time and got to visit once while it was still open. The place was packed with festive people and decorated with beautiful lights. I've been photographing/advocating for The Dayton Arcade since 2013 so it is an exciting time knowing that its redevelopment/rebirth by Cross Street Partners, The Model Group and McCormack Baron Salazar is imminent on the horizon.
From February 2016 until June 2017, I professionally photographed the construction progress at Delco Lofts every month for the building's developer Crawford Hoying. On Monday, I did a photo shoot at Delco Lofts. The photo shoot made me realize how unique of an experience it was to have been there documenting it's progression from start to finish. Now, I appreciate it even more. Charles Kettering's restored corner office on the 6th floor of the building is now a Clubhouse for residents and a must-see. The new industrial windows that were designed to the original specifications are amazing and the shadows they provide for photography can't be beat!
>> RELATED: Insider’s look at Delco Lofts (May 10, 2017)
My favorite place to take skyline/cityscape photos of downtown Dayton is from Deeds Point MetroPark.
When it comes to photography of the city via rooftops, that's a tie between the Liberty Tower and Delco Lofts. The 20th floor balcony of the Fifth Third Center's penthouse also gets an honorable mention after last weekend's Culture Works Artini event.
What have you learned about this city from taking its pictures?
When I first started doing photography, I used to say that much of the beauty of this city wasn't always visible on the surface. The beauty was always there but you had to have a keen eye and look for it. With all of the redevelopment/revitalization happening downtown and in many of the city's historic neighborhoods, the beauty of Dayton that has always been there is much more visible and refined. I've also learned that the history of Dayton is more extensive than I could've ever imagined. There's much more to our story than the Wright Brothers, NCR, etc. I've also made many connections and friends in Dayton through my photography work. Even though I've being doing photography here for a little less than five years, I feel like I've known the people I've met along the way my whole life.
Where do you go for a great time?
I work a lot so its nice when I get that rare chance to stop at Warped Wing for a beer. There's a great vibe and sense of community at the brewery. Most of the staff have been there since the start so I always know I'm going to see a familiar and friendly face. That's my favorite brewery but I love all of the ones in the Dayton area that I've been able to visit. Yellow Cab Tavern is one of the best places in Dayton. It's an organic community event space ran by a great group of people. Even though most of the time I've spent there has been working photo assignments for various events, I've always had a a wonderful time at the Old Yellow Cab.
When it comes to a great time in Dayton with my wife and kids, we visit the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and Carillon Historical Park regularly. It also helps that we have family memberships to both places. Some of our favorite Dayton festivals to attend as a family are the Germanfest Picnic & Dayton Celtic Festival (both at RiverScape MetroPark) and the Jewish Cultural Festival at Temple Israel. Young's Dairy (closer to Yellow Springs) is also a family favorite trip to get some ice cream and check out the farm animals.
A lot of what I really love about Dayton is simple. I'm very much a creature of habit so one of my favorite things to do on lunch from my IT career if I'm not using my lunch time for a photo shoot is to park my car by The Dayton Arcade (could be either Third, Ludlow or Fourth Street sides). I will then walk by the arcade to admire its architectural beauty and possibly take some photos with my iPhone even though I've done that walk countless times. After that, I'll cross Third Street and head into Courthouse Square to get a chicken sausage and a Vienna Beef hot dog with Louisiana Hot Sauce (both dogs must have caramelized onions) from Dave Parker at the Dogs for Dogs mobile hot dog stand. Fritos corn chips and a drink are also a part of that particular lunch. Dave and I will usually talk about how bad the Cincinnati Reds are playing (we're both frustrated fans of the team). After I get my food, I'll sit down at one of the picnic tables on the square, eat, relax, listen to the music if there's a band playing and people watch. Other favorite food places of mine include Canal Street Arcade & Deli and Carmen's Deli.
Great times outside of Dayton include going to Reds games in Cincinnati, concerts, day trips around Ohio, zoos and yearly family trips to Walt Disney World.
What would you change about Dayton?
