Waiter on the Way: Growing a business by ‘doing the right thing’
May31

Waiter on the Way: Growing a business by ‘doing the right thing’

This story was originally published in the May 23, 2018 issue of Input Fort Wayne as Waiter on the Way: Growing a business by ‘doing the right thing’.    Have you ever wanted delivery service from a restaurant that doesn’t offer it? That’s the idea behind Waiter on the Way. The process is simple. Visit the website, and you’ll find a list of local and national restaurants you can order from with detailed menus and weekly blog stories. Simply call or place an order on the mobile-friendly interface, and the food you’re craving will be delivered to your home or office. While other delivery services have come and gone in northeast Indiana over the years, Waiter on the Way has remained a community staple. Based out of downtown Fort Wayne, it continues to grow its influence in the region. When the owner, Derek Berkes, purchased the company in 2001, he had a staff of 20 people and delivered from 20 restaurants. Today, he has more than 110 employees, delivering from more than 140 restaurants, including local favorites like Casa, Coney Island, and Shigs In Pit. “When we started, we were averaging about 65 orders a day. Now, we average 265 orders a day,” Berkes says. He may have been honored with a 2017 Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly Business Excellence Award for “Business of the Year – Revenue Less than $5 Million,” but money was not always easily accessible for him. Instead, he says his personal failures and his ability to learn from them are what gave him the work ethic he has today. From debt to success Before Berkes turned 30, he accumulated massive amounts of debt as a result of trying to build a business, create cash flow, and hire a large staff. He wanted to take Waiter on the Way to the next level and believed that accumulating debt while doing so was the only viable approach. In his attempt to grow the company, the pressure of making money for the sake of making money become overbearing. He knew he needed to change something. “I used to chase money. I made the profit more important than anything else because I had so many people relying on the success of the business.” Berkes says. “That approach simply doesn’t work. I was very driven. I still am, but I changed what I allowed to drive me.” In his early 30s, he decided to reset his approach around creating value for the Fort Wayne community. “I focus on the quality and the relationships,” Berkes says. “I want to do the right thing every time and with every interaction. Those components...

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Hop River Brewing Company – Creating an inclusive environment
Apr19

Hop River Brewing Company – Creating an inclusive environment

This story was originally published in the April 4, 2018 issue of Input Fort Wayne as Creating an inclusive environment.    With a fifteen-barrel brew house, Hop River Brewing Company has seven to nine beers on tap with plans to grow that number by this summer. But what they are building is more than a brewery and taproom. They have relationships with other local breweries, like Junk Ditch Brewing Company and Mad Anthony Brewing Company. Both are currently available on guest taps. On top of that, the taproom is open to all ages—not just ages 21 and over. It’s not uncommon to see kids and high schoolers sitting at the community tables, playing board games. In many ways, the brewery has built an inclusive environment on Fort Wayne’s Historic Wells Street Corridor that is not only a welcoming place for guests, but also for the staff. With 13 employees, the brewery puts as much emphasis on its team members, its relationships, and its community as it does the quality of its beer. It’s this emphasis that is paying off. A brewing family The 1515 N. Harrison Street location is home to the Hop River Brewing Company staff, and it is clear that their love for each other is as great as their love for beer. The brewery started as a dream in 2015 by co-founders Ben Jackson, President, and Paris McFarthing, Vice President. Hard work by these founders and their team members lead to a grand opening on January 29. Team members include Kevin Debs, Mary Corinne Lowenstein-DeGood, Amanda Wendt, and Zach Croy. Watching them interact is like watching siblings with a long history. They get along, and there is an easy camaraderie among them. Debs, the Head Brewer, moved to Fort Wayne from Detroit to join the Hop River Brewing Company family. “I moved here for the job, and to be able to share beer with people,” he says. “I wanted to be able to develop recipes and a beer culture. To turn people on to different beer styles they didn’t know about is what this is all about.” Lowenstein-DeGood, Director of Marketing, came on board in January, 2017, and is equally excited about being part of the team. She says the opportunity to be part of a community and a business focused on staff culture was what she signed on for. “We have learned each other’s dynamic, and we grew close during the process of opening the brewery,” Lowenstein-DeGood says. “We rocked the grand opening because we learned to trust each other.” A longtime local resident and previous employee at downtown hangouts like Dash-In, Wendt is the Head...

