East Fifth Street is transforming. But vandals aren’t helping.

East Fifth Street in Historic Inner East Dayton is seeing a resurgence because entrepreneurs and enterprising business owners have opened a co-op brew pub, a cat lounge and cafe, a bakery and a diner specializing in munchies.

But multiple establishments in the area have been attacked by vandals who have broken windows and caused problems, as well as a head injury from a flung rock.

This has been a tough year for some new local businesses because they lost power after the tornadoes and saw decreased foot traffic after the Oregon District mass shooting.

The vandalism is not making life any easier.

“It has been a challenging year for us as a new business, because this is not stuff that normally happens,” said Megan Smith, founder of St. Anne the Tart. “You’ve got a natural disaster, human terror and now we have this.”

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St. Anne the Tart, a cafe and bakery at 1500 E. Fifth St., opened in March. It joined a small cluster of popular destinations in St. Anne’s Hill, including the Gem City Catfé, which opened in early 2018, and the Fifth Street Brewpub, which opened in 2013.

St. Anne the Tart attracts customers from across the region and has been widely viewed as a valuable addition to a neighborhood that has become a housing hot spot.

But on three separate occasions in recent weeks, someone has thrown rocks at the front of the cafe.

Each time, the rocks got bigger. Each crime seemed more brazen than the last.

The first incident happened at around 5:15 a.m. Aug. 21, when two rocks were thrown through two windows on the front of the building, a police report states. The loud noise frightened an employee inside who locked herself in the kitchen.

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The second incident occurred at about 8:25 a.m. Oct. 7 when a rock a little smaller than a baseball was thrown through one of the front windows, striking a customer who was eating breakfast. The customer sustained a head injury that required stitches.

At about 9:45 a.m. Oct. 13, someone threw a rock about the size of a grapefruit at the building, which struck a wooden window frame, narrowly missing the glass. The rock was thrown hard enough to split in half on impact.

Members of a local film crew were outside, and Smith’s friend chased after the suspect, who ran through a back alley and fled on a bicycle. The suspect was described as a white male in his early 20s, about 5 feet 10 inches to 6-foot-1, who was wearing a white track suit, according to a police report.

Smith said the criminal activities are a big deal because they are destructive and dangerous and make her worry about the safety of her employees and customers.

But Smith cut down brush in the empty lot across the street that she believes the culprit was using as cover. She hopes blocking the escape route will prevent future incidents.

Smith believes the person responsible may have mental illness or a drug problem, and said police may have identified people of interest in the case.

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Smith said her friend chasing after the culprit was a “beautiful” act that showed how community members take care of each other. She said her customers have been supportive.

“We’ve always tried to tackle everything with grace and kindness,” she said. “Sometimes when you are putting a lot of good out into the world, some things are going to counter that.”

Other businesses in the area also have been hit by vandalism.

On Sept. 23, someone damaged a window at Fifth Street Brewpub, which is block from St. Anne the Tart, according to a police report.

Two days later, police were called to Stoney’s Munchie Bar at 1925 E. Fifth St. after someone shattered two of its front windows. Stoney’s is about a third of a mile east of the bakery.

On Oct. 14, someone broke a glass door panel of Grips Grille, located just off East Fifth Street at 115 Springfield St., a police report states.

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A video camera outside Stoney’s captured a man smashing the glass in the early morning, said Jesse Seiber, the owner.

Seiber said he cannot stop people from doing stupid things, and he wasn’t overly bothered by the vandalism.

“Honestly, it’s just complete immaturity,” he said, adding that the windows were easy to repair because his restaurant shares a parking lot with a glass company.

But Seiber is upgrading the security around the property, including installing new surveillance cameras.

He wants to paint a mural on the side of the business and hopes the new cameras will deter or catch vandals and help protect his investment.

Stoney’s, which opened on April 20, is a small family-owned business, which means it doesn’t have deep pockets to fix damaged property, Seiber said. “We’re not McDonald’s. …We’re not a multi-million or -billion dollar company,” he said. “We’re barely cutting profits to feed ourselves and pay our rent.”

Seiber said he feels bad for St. Anne the Tart for being targeted multiple times. He said his business and the bakery are trying to bring new life to the neighborhood, which is slowly starting to transform.

Vandalism added to the challenges St. Anne’s and Stoney’s have faced this year in their first months of operation.

St. Anne lost power for a week after the tornadoes, and Stoney’s electricity was knocked out for several days.

All the food the bakery made was donated. More than $500 worth of goods at Stoney’s went bad and had to be thrown out.

Both the bakery and the diner also saw a decline in foot traffic and customers after the Aug. 4 mass shooting, which took place outside several East Fifth Street bars in the Oregon District, located less than a mile away. At Stoney’s, business was slow for about three weeks after the shooting.

Dayton police have encouraged anyone who sees something suspicious on East Fifth Street or who has information about any of the crimes to call 937-333-2677 or 937-222-7867.

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