DAYTON, Ohio — A new tenant is coming to Dayton’s urban core.
Tony and Pete’s will serve as a hybrid sandwich shop and grocery store, something the two owners, who recently returned to their hometown of Dayton, said the community’s needed for decades.
Wright State graduates Justin Simmons and his wife, Kathleen Roll, have always had a soft spot for downtown Dayton.
“We spent a lot of time here. (We) always knew that we would be coming back here in some kind of capacity,” Simmons said.
The pair found success over the past several years managing bars and restaurants in Chicago, but Simmons said when it came to building a business from the ground up, he wanted to do it in his hometown.
“This is our first foray into owning our own spot,” he said. “It’s been about a two-year process.”
The original idea was a bar, joining the growing nightlife scene in Dayton, but when the pandemic hit, Simmons and Roll shifted gears as they re-evaluated what their neighborhood needed.
“Just a place to grab your grocery staples, to grab fresh produce, to be able to kind of complete a meal,” he said.
Inside the urban core, there aren’t many options. The full-service stores in Dayton are further out toward the suburbs, and most urban options come in the form of weekly or seasonal farmer’s markets.
“We lived in downtown Dayton for over a decade, and this is something that we really wish existed when we were here,” Simmons said.
That’s where he got the idea for Tony and Pete’s, combining his experience in food and beverage service with a new venture as a neighborhood market.
“We wanted to serve a purpose,” Simmons said. “We wanted this business to make sense in terms of where Downtown Dayton was at in the moment.”
The shop is designed to harken to a bygone era, with bar counters overlooking the street, a vintage sandwich board and even its name, which pays homage to Simmons’ and Roll’s fathers, who they describe as local Dayton guys.
As of early May, the shop is finishing up its inspections, hiring its staff, designing its menu and working on its last cosmetic additions. The pair said Tony and Pete’s is expected to open by the end of June.
Roll said she’s looking forward to seeing how the business will fit into the growing urban core and has already been encouraged by the feedback she’s heard from the community.
“It’s truly a community effort to bring this city to life every day I mean it’s great to see all the support that everyone gets here,” she said. “Daytonians more than anyone show up for their small businesses.”
Editor's Note: The previous version of this story misspelled Kathleen as Katherine. This has been corrected. May 20, 2022