Negative attitudes to positive ones. Though this statement is coming from someone who loves history (especially Dayton's history), we should appreciate the past successes of our city but not expect our present and future to be the same kind of success as had by previous generations. We need to make Dayton the city we want it to be in 2018 and beyond. On social media, I see older generations bashing Dayton (downtown, in particular) from the suburbs and many times from out of state (former Daytonians). I encourage the people who do this on a regular basis to come downtown, experience all of the great things there are to see, do, eat & drink and re-evaluate their feelings. They may be pleasantly surprised that Dayton doesn't suck like they claim it does. Most of the negative people haven't actually visited Dayton in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. The success of this city is a team effort and I believe that if everyone chips in just a little bit, we will be much better off for it. It could be volunteering at an event, donating money to a local cause, taking the initiative to pick up trash in your neighborhood even if it technically isn't your responsibility or giving time to feed the hungry at a soup kitchen. These are merely examples and I encourage everyone to do what works for them. Our city, like every other city has serious issues to face on a daily basis. However, we should embrace and celebrate the positive things happening in Dayton while continuing to work hard and be the change we want to see here. The negativity will never go completely silent but if we can lessen the noise, that's something for all Daytonians to be proud of.
What should people know about Daytonians?
I'm amazed by the amount of successful charity fundraisers/benefits in the Dayton area. Daytonians have a huge heart when it comes to philanthropy, whether its donating money, time/talent or both to great causes.
Lastly, people should know that Daytonians love free parking!
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2018 @ 10:00 AM
— This week’s featured duo for Daytonian of the Week are Elizabeth and David Furst.
You were first introduced to this couple with the announcement of the opening of their Santa Clara Juicery, which goes far beyond creating and delivering tasty drinks.
We spoke with the Fursts about life in Dayton, what inspired their return to the Gem City, and how they hope to make an impact on a place that’s so close to their hearts.
Tell us a little about your life growing up in Dayton, and what brought you back to the city?
Elizabeth grew up in Dayton and worked at the family business, Evans Electric Company positioned in the Santa Clara district. Attended Dayton Christian School previously located in the Five Oaks area. Ran cross country for school and trained along the riverscape every day.
David grew up in Minneapolis, Minn., but in 2004 met Elizabeth in Ohio while touring with his band. David and Elizabeth married in 2006 and relocated to Minneapolis. Since then, the couple has lived in several different states for work including Birmingham, Ala. and most recently Atlanta, Ga.
After 12 years, David and Elizabeth returned to Dayton to purchase Evans Electric Company and continue the family business in Santa Clara.
Having opened the Santa Clara juicery officially, what does it feel like to own and operate a business in your hometown?
Opening a juice bar right next to my family’s business is nostalgic. I loved Santa Clara during the art district days. We would walk to have lunch at the Upper Crust or Evans Café every day in the summer. The art galleries and vintage shops would open up their spaces and hold art walks every now and then in the evening. Martin Sheen’s star is even on the sidewalk in Santa Clara. It was a cool time for the area.
Today, the area does not resemble the arts scene. There is not one café or art gallery. We are hoping to change that. We are hoping to provide a community hangout, a place that provides hope, health and employment to an area that is in great need of new life.
How has Dayton shaped your life and your business?
We see Dayton from two different perspectives — David comes to Dayton with fresh eyes and Elizabeth remembers what Dayton was and what it can be again. We both see Dayton as a place full of opportunity! Dayton has a food desert, so its residents need more options for healthy food close to where they live. We hope to provide that with opening of the juicery and more businesses like a café or organic eatery in the Santa Clara community.
What inspired you to become an advocate for food desserts in the area?
Our juicing friends at the Downtown YMCA and Second Chance Ministries, Pastor Jimmy and Shari Mann revealed a real-life story of what food deserts really look like in Dayton. “The only grocery store on the west side of Dayton is an IGA where fresh produce is often unavailable or if it is, the produce is not fresh or even edible.” Pastor Mann asked about a banana one day and the store worker said they have not had bananas in awhile. This story broke our hearts. We are big juicers because we know the food we put in is vital to the prevention of disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer!
What is it about Dayton that interested you both in staying here permanently?
We moved back to Dayton to be near family now that we’ve started our own. We are continuing the family business and excited about bringing new life to a community where the family has been for over 25 years! Dayton is full of opportunity to grow a new business and create new jobs!
If you could change/improve one thing about Dayton, what would that be?
More city involvement in revitalizing the communities around downtown.
Share a memory with us!
Our business held the first neighborhood-wide cleanup day in Santa Clara in years. This was a great day with a lot of resident and business involvement that also included around 16 police officers and a food bank setup with items donated by Fresh Market.
