If it looks like a regional paper supplier's corporate headquarters, you've found it.
Kramer’s is straddling that line between preserving dive bar history and building upon the bar’s established foundation with a focus on future business viability. It is reasonable to wonder about what the future might bring to a place as tied to Dayton as Kramer’s, but so far a balance has been maintained that celebrates the decades of history housed within the Kramer’s structures without too many layers of polish on top.
Historically known as Kramer’s Party Supply, the structure that houses the Dayton dive bar began life in 1933 when Elmer Kramer opened a gas station on the property. From there, the building stayed in the Kramer family, shifting through stints as carryout, dive bar, party supply store and now a sort of combination of all previous incarnations. The outline of the original building can be seen from the road, a main structure augmented with a pair of additions over the years to create the footprint occupied by Kramer’s today.
Ownership of Kramer’s passed from Elmer to sons Bob & Red Kramer before resting with Fred Kramer, who operated the bar for some 55 years before retiring in 2007. Longtime business partner Tom Zimmerman took over the space, his arrival coinciding with the introduction of food, liquor and a pizza oven. A sale in 2023 shifted ownership to Whitney and Brad Gibson, who thankfully also received the recipe to Kramer’s signature pizza in the sale.
The Gibsons have introduced a handful of updates to the Kramer’s space, most notably a large gravel patio in front of the building, making use of previously unutilized land. The patio in fact surrounds what is one of the signature Kramer’s features in the form of the very large sign that has long sat in front of the building. The font and typography of the sign feel like something a local office building might install, now flanked by a handful of picnic tables, umbrellas and string lights. A vintage clock can be found above the bar’s door, another preserved original piece.
Because of the dive bar’s proximity to the University of Dayton, Kramer’s has long been a go-to destination for pre- and post-game celebrations during football and basketball season. Understandably, the vibe inside of Kramer’s feels like a mix of college bar, pizza joint and timeless dive bar rolled into the vintage-tinged package seen today. Accentuating its status as a college bar, Kramer’s continues the bar’s long held tradition of serving 40-ounce beers for on-premise consumption, a rarity in Ohio (and really around the country).
The space looks cleaner than it used to, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. An open-air floorplan creates a communal feeling inside, something punctuated when the crowd swells before a sporting event and communal turns into familiar very quickly. The bar’s main space is ringed with padded booths and benches, offering a signature look to Kramer’s. Throughout Kramer’s, decorations are a bit sparse, reduced to a measured pattern of neon beer signs along the bar’s walls.
Low tables and chairs fill in the space in front of a long bar backed by a string of black chalkboards inscribed with the day’s options. The vintage rotating beer coolers are a must-see Kramer’s attraction, the old-school Lazy Susan-style contraptions well preserved and hard to find elsewhere. The fact that these same coolers have held thousands of 40-ounce beers destined for freshly-minted University of Dayton graduates only adds to the historic appeal. An expansion to the original Kramer’s footprint extends the main structure out toward the road, this window-ringed room home to a small set of picnic tables, a few arcade games and the bar’s pool table.