Play for the day in King’s Yard
By Emma Jarman
Making your way in the world today takes everything you got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away?” You could bust out your old recorded VHS tapes and go to Cheers, the bar of ‘80s sitcom fame, or you could get outside, enjoy some fresh air make the trip to King’s Yard in Yellow Springs, where everybody knows your name.
King’s Yard is a quaint and eclectic collection of shops and restaurants located off the beaten path of Xenia Road in the heart of Yellow Springs. It hosts the talents of local potters, jewelry makers and gardeners alike, all willing and eager to share their knowledge and craft with both serious spenders and wandering window shoppers.
Holly Simpson, the marketing and events coordinator for the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce couldn’t say enough about the small town charm that comes with an afternoon in King’s Yard.
“To me it feels better to go into a shop where somebody is invested in why I’m there,” said Simpson. “One of the things that makes King’s Yard special is that it’s off the main road and it’s a cluster of unique shops.”
Shops include not only the expected gift stores and bookshops such as NOLAA Gallery Original Art and Sam and Eddie’s Open Books, but trend towards the unexpected. Nestled in this eclectic alcove you can stop in Mansions of the Moon, where on-the-spot tarot card readings are offered. Or one could dawdle into the Village Greenery to uproot some exotic plants and transplant them home to enjoy. Bonadies Glass Studio offers custom stained glass pieces to lighten up the most drab of window frames, lamps or mirrors. There is also a farmer’s market running from April to October in the King’s Yard parking lot that puts local fruits, veggies, candles, crafts and more for sale in an open-air, touch-me, taste-me environment.
There isn’t a big box chain store in sight, and King’s Yard wants to keep it that way. “I think that what sets Yellow Springs apart is that we are a unique place to shop. I guarantee every single shop you go to in King’s Yard you will not find anything like that in the mall. The gifts are truly unique,” said Simpson. “You won’t be able to find any locally made pottery at Fairfield Commons.”
The winds of change have recently sent the wind chimes a-jingling through King’s Yard and a number of the locally owned and operated businesses have benefited. Two years ago, the Rita Caz jewelry store relocated and Tibet Bazaar, a shop that sells gifts and clothing from India, Nepal and Tibet, has moved into the larger space. The dominos continued to tumble as Footprints of the Past, an antique, collectibles and furniture restoration shop moved into Tibet Bazaar’s old space, and a new art gallery, Springs Gallery, opened in Footprints’ previous location.
“Any storefront on Xenia or Dayton Streets is a precious commodity,” said Simpson. “There’s not a lot of shuffling, so once something opens there’s a really quick turnaround.” Sometimes, when an opening does pop up, the space is repurposed so quickly the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce doesn’t hear about it until the opening bell is ringing and the front door is swinging, she said.
But the traffic in King’s Yard is not what one would expect after hearing so much about the charm and allure of the brick-paved shopping block.
“We’ve been working towards getting the word out that we may be a destination place, but we’re not far away from Dayton,” said Simpson. “A lot of the perception is that Yellow Springs is so far away. It’s [really] a viable option to go after work and shop and eat and get the Yellow Springs experience.”
Yellow Springs is, in fact, a quick 20 minutes from downtown Dayton and has a full days worth of discoveries to be made and locally owned shops to explore. There’s a grassy area for children to play and the colorful environment (not just at the tie-dye store) is whimsical enough to relax even the most impatient, buttoned-up, in and out-type shoppers. And they have one other feature that holds unique to King’s Yard.
“It’s right downtown, it’s attractive and it’s got its own parking,” said Bob Baldwin, the man who recently purchased almost all of the real estate in King’s Yard last April at auction.
Baldwin was born and raised in Yellow Springs and, after attending college at Antioch University and a stint in the military, he returned to the area to set his roots. With his history in the area (knowing, for example, the original King’s Yard building was the manufacturing center for the Antioch book plate company) and experience with local real estate (he owns a few other commercial properties in the area), he was thrilled by the opportunity to become part of the eclectic King’s Yard. He didn’t want to change anything, he said, he just wanted to own it and watch it flourish.
“[The shops at] King’s Yard, they stand on their own,” said Baldwin.
Reach DCP editorial intern Emma Jarman at EmmaJarman@daytoncitypaper.com.