- Vivienne Machi
From an outside view, the Davis-Linden Building still seems dark and vacant; save for the cars in the parking lot, you might be forgiven for thinking the former Davis Sewing Company was abandoned.
But if you did, you would miss the many industrious tenants who are churning out artwork, household furniture, laser dyes, and more from spaces in 400 Linden Ave., and the great potential that the building’s new owner is creating for it.
Since Matt Dieringer purchased the building this past June, he’s already made small but significant changes that are benefiting his 40-plus tenants, and the Inner East industrial neighborhood that borders Huffman Historic District.
“The lights along Linden Avenue — they look fantastic,” Rising Moon Glass Studio co-owner Esther Kadash tells Dieringer in her business space on the first floor of the building. She’s referring to the strings of Christmas lights that now twinkle from the branches of newly planted trees that illuminate a street that was previously dark after the sun set.
Dieringer’s also cleaned up the exterior of the building and updated the electrical systems in parts of the building since taking over. He’s looking at the feasibility of a partial green roof or other options to improve the building’s sustainability.
And what potential did he see in his first property purchase?
“I saw that the building was structurally sound; I saw it as an opportunity to get involved in the art community and the small business community around here, and see what their needs are,” Dieringer said.
It wasn’t always small businesses in the building. Factory workers would clock in and out of the building to create trinkets and parts for the Davis Sewing Machine Company, or Huffy’s bicycles. Passers-by could pick up the scent of fresh soap wafting from the Hewitt Soap Factory. The history of the building is rich, and parallels the city of Dayton’s industrial plight over the past decades.
About 83,000 square feet of space is currently leased out, with about 50-60,000 square feet left to develop and lease out, he said. The current tenants include local artists like Amy Deal, Teri Schoch, and Michael Bashaw, who work out of studios of all shapes and sizes around the building. You turn a corner and find yourself at the door of the East Dayton Boxing Club, or Speck Custom Woodwork’s studio. Musicians practice their craft in basement spaces. There are businesses that create screen-printed shirts for the Gem City Roller Girls (Four Ambition), or who are creating East Dayton’s first indoor produce garden (neighbors The Urban Renewal Farm, helmed by former Daytonian of the Week Jim Wellman).
Exciton Inc. has been producing laser dyes, probes, and absorbers, and done contract research and development work out of their office in the Davis-Linden Building since the mid-1980s. Bashaw, who plays flutes, harmonica, percussion and sings in the Dayton group Puzzle of Light, has created his sculptures in his top floor studio for 35 years.
“We used to hold shows up here,” Bashaw said, gesturing around his space. “We’d rent chairs and do an hour and a half performance, then we’d have refreshments and put on some Latin music, and people had a great time.”
Though they eventually were shut down, he didn’t think it would be hard to start shows like that back up again, and is encouraging Dieringer to include an event space in his renovations to the building.
“He’s (Dieringer) got great big plans and it’s pretty amazing already what’s happened, with the lights, and everything,” Bashaw said.
Dieringer has been an entrepreneur since the tender age of 16, when he opened a small sandblasting company while attending Sidney High School. He co-founded his second company while attending the University of Cincinnati for aerospace engineering, which achieved over $100,000 in sales within two years on an initial invest of only $684. And he’s gained construction experience by working for his father’s professional glazing company, traveling all over the country to work on stores like Bulgari and Dolce and Gabbana.
Now, he’s working on developing a membership-based research and development center that would encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and multicultural relationships. The Ceron Research and Development Center would increase resources for entrepreneurs, small business, engineers and artists — precisely the people within his new building.
“Our Mission is to provide an opportunity for people to pursue their passions and help empower them to reach their full creative/innovative potential,” he said.
There’s still plenty of work to be done on the Linden-Davis building, both on the inside, and the outside. But there’s a new sense of excitement among the tenants among the push to bring the building into the future — it’s even got its own Facebook page now. And as the vacant spaces are renovated, more spaces open up for Dayton’s innovators and artists to come in and put their own touch on the building.
“The Davis-Linden Building has become a center of creativity in the Dayton community,” said Amy Deal. “Matt Dieringer has fresh ideas and understands the importance of the building’s history. His plan is to preserve its significance.”