Chappelle would be welcomed landlord in Yellow Springs

Residents say the comedian is comfortable in village.

YELLOW SPRINGS — Standing on the sidewalk near one of his favorite hangouts last week, Dave Chappelle politely declined to discuss his winning $470,000 bid for a building in the Kings Yard shopping complex — at least until the sale is complete.

He joked — off the record — about some ideas, but he was all business about waiting for official proceedings in May. Enjoying a cup of coffee, giving a fist-bump with a passerby and waving to a middle-school friend driving past, the comedian is at ease in the village.

Chappelle bought the Kings Yard building at public auction April 2. Businesses include Toxic Beauty Records, Yellow Springs Pottery, Bonadies Glass Studio, Jennifer’s Touch jewelry and clothing, The Village Greenery, Footprints of the Past, Tibet Bazaar and Art Happens.

Auctioneer Bart Sheridan said the total price of the Kings Yard building was $517,000, including a 10 percent buyer’s premium. The sale won’t be completed until May 7 at the earliest. No exact closing date has been set.

The seller is Cathy Christian, who inherited the complex from her late father, Roger Hart. Approached last week at Ye Olde Trail Tavern, which she will retain, Christian had no comment regarding the pending sale or anything to do with Kings Yard.

Chappelle, who owns a house near Yellow Springs and spent time here in middle school and in the summers while growing up, is a village regular.

“He loves Yellow Springs. It’s his hometown,” said Mary Jane Heironimus, who owns Footprints of the Past antique store with her husband, Cris. “He does all the Blues Fests and all that. His wife has shopped in here before. His kids like my shop. I think it will be for the good.”

Josh Castleberry, who owns Toxic Beauty, asked Chappelle why he wanted to become a local businessman. “He just said as a kid he remembered walking into Kings Yard with his mom,” Castleberry said. “I said, ‘Yeah. You’re the one we want.’ ”

Chappelle grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and Yellow Springs, the son of two college professors. His stand-up comedy success led to several TV and movie appearances and finally “Chappelle’s Show”, an instant hit on Comedy Central in 2003-04. After a little over two seasons, he walked away from a reported $50 million contract.

In recent years, Chappelle has been involved in Yellow Springs’ annual Blues Festival and a few sporadic comedy shows and TV appearances.

Chappelle’s potential plans for Kings Yard are not yet public, but one business owner hopes any renovations stretch beyond the building’s walls.

Evelyn LaMers, one of the owners of Yellow Springs Pottery, has been involved with the store since 1973. She didn’t like the auction package because it didn’t include the pedestrian walkways or parking lot.

“My hope for the future would be that Dave Chappelle would persuade Cathy Christian to sell him the exterior so he can invest in and improve the project, the whole area,” she said.

“It sounds exciting. Maybe he could do some new things with it,” said Jovan King, who works at Peach’s Bar and Grill. “Maybe a newer place for people to hang out.

“I think anything that’s going to bring people to town is going to be a good thing. More variety, more things, it’s good for Yellow Springs.”

LaMers isn’t familiar with Chappelle but did know of Chappelle’s father, William, who was a professor at Antioch College and someone LaMers called a pillar of the community.

“He’s a new person in the downtown business scene,” LaMers said of the younger Chappelle. “I don’t have a television. I’ve never seen his comedy show. But I know who he is.

“He’s blended into the village in a very low-key, friendly way. That speaks well both for the village and for him.”

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