What do you find most inspiring about Dayton?
We are starting to see more community gardens popping up near the Santa Clara area. This is inspiring because many children in the area have grown up not ever tasting fresh produce.
We are also meeting many real-estate investors and general contractors who are purchasing vacant, boarded-up properties in the neighborhood and converting them into excellent and affordable living spaces. This means Dayton can make a comeback!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Dayton? Favorite place to eat? Favorite shop?
We love the Air Force museum, Boonshoft museum and Dayton Dragons games, especially with our kids.
We love Warped Wing, Toxic Brew, Crafted and Cured, Wheat Penny, Thai 9 and the Butter Café.
What do you see for the future of the Gem City in the coming 5 years?
We hope to see new life in the communities surrounding downtown, especially the Santa Clara area! In five years, we hope to see new businesses, eateries, shops opened along North Main Street. More people biking in an area that is safer and maintained by the community’s residents as well as more involvement from the city of Dayton.
Published: Wednesday, July 04, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
— Rachel Bankowitz is preserving Dayton for the future.
If you’re an admirer of our city’s architecture, her roles as preservation planner and the historic preservation officer for Dayton, helps keep the city’s charm and history alive.
Bankowitz manages the city’s 13 historic districts and numerous individual historic landmarks in Dayton.
In April Gov. John Kasich appointed her to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board, where she will lend her expertise to the state.
So, what inspires Bankowitz, our Daytonian of the Week, about her role in the Gem City? Here’s what she said:
How did you get into your current role with the City of Dayton?
Like a lot of kids in Dayton, I couldn’t wait to go to college out of state. After graduating with my master’s in Historic Preservation, I spent 10 years working in the private sector as an architectural historian/preservation planner conducting surveys for, and documentation of, cultural resources throughout the Midwest.
Life was good, but one day I realized the importance of being near my family, who were still in Dayton. Out of the blue, I decided to check available employment with the City of Dayton and, as luck would have it, they were hiring for a general planner position. I applied and scored an interview and once they realized my skill set in preservation, offered me the role of Preservation Planner. The stars couldn’t have aligned any better and that’s how I knew it was time to come home.
How long have you been in this role?
I’ve been with the city for about five years. A lot of my time is spent managing our city’s 13 historic districts and all our individually-designated historic landmarks. I process all requests for Certificates of Appropriateness, and prepare and present casework to our city’s Landmark Commission. Of course, historic preservation encompasses more than my normal duties, and typically includes research, fieldwork, photography, grant writing, etc. My days are never the same, thankfully!
How did you become interested in planning and historic preservation?
I have an old soul and I’ve always enjoyed old houses. Growing up, nearly all of my relatives lived in older buildings. One New York relative had an apartment in an old Victorian house. To get to their unit, you entered through the original parlor, laden with heavy, elaborate, 19th-century woodwork and old-world charm. I remember being in awe of old architecture even as a young child.
Why is historic preservation important?
Historic preservation is important because it helps us understand our past. Everything has a history. Perhaps more importantly, it teaches critical thinking. To think historically is to recognize that all problems, all situations, all institutions exist in contexts that must be understood before informed decisions can be made. No entity — corporate, government, nonprofit — can afford not to have a historian/preservationist at the table.
Tell me about one of your favorite historic sites/buildings in Dayton. Why is it special to you?
That’s a difficult one for me. There are so many! What I love most about our historic sites/buildings, and old buildings in general, are the stories associated with them. I love looking at old newspaper articles because they offer a human perspective about these buildings. For example, the brick industrial building at 620 Geyer Street was once associated with the Underwood-Talmadge Company, who for many years supplied candy throughout the Midwest. The former single-family house-turned-funeral-home at 25 Indianola Avenue was originally owned by Frank J. Cellarius, who published the first street maps of Dayton in 1891. Every building has a unique story that I can’t wait to uncover.
What local project have you worked on that you are most proud of?
Since joining the City of Dayton, I have successfully nominated over 25 buildings to the Dayton Register of Historic Places, helping to ensure their preservation. This list includes some very iconic downtown buildings, like the former Biltmore Hotel (210 North Main Street), the former Dayton Young Men’s Christian Association Building (115 West Monument Avenue) and the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 125 North Wilkinson Street. I also successfully nominated the former Bimm Fireproof Warehouse (now Lincoln Storage) on East First Street to the National Register of Historic Places.
