Culps Café, now located at 1000 Carillon Blvd., might be a newer establishment to the Carillon Historical Park area, but is far from new to the area. Culps Café is one of the oldest cafes in the Dayton area: holding strong and loved by the community.
Longtime customer, Harold Boat, an interpreter at Carillon Park said, “Culps Café is a great family place. They have great food, great service and has a fantastic view of the park.”
Charlotte G. Culp, a young widow with six children was desperate for income in the early 1900’s. So, she did what she did best- baked to her heart’s content. She baked cakes, breads, and rolls in her Dayton home. 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 1940’s, due to an influx of military personnel at Wight 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, her oldest son, Howard sold baked goods, cheese, poultry, eggs, dill pickles, and more. Their 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, 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 a cafeteria that specialized in home-cooked foods.
“The café has great hamburgers and delicious ice cream,” Boat said.
Culp’s moved to the Kettering area in 1961 off of Far Hills. But, soon after decided to take a long needed break. Culp’s closed down from the late 1970’s until it reopened 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 1940’s. Taking a step back into the past will help appreciate the new menu that is upcoming and deputing in weeks to come.