Dayton food history: How 5 beloved businesses got their start

Dayton has a rich history in restaurants, dining and places to find food. Almost all have a common theme: Their founders took chances and believed in their new ideas.

Here are five stories about the early days of these Dayton businesses and the people who made them.

Cassano’s modest beginnings

Vic Cassano Sr., the son of Italian immigrants, and his mother-in-law, Caroline “Mom” Donisi, started Dayton’s first pizza shop. Cassano’s Pizza King opened in a 20-by-15-foot room at West Schantz Avenue and Patterson Boulevard on June 4, 1953.

Known locally at the start as “Vic & Mom’s,” the restaurant was built with the tireless work of the family, including Cassano’s wife, Anne.

“It was my mom and grandma who stayed up late at night, rolling dough and making tomato sauce and slicing pepperoni,” the couple’s daughter Cindy Cassano McElroy told the Dayton Daily News in 2008.

Esther Price took co-workers’ advice

In 1926, Esther Price, a downtown Dayton department store employee, took advice from her co-workers and started a chocolate-making business out of her home. Price continued baking and selling chocolates out of her home until 1952, when she opened her first store on Wayne Avenue.

The same chocolate recipe that Price used in 1926 is the one still used today.

From ice cream bars to pizzas

In the 1930s, Marion Glass organized a group of boys to take to the streets on bicycles and sell ice cream bars.

Later, he sold those treats from storefronts on Xenia Avenue and then North Main Street. But, after owning three Cassano’s pizza franchises, he had the idea to open a unique dining room pizza spot.

The community had never seen a restaurant like the one at 460 Patterson Road in Dayton, where a large deluxe pizza cost $2.50. The restaurant had seating for 200, four pizza ovens and the largest walk-in cooler in town, according to a 1965 article in the Dayton Journal-Herald.

The rest of Marion’s Piazza is history.

Become a grocery chain

Dorothy Lane Market began as a fruit stand on the corner of Dorothy Lane and Far Hills Avenue when Calvin D. Mayne and Frank Y. Sakada started the business on Aug. 12, 1948.

In 1953, the business grew from a fruit stand to a brick and mortar store at 2710 Far Hills Ave. Since the first store opened, Dorothy Lane Market has expanded to two other markets in the area

Remembering the beloved Woody’s Market

Woody’s Market, an area staple until it closed in 1999, also began with a roadside fruit stand.

Its founder, Woodrow “Woody” Bowman, first dipped his toe into the produce business in 1943 when he hauled a load of watermelons to Dayton and sold them. The buyer then paid Bowman to help him sell the fruit.

“I paid 50 cents for them, and he had me selling a whole melon for five bucks and a half melon for three bucks,” said Bowman in 1994. “I thought, heck, I’m in the wrong end of this thing.”

Bowman rented a half acre of land on old U.S. 25, the Dixie Highway, and opened his own stand in 1944. Woody’s Market grew from there.

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