Governor Kasich recently appointed you to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board. Tell me about that honor.
The Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board is appointed by the governor to advise the State Historic Preservation Officer and the Ohio History Connection Board of Trustees on historic preservation issues. The advisory board evaluates the significance of properties nominated to the National Register of Historic Places and makes recommendations to the State Historic Preservation Officer.
The advisory board meets four times a year and includes a variety of professionals, including architects, historians, planners, architectural historians, archaeologists and public members from around the state who have expertise in Ohio history, architecture and archaeology.
The advisory board reviews National Register nominations for 30-50 buildings, sites, structures, objects and historic districts each year and advises on the allocation of Certified Local Government grant funds for historic preservation projects in Ohio communities.
I’m looking forward to learning more about what is going on throughout Ohio, so I can apply that knowledge to Dayton.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
Aside from all the development happening downtown, I see the revitalization of some of our inner-city neighborhoods. I also envision a few more historic districts.
What inspires you about the Dayton area? What should people know about Daytonians and the city?
I know it’s been said before, but the resilience, perseverance and general goodness of our citizens. After living out of state for many years, I can proudly say that Daytonians are fundamentally “the salt of the earth.” We are reliable, trustworthy and straightforward. We recognize there are issues, but we continue to push forward.
What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through it?
My most recent challenge is not finished. I’m currently part of a team working to create a plan to improve North Main Street and its surrounding neighborhoods. It’s no surprise that this area has suffered from disinvestment for years, and community morale is low. However, through the planning process, I have met some wonderful, resilient, inspirational people. They are why I continue to push through the challenge. I want to do all I can to make life better for them.
What would you change about Dayton?
Preservation can be a hard sell here. There is sometimes an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. For example, some might see a vacant, but otherwise structurally-sound house, and would prefer it be demolished than preserved. I understand not every old building can be saved, but I wish people would realize that many of our historic properties, including the Oregon Historic District, were vacant at one time and slated for demolition; however, people recognized the importance of the historic district, and fought for its preservation. They recognized that the architecture and quality of construction was too important not to save. Can you imagine Dayton without the Oregon Historic District?
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Dayton and attended Corpus Christi. We lived off of North Main Street in the Santa Clara neighborhood until the mid-1980s when we moved to the suburbs. Even as a child, I missed the diversity of city life. Years later, I can honestly say I’d rather live in the city than the suburbs.
What do you love about life in Dayton?
I love the people, the fact that I don’t have to drive a car because I can bike or walk anywhere, and all the cultural amenities of a big city.
What superpower would you love to have?
The ability to make everyone laugh!
Describe your perfect Dayton date.
My perfect Dayton date would be to get outdoors for some exercise, hiking, biking, or kayaking, and then refresh at one of our many local breweries.
What Dayton area food do you love?
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 1:28 PM
— Dayton’s Five Rivers MetroParks has been raking in quite a few well-deserved props lately — including National Geographic to Canoe & Kayak Magazine shout-outs. Our access to outdoor recreation and exploration is hard to match.
Plentiful resources and natural spaces aren’t enough for a city to become a thriving outdoor destination. It takes the passion and hard work of Daytonians like Grace Dietsch, Five Rivers MetroParks biologist, to help make our city’s opportunities a reality.
Before moving to Dayton in 2012, Dietsch frequently moved around the country for work — living in mountainous towns, once in a van by a river and other memorable locations — but said her roots have grown deeper in the Gem City since moving to the area.
Through her research and commitment to Dayton’s wild spaces, Dietsch has been a crucial part in the MetroPark’s success and the reason she is our Daytonian of the Week.
What brought you to Dayton? Where are you from?
“I moved to Dayton in 2012 when I moved in with the man who I now call my husband. We met while serving on the Ohio Interagency Wildland Fire Crew that same year and were both on the same two western wildfire assignments. When I first came to Dayton, I immediately got a great vibe from the community. I am from Rio Grande, Ohio, which has a population of around 800 people and throughout my adult life I’ve lived in various other places throughout Ohio, Virginia, Washington and Oregon. I’ve lived in small towns, college towns, mountain towns, and literally lived in a van by a river for a while. My roots were always very shallow, but they’ve grown rather deep here in Dayton!”
