How owners of Silver Slipper Wine Bar spend their day

Local artwork, an evolving menu set a hip vibe.

Editor’s note: “A Day in the Life” is a new bi-monthly feature by artist-educator Hannah Kasper Levinson, profiling a creative Daytonian’s daily routine from start to finish. “A Day in the Life” will profile a range of individuals, from artists to cooks to small- business owners, who weave Dayton’s spirit of ingenuity into their everyday work and life.


In 2019 when Simon Gifford and Lorelei Fink took over the 1890s carriage house at 1105 Wayne Ave., it was “trashed,” with holes in the floorboards and no existing staircase connecting the levels. They worked with two contractors, John Shafer and Steve Bucker, to transform the space — installing a bespoke zinc bar as the centerpiece, while preserving the interior’s original woodwork.

What was the parlor is now an intimate dining room emphasizing natural wine, raw oysters and charcuterie. Paintings and mixed media works by artist friends adorn the space. The bathroom wallpaper, by Dayton artist Zachary Armstrong, is an art installation-meets-fun house design that needs to be seen rather than described. The whole atmosphere is a far cry from its namesake, the Silver Slipper Nite Club, a source of Dayton lore, which was located on E. Fifth Street. “Its origins before it got seedier and seedier was a lounge and dance club,” says Fink, 25.

A fascination with that location’s storied past inspired the feeling of “wild Dayton love” that infuses the energy of today’s Silver Slipper.


Gifford, a graduate of Oakwood High School, and Fink, who attended Stivers, both left Dayton for stints in Seattle and Brooklyn. They never actually crossed paths until returning to their hometown. While Gifford has a BFA in Painting and Printmaking from Cornish College of the Arts, he found that he became more attached to restaurants after working in that industry in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Still, they champion emerging artists and have incorporated work by their peers into the design of the Silver Slipper. On one wall hangs a textural mixed media piece — including oyster shells — called “Hog Creek” by Dayton artist Tyler Macko. Near the bar is a large-scale print showing a birds-eye view of a table with remnants of a meal, rendered in pop art brushstrokes by artist Matthew Chambers. And at the other end of the bar is a neon sign of a stiletto heel based on graffiti that Gifford spotted in Detroit and had made in Mexico City.


Gifford, 32, arrives by 11 a.m. and gets to work on prepping the kitchen for an employee who will be coming in to wash oysters and make fresh juice for the bar. A shipment of oysters from New Zealand comes in at noon, and Gifford gets to work ensuring they have arrived in perfect condition. He taps an oyster’s rugged shell with a spoon, and when it doesn’t close back up, he tosses it out. An oyster, he explains, is alive until it is shucked and ready to eat, so if it doesn’t close up, it’s no longer good. “They’re so much work,” he says, “We hand scrub each one individually. There’s always this fight (for ice) between the oysters and the bar program, keeping them as cold as possible. You’re never not maintaining the oysters.”

Fink arrives soon after and starts a deep clean of the space, a twice daily regiment. “Oysters are growing in popularity and demand. We’re trying to be more of a bar than a restaurant,” says Gifford, but sales have been equal. Fink adds, “People started to associate us with oysters because of the market we did in December 2020.” COVID-19 caused delays in their official opening, but thanks to the couple’s ingenuity they were able to build a loyal following by creating an outdoor market where they intended to sell bags of oysters to take home. “People asked us to shuck them (on location),” says Fink, and the demand grew from there.


After lunch — sometimes from neighbor Pizza Factory, and sometimes “chef snacks” made from charcuterie scraps not pretty enough to plate — Gifford and Fink meet with their bartender, Brock, to order items for the new cocktail menu. They’ve grown to a staff of eight , with help in the kitchen and behind the bar.

Part of the job entails having wine tastings every week with multiple distributors, which sounds fun, if you don’t plan ahead. “Sometimes you forget to have enough snacks first,” explains Fink. Most bars work with only one distributor, but Silver Slipper buys from at least five different sources, including Voyager Beverage, an independently owned importer and distributor of natural wine. They are a new company, serving south Ohio, and Gifford says he has enjoyed watching their business grow and evolve at the same time as his own.


While Fink sweeps and mops, Gifford “is prepping mignonette, marinated olives, making creme fraiche and his spice blends for the weekend.” Fink also gardens once a week. “Now that everything is planted, it’s mostly just watering but making sure all of the plants inside, and on the patios, are happy.” There are plans to expand the parking lot into a garden with borders of oyster shells, as well as eventually transforming the upstairs space that is currently used for storage.


Before opening for the evening “we end with updating our menus and sending them off to print. Basically everything is in flux each week — new oysters, new wines, new meats and cheeses, new sake. It’s rare that one week goes by where one of those things hasn’t changed,” says Fink. Everything is clean and prepped and ready to go by 5. On any given evening, there may be new customers exploring their first oyster experience, or regulars chatting at the laid-back bar. “Simon’s parents and my grandparents always come in on Sundays and have snacks and a Slipper Spritz.”


Gifford fills a mug for his partner from a Mr. Coffee machine that is sitting on the bar. The contrast between the hip bar and the old-school coffee maker is both unexpected and charming. They will need the caffeine to get through the rest of the day, which doesn’t wrap up until around 3 a.m. Doors are officially open until 1 a.m., but the staff goes with the flow for closing.

Fink says, “The last photo is an interior photo that I took — it’s actually from 7 a.m., which is when we get the best east-facing natural light. Rik (a co-worker) and I accidentally sat at the bar all night after a shift, so that’s how we discovered how magical it is in the morning. Us ‘bar people’ aren’t usually up that early, unless we never slept.”

Silver Slipper is located at 1105 Wayne Ave. in Dayton. Hours are Thursday-Sunday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Follow them on Instagram @silverslipperwinebar.

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