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Three Rivers Distilling Co. – A taste of hometown spirit
Mar27

Three Rivers Distilling Co. – A taste of hometown spirit

“This story was originally published in the March 7, 2018 issue of Input Fort Wayne as “A taste of hometown spirit.”    There is a rebirth happening in the 46803, and one key reason is Three Rivers Distilling Co. (TRDC). They’re the first craft distillery to open in northeast Indiana since prohibition, and they have been creating spirits in their warehouse-turned-distillery at 224 East Wallace Street since 2016. The wheat and corn that they use grows within 100 miles of the distillery, and they take pride in using Hoosier resources they can give back to the community in their Harvester Vodka, Three Rivers Wheated Bourbon, Summit City Gin, River City Rum, Coffee Liqueur, 122 Corn Whiskey, and Franklin B. Rye Whiskey. If some of these names sound familiar, it is because they honor both the history of Fort Wayne and the local military. Until this year, TRDC’s products have been available at restaurants, groceries, and liquor stores. Now, the distillery is taking its impact to the next level by adding a tasting room to its facilities where residents can discover a previously unvisited corner of town. Veteran owned and made Perhaps the first thing to know about TRDC is everything is veteran owned and veteran made. Aaron Pence, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, has served in the National Guard 122nd Fighter Wing for 15 years and has served in 4 tours overseas. The 122nd Fighter Wing has contributed multiple combat medical teams, vehicle drivers, security forces squads, and pilots to the military forces at large. Combat zone assignments include Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Iraq, Oman, and more. The TRDC 122 Corn Whiskey is named in honor of the 122nd Fighter Wing. TRDC describes it as “an intense, un-aged corn whiskey honoring the servicemen and women of our local community.” “Veteran made and owned is very important,” Pence says. “It’s a way to give back to those who have served. It’s a brotherhood and sisterhood, and we share the same work ethic, values, and integrity as well as a desire for excellence. We all share a passion, and it translates into the spirits we make.” The passion Pence talks about translates from his military career to the downtown neighborhood TRDC calls home. Doing business in 46803 Pence says one of the first things that mattered to TRDC was being as close to downtown as possible. They also needed to be in an area zoned for industrial use to distill spirits. That combination of factors led them to a neighborhood just south of downtown, between Calhoun Street and Lafayette. “We found a beautiful historic building in this neighborhood that overlooks...

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The HEDGE: Julie Wall Interview
Mar15

The HEDGE: Julie Wall Interview

I have been a fan of Julie Wall, 31, for years now. She was born and raised in Fort Wayne and is the embodiment of a strong individual that is kind, direct, and a true believer in the entrepreneurial spirit. She started her own business, The HEDGE, in 2013. This place is where she has created a solid reputation with locals while feeding her creative spirit. I stopped by her new location at 1016 Broadway in downtown Fort Wayne (open from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday) to chat and see how the new location is treating her. She spent a great deal of time rehabbing the building, and I was eager to see the new space.   I asked her why she selected downtown, and she told me that “If I was ever going to do it, the time was now.” She went on to talk about the new energy happening in our urban core. “The timing is right. It’s so great being downtown. I love seeing people out and about for leisurely purposes. Being open on Saturdays for the hustle and bustle is fun. People are on the streets with their Shop Small bags as compared to five years ago when it was a ghost town down here.”   She offers a wide range of services including custom printing, design, foiling, letterpress, debossing, edge painting, invitations, calligraphy, event signage, engraving, sublimation, fine art, murals, curation, workshops, printing demos, creative consulting, and more. She is heavily involved in the process from beginning to end with her clients and customers. She has been active in everything from weddings and parties to funerals and fundraisers. “People come in with an idea and we figure it out together,” Julie told me with enthusiasm.   When I asked her why she does this, she didn’t hesitate with her answer. “I’ve grown up in a small family business, so I knew I would own my own business someday, too. It’s in my blood. It allows me to be creative every single day. It gives me the chance to disconnect from my own art in a good way, too. Owning your own business is empowering, but being self-employed really never ends. There is only so much time in a day.”   Check out the spring workshops at The HEDGE on the website. Join them on March 25 from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. for an open house printing workshop, and an art opening with new work by Daniel Dienelt and Julie. There will be PBR on the house, and delicious cupcakes from Zinnia’s Bakehouse. Make sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter so you don’t miss any updates!...

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Fort Wayne New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
Dec05

Fort Wayne New Year’s Eve Ball Drop

When it comes to New Year’s Eve, I am not the kind of guy that likes to stay home, wrapped up in a blanket on the couch trying not to fall asleep before midnight. New Year’s Eve has always been this perfect culmination of looking back on the hard work of the year and ushering in hopes and dreams for next year with my closest friends. I’ve celebrated New Year’s Eve in numerous cities close to Fort Wayne from Chicago to Louisville to Cincinnati. Sadly, I have always had to leave town to really find somewhere that I felt could provide me with the opportunity to let loose and enjoy myself. This year, a new event called the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop is hoping to change that. The event will take place at the Barrett McNagny Parking Lot at 215 E. Berry Street behind Main Street Bistro in the heart of Downtown Fort Wayne. There will be a countdown featuring a gigantic Fort Wayne inspired LED Tower, and a dazzling fireworks display at midnight. This event is free and family-friendly. Doors open at 7 p.m. and live entertainment will begin at 7:15 p.m. on the countdown stage. The ball will drop at midnight kicking off the beginning of 2017. Don’t miss the chance to be there for the start of something new in Fort Wayne! If you are looking for something fun to do or want to save on the cost of travel during NYE, this might be the event you have been looking for. Main Street Bistro will also have its own event next door with tickets available for purchase online. Start making your plans now and find out all the details at fwballdrop.com. Most importantly, don’t forget to get an Uber for the drive...

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