Are there some cool plants or animals that are in the Dayton-area that people might not be aware of?
Englewood MetroPark has one of the healthiest and most diverse salamander populations in the entire state. Huffman Prairie has an amazing prairie that will be in full bloom soon – this is a great place to see hummingbirds by the dozens, butterflies galore, and several uncommon grassland birds. I could go on and on about the cool things you can find at every single one of the Five Rivers MetroParks locations.”
Why did you become a biologist and what have you enjoyed about your job?
“This is my dream job! From a very young age I have felt a strong desire to be a voice for the voiceless plants and animals with which we share this planet. I’ve always dreamed of being in a position where I could make a real difference and this is it! Five Rivers MetroParks is an amazing place to work. There are so many passionate and dedicated folks here and everyone strives to accomplish what MetroParks was created to do — to protect natural areas, parks and river corridors, and to promote the conservation and use of these lands and waterways for the ongoing benefit of the people in the region.”
What’s been your favorite project or activity that you’ve done with the MetroParks?
“My favorite activities involve volunteers. We have amazing volunteers who work with us on a regular basis – from growing and planting trees and wildflowers, removing invasive species, conducting habitat assessments, clearing trails, picking up fishing line around ponds, and participating on prescribed burns. They work so hard right alongside our staff and we truly couldn’t do a lot of these activities without their support.”
“If I had to pick one activity, I would have to say conducting prescribed burns is my favorite. A good fire regime does wonders for restoring and maintaining a prairie, so the rewards are huge. Carrying out a burn take a lot of strategic planning, hard work and collaboration. It requires the support from nearly all departments at Metroparks. Plus, nothing brings a team together like safely and successfully burning a large field of grass.”
Why is it important for a community to support their MetroParks?
I can think of so many reasons! MetroParks exists to protect this community’s natural heritage – that means we are here to protect the biodiversity, native plants and animals, and cultural and historical components on more than 16,000 acres of land! We even have a policy that states we must keep at least 90% of lands we manage as natural area. Maintaining this much land as greenspace is good for the environment, good for the health of the community, and is good for the economic development of Dayton. MetroParks has 30 locations throughout the Dayton area that are clean and safe.”
Which MetroPark is your favorite?
“Hmmmm….that might be the toughest question of them all. My favorite is the one I am working in that day. I know that sounds cliché, but I really do find something uniquely amazing about each and every location. They are all beautifully maintained by park staff and play an equally-vital role in our community’s natural environment.”
Describe your perfect day in Dayton! What would you do?
“My perfect day would start out with a seat next to one of the wetlands at the Great Miami Mitigation Bank before sunrise. I’d spend the morning peacefully observing the wildlife and enjoying my surroundings. Then I’d want to paddle down the Twin Creek with my family for a few hours, stopping to fish some of the deeper pools along the way. The 2nd Street Market would be open on my perfect day, so we’d go there for spanakopita and baklava for lunch. Then I would hit up some of the cool shops in the Oregon District for a little shopping spree. I would end the day at Woodman Fen Conservation Area to see the outstanding summer display of lightening bugs. I’d probably be hungry again, so I’d have to stop at Zombie Dogz for a seasonal dog concoction.”
What keeps you busy when you’re not working with the parks?
“Our 20-month old daughter, 4 dogs, 2 cats, and 68 chickens! My husband and I bought a home on 10 acres last year. About 6 acres of that is wooded and I attempt to manage those woods like it’s my second job. The remaining acreage is pasture for future farm animals, a little bit of prairie and a LOT berry plants. It is a farm in the making and definitely keeps our family very busy.”
Why is Dayton special to you?
“I consider Dayton to be my second home. The people that live here are amazing and I have made so many good friends. There is great music, amazing places to eat, and really good local breweries. I have lived in mountains and foothills nearly all of my life and have a perpetual need to see big trees, hike steep ravines, and soak my feet in a cool, clear creek on a hot day. The fact that I can have all of these experiences, know such awesome people, and work at an amazing organization makes Dayton a very special and unique place to live.”
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2018 @ 11:07 AM
— Make no mistake, Caressa Brown has more than the look.
The director of Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI), is on the grind to strengthen Dayton’s fashion industry.
She is the latest Daytonian of the Week.
