Dayton resident and Ohio native Rick Kuehner purchased the 1925-built building a few years ago, primarily due to its location and it contained the right amount of space for his vision. The COVID-19 pandemic set the project back a year, but Kuehner said if all goes according to schedule, the food hall could be opened by late summer.
His chief goal is to build a strong coalition of tenants in the food hall — four to five businesses at first — that will complement each other, rather than compete for customers’ attention. As the food hall establishes itself after opening, more tenants could be added.
“A food hall really is a little more complementary to each other,” Kuehner said. “You don’t have people in there stepping on each other’s toes business-wise.”
Two new, Dayton-owned food businesses that have signed leases inside the South Park Food Hall are the CheezCake Lab LLC and Good Hands Bread Co. Additional food hall tenants will be announced as an official opening date is decided.
“How many people were coming in just for cheesecake?” Kuehner said. “But if you have some sort of a beer and wine bar on one corner and you have a bakery on the other … the cheesecake person is going to not only have their ability to do their outside sales as far as wholesale to other restaurants, but street sales of their own because you’ve got a restaurant there, people coming for their bread and then they might pick up a little cheesecake to take home.”
The lot features 17,481 square feet of space. Kuehner plans to put in parking spaces, an outdoor patio for seating facing Buckeye Street and, eventually, a rooftop area for seating.
Inside the food hall, there will be a common seating area in the midst of the businesses for visitors to sit and eat or drink.
Kuehner said he hopes the South Park neighborhood and its residents will grow to feel a sense of pride and community in the new food hall.
“(Wayne Avenue) is kind of becoming that connector corridor from what’s been the Oregon District for some time,” Kuehner said. “Wayne Avenue has slowly been developing. Branch & Bone has been here a couple years now, a coffeehouse opened up next to Branch & Bone and somebody else is developing the building on the other side of Branch & Bone. So, (it) feels like (the food hall) will be the connector of those zones helping bring up South Park the (same) way (as) the Oregon District.”