By Danielle Coots
Greene County News
DAYTON — Culps Café might be a newer establishment to the Carillon Historical Park, but its deep roots go back decades, making it one of the oldest cafes in the Dayton area.
“Culps Café is a great family place,” said Harold Boat of Xenia, longtime customer an interpreter at Carillon Park. “They have great food, great service and has a fantastic view of the park.”
Culps didn’t start at 1000 Carillon Blvd., instead it started with a local family.
Charlotte G. Culp, a young widow with six children in the early 1900s was desperate for income. So, she did what she did best — baked cakes, breads and rolls in her Dayton home to her heart’s content. With her baked goods on hand, she delegated her children to go door to door selling her goods all over the West Third Street neighborhood. Her products were so popular that in time, she purchased a horse with a wagon. Eventually, she purchased a food stand at the South Main Street market. And that’s where the story began.
“When Dayton’s population increased in the 1940s due to an influx of military personnel at Wright and Patterson Fields, Culp’s Café served as many as 5,000 customers a day,” said Dayton historian Leo DeLuca. “Culp’s was the first restaurant in Dayton to have air conditioning. The establishment also introduced the first Hammond organ to the area.”
From 1904 to 1961, Culp’s original café, was located in the heart of the Dayton Arcade. Under the dome of the arcade, Charlotte’s oldest son, Howard sold baked goods, cheese, poultry, eggs, dill pickles and more. However, the operation was placed on hold for a while after the 1913 flood. The Arcade’s main level was filled with a mixture of rain and river water. They lost their bakery equipment and a newly purchased register.
But that was just a deterrent. They started over and were back in business in no time.
As business started booming again, the Culp’s decided to expand their business and leased a space on the Fourth Street side of the Arcade, across from the Keith Theater. Unlike the Arcade location where they became famous for their pies and pastries, the new location was cafeteria-style that specialized in home-cooked foods.
“The café has great hamburgers and delicious ice cream,” Boat added.
Culp’s moved in 1961 to the Kettering area off of Far Hills. But soon after, the family decided to take a long-needed break. Culp’s closed down from the late 1970s until it re-opened in 2001. It opened at Carillon Historical Park because of the generosity of the Culp family. It started off being a family-owned business but once being welcomed to the Carillon Park, the family passed the baton to new ownership so they could relish the past success and look forward to the future of a business that was so respected by the Dayton area for so long.
Culp’s Café was dedicated at Carillon Historical Park in May 2001, which is reminiscent of the café design and interior of the 1940s. Taking a step back into the past is aimed help cafe visitors appreciate the new upcoming menu that is to debut in weeks to come.
Culp’s Cafe is within Carillon Historical Park and open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; and 12-4 p.m. Sundays.
Danielle Coots is a freelance writer for Greene County News.