What do you do and why do you do it?
That’s a loaded question.😂 I am the owner/director of the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC, a volunteer-based community outreach organization that works with area designers in building their brands, establishing their clientele, learning runway production, and editorial shoots. We also develop aspiring models by providing them with world-class runway experience, tearsheet quality images, and put them in front of the world’s top modeling agencies.
In regards to why I do what I do, it’s both simple and complex. I sometimes refer to myself as the supermodel that never was. At the age of 12 back in 1992-93, my self-esteem was beneath the gutter. I was tall, thin awkward, had bucked teeth, 4 eyes, and a 5head. 😂 I was teased mercilessly, and as a way to improve my self-esteem Mom worked 3 jobs and enrolled me in Bette Massie modeling school in Centerville.
After the first session, the instructor called me and my mom in for a meeting and told us that out of all of the models registered in the school, she believed that I had the most potential to actually become a model and waived the remaining tuition. Fast forward 5-6 weeks later. After attending “free” modeling classes, Bette Massie discovered that there was no money on the books for me and called my mom and me in for a meeting. Long story short, the instructor had not received Bette’s approval to waive my tuition, and Bette basically said we either pay or leave the program; we left the program.
However, later that year, I came across a casting call for an agency out of Cleveland that was scouting in Dayton and out of the 100+ models that were in attendance, I was the only one selected and offered a contract with the agency. We signed the contract. Shortly after, my mom was involved in an auto accident, and then later was diagnosed with Multiple-Sclerosis and could no longer work. So with my mom unable to work, we could not afford to travel to the agency or seek out work as a model.
Fast forward several years later to 1998, I attended a modeling convention in Columbus, where I was scouted by the president of Click Models for their Atlanta agency. At the time, I had braces on so they wanted me to travel to Atlanta and start developing me while waiting for my braces to come off. However, I had just started working at General Motors, Truck and Bus in Moraine, just started my freshman year in college at Wright State on academic scholarship, and on top of that I was the caregiver for my mom and without having any additional support. I never made it to Atlanta work with Click.
>> PHOTOS: Art Ball 2018, Dayton’s red carpet night
In 2001, after attending a casting call at a mall in Cincinnati for the world’s top agency at the time, Elite, I was selected as regional semi-finalist in the Elite Model Look Competition, and the Scouting Director for Elite in Chicago offered me a contract. Aside from the fact that my braces were off, nothing had changed in regards to the load I was carrying on this time, I was flunking out of college, battling depression, working 50+ hr/week at GM, and still serving as a caregiver for my mom and I never made it back to Chicago to work with Elite.
I said all of that to say this, I know what it’s like to have a dream and be so close that you can feel, taste, and see it and then have no support to help you obtain it. I do what I do to be the support system for area fashion professionals that I wish I had when I wanted to be a model and as a result of building a nurturing and strong support system for emerging talent we can say that designers have gained firsthand experience working behind the scenes of some of the top design houses for the former Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. Their designs have been featured on the covers of Vogue Africa and in the pages of Vogue Italia, and Essence magazines, they have also had their designs featured in music videos, commercial print, and film. Over 70 of our models have been signed to agencies around the globe. They have appeared on Project Runway, in the pages of Vogue, have been signed to some of the world's top modeling agencies including Factor, Red, and Next, and have walked for New York, Paris and Milan Fashion Week for designers like Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu and Versace.
Cats, dogs, neither or something else?
I’m about to lose a bunch of friends with this one; I’m a dog person. 😂 Most of my friends have cats; they’re just too shifty for me. 😂
What do you love about life in Dayton?
I love the fact that Dayton has the small-town feel yet has big city opportunities. If you want a quick getaway, you’re only a few hours away from at least 8 major cities. Also, I’m a true foodie. I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country and eat at some of the finest restaurants and nothing comes close to the amazing local cuisine and eateries in Dayton.
What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton?
I’m a pretty low-key person and enjoy the simple things so my idea of a perfect date in Dayton would be to take a long walk at one of the Metroparks, lay out a blanket, have a picnic and enjoy the serenity.
Where do you go for a great time?
I’m a big kid at heart, so I love Scene 75, I celebrated my 35th birthday there with a Ghostbusters cake a few years back. Plus I’m super competitive and I can allow my alter-ego to come out and talk trash while doing rapid-fire rounds in Laser Tag, defending the corner in go carts, and just beating the crap out of my friends and hoping that they are still my friends after I beat them. 😂
Why did you decide to settle in Dayton?
I was born and raised right here in Dayton, and as my mom always says, “I’m Dayton born, Dayton bred, and when I die, I’m gonna be Dayton dead.” 😂
How did you get involved with your business?
That’s another loaded question. 😂I never planned to start a fashion organization. I was essentially left holding the bags from the failed Dayton Fashion Week in 2012. A lot of people — self-included — were hurt, deceived, ripped off, and taken advantage of...
>> Dayton Fashion Week launched (July 23, 2012)
>> Are size 0 to 4 models too small? (Feb 10, 2012)
Several months after Dayton Fashion Week ended, I was approached by Lisa Grigsby and Billy Pote from Dayton Most Metro. They asked me if I would be interested in creating my own fashion organization, and if I did, they would back me up. After thinking about it and reaching out to a few friends and those who had been burned by Dayton Fashion Week, together we created this grassroots fashion movement called the Dayton Emerging Fashion Week (DE-FI) LLC; a lot of people think that we just renamed the company because 99% of the people who quit DFW after I walked away joined me in creating (DE-FI).
We launched in July 2013, and invited all of the designers, sponsors, and talent that was burned by DFW to participate free of charge in our event; the businesses who had taken out ads in the Dayton Fashion Week magazine FIQ where all of the images were pixelated and of poor quality, we offered them a do over at our Fashion in the Mystic Garden Launch Party at SunWatch Indian Village, which was a sold-out event with 250+ people in attendance and gave them free ads in our magazine (DE-FI)ance. I went on to get about 5 seasons of behind the scenes experience at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. We now own the rights to the name Dayton Fashion Week branded as Dayton Fashion Week by (DE-FI), and the rest as they say is history.
What should people know about Dayton’s fashion community?
The vast majority of the designers that we work with are self-taught, a few had to leave the city to receive a formal education in fashion. My ultimate goal is to have an accredited fashion design program right here in Dayton; the closest program is at Miami University, who rolled out their program about two years ago, we’ve had the pleasure of partnering with them on several occasions.
Dayton’s fashion community is more than just models, designers and fashion shows. This is a $900 billion dollar a year industry that every major city in Ohio and across the country has embraced. There’s a need for photographers marketers, business managers, investors, writers, social media experts, legal advisors, accountants, hair and makeup artist, boutiques, wardrobe stylist, textile makers, sewist and seamstress, and so much more and (DE-FI) has made a place at the table for them all and we have people traveling from around the country to work with us. Every door that opens for me, I hold it open for the rest of my (DE-FI) family to enter.
Dayton has the eyes of some of the most influential people in fashion watching what’s going on here because we’ve essentially taken every aspect of what makes New York City the fashion capital of the world and we are re-creating it right here in the Gem City, slowly but surely we are establishing a market that allows fashion to be a viable way to make a living in Dayton.
In February of this year, I was invited to New York Fashion Week as a journalist for our magazine (DE-FI)ance as a fashion influencer by one of the most influential fashion producers in the industry. That alone was a game changer for our organization and we’ve been working on revising our strategic plan for the past couple of months to align with this heightened level of exposure that our talent is receiving. Last month we quietly rolled out our sewing and micro-manufacturing team to assist with our designers production of their lines as well as meet the needs of other businesses and boutiques that need sewing assistance.
What is Dayton’s best hidden gem?
Aside from (DE-FI) ;-) I’d have to say SunWatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park is my favorite hidden gem.
What inspires you about Dayton?
There’s no quit in this city. Things don’t always go as planned and we’ve had more than our fair share of bumps and bruises yet we have some of the most persistent, innovative, and empowering people that go hard for not only the city but their causes every day, and thanks to platforms like Dayton.com we have an opportunity to meet those hidden figures.
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
Sometimes, I think we play it too safe as a city. We embrace what we understand and all too often recycle the exact same people to do the work leaving a lot of new talent disenfranchised or if they are included, it’s more or less of a symbolic gesture vs. a sincere attempt of embracing diversity of thought and growth. I’d love to see Dayton let down its guard, kick in a few doors and make a place at the table for everyone by creating a blue print as a guide for others to follow. Competition is not a bad thing.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?