United Coffee – Bringing Europe to Fort Wayne
Feb11

United Coffee – Bringing Europe to Fort Wayne

Coffee is the quintessential universal language. No matter where you go, no matter what country you are in, a coffee shop is the place you go to meet friends, study, and hang out. It can be the home to new beginnings and chance encounters and it was certainly by chance that I stumbled upon Fort Wayne’s newest local coffee shop, United Coffee. Tucked away in a shopping plaza at 6447 W. Jefferson Blvd. that houses Buffalo Wings & Ribs, Pak Mail, and Chops Steak & Seafood, is the cutest coffee shop on the corner lot where a credit union used to stand. Owners Tony and Marina Horani greet their customers by name as they enter the cozy shop with its cheerful yellow chairs and twinkling fairy lights. Their goal is for people to feel welcome – like they have invited them into their home for a cup of coffee. Marina, a native of Kaliningrad (which was German until the end of WWII and is now a part of Russia), laughed as she told me she feels like she knows more people in Fort Wayne than in her homeland. Tony, a native of Fort Wayne, had told her how welcoming his hometown was  and that was one of the things that drew them back. Tony is a graduate of IU’s Kelley School of Business and armed with a degree in accounting moved to the nation’s capital to work in real estate investment. Marina was studying at a university in Russia that had an exchange program for English immersion which she was taking in DC, which is how the two met and fell in love. The two loved traveling and had a love for coffee and local businesses. “I’ve always wanted to own a family business and we have such a great economic environment in Fort Wayne.” Tony explained. “Fort Wayne is the NYC of small businesses…but with training wheels. People want to see you succeed. The competition isn’t as stiff and the city is willing to let you figure things out.” United Coffee is a culmination of products that the Horanis explored in their travels. “We wanted to build something we would enjoy,” Marina noted. One year ago while they were on a layover in Amsterdam, they tried their now signature waffles, the Liège waffle. These waffles come from a local baker in Brussels, Belgium. Waffles are one of Belgium’s most famous exports, yet they do not have what we consider a Belgian waffle. Instead they have two categories of waffles that have existed for hundreds of years: the Brussels waffle (which is similar to our American version of a Belgian...

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Pop-up coffee shop opens in the ’05 – Rowe Coffee Co.
Feb07

Pop-up coffee shop opens in the ’05 – Rowe Coffee Co.

What makes a good cup of coffee? Is it the taste? Is it the experience? Or is it something greater? California transplant Andrew Rowe was 23 when he started Rowe Coffee Co. as a pop-up bar with a few friends. After years of offering pop-ups at events, Rowe is starting the next chapter in its expansion in Fort Wayne. This month Rowe Coffee Co. is now offering a pop-up coffee shop experience inside the Urban Attic Pop-up Shop in the East State Neighborhood (2329 Crescent Ave.). The pop-up is taking place throughout the month of February from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday. Thinking ethically “Our slogan – ‘doing good coffee for the greater good’ – that was kind of what we base all of our decisions on,” Rowe said. “From hiring somebody or from choosing the pour-overs to how we’re sourcing the beans.” After immersing himself in literature, classes and video tutorials, Rowe has continued to research ways to make beverages better. “I started looking at ways to source coffee more responsibility, more ethically, more consciously,” Rowe said. As a result, Rowe explored topics like human trafficking and slavery in coffee’s supply chains. “We want make sure everything is ethically sourced,” Rowe said. “Before I chose Yellow Cup [Coffee Roasters] as our primary roaster, I had asked him to give me some details on how he knows that child labor and slave labor is not used.” Rowe worked with Yellow Cup to develop the Rowe Coffee Co. blend. The blend, which is 50 percent Ethiopian and 50 percent Colombian, pairs well with milk. Rowe performed numerous taste tests to find his signature blend. Rowe estimates he went through five-to-six Ethiopian samples before he found the perfect blend. In addition to seeking out ethically-sourced products, Rowe Coffee Co. also donates ten percent of profits to Charity Water, a non-profit organization with a mission to bring clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. In 2018, Rowe Coffee Co. helped 18 individuals get access to water. Community matters After this month’s pop-up, Rowe hopes to eventually develop a full-scale coffee shop by 2020. In this space, customers will be able to experience interactive coffee culture right in the ’05. “I’d love to see a community built around Rowe Coffee Co. and this space specifically,” Rowe said. “I really want to be bringing together the coffee community, as well.” Rowe envisions activities like latte art throwdowns and coffee competitions. With interactive events, local coffee shops and baristas can learn and grow together in this field. Rowe also has been surprised by how much support he sees in Fort Wayne after coming...

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The past and present of the historic Strauss Building
Dec13

The past and present of the historic Strauss Building

A Local Icon Most Fort Wayne residents are familiar with Fortezza Coffee—the local business has quickly risen to become a favorite coffee spot, restaurant, work space, and meeting place for the community since it opened in 2014. Its iconic location compliments the specialty drinks and eclectic menu for which the shop is known, the stylized red brick exterior standing out vibrantly against the surrounding businesses. But do you know the full history behind the building Fortezza calls home? Constructed in 1890, the Strauss Building (located at 821 S. Calhoun St.) is one of downtown Fort Wayne’s oldest and most recognizable structures. The building has served myriad purposes, housing a wide variety of businesses and institutions for the past 128 years. Fort Wayne’s Downtown Improvement District describes the Strauss Building as having “a rich history spanning an era of many inventions, entrepreneurs, and visionaries.” Then Sandra Lahrman, the Strauss Building’s current property manager, is knowledgeable about the structure’s past as well as its present. But the building’s longevity also lends itself to mystery. According to Lahrman, the original purpose for the Strauss Building when it was first constructed is unknown. “We don’t have the exact purpose of the building immediately after it was built, other than it was generally commercial use. But around the turn of the century it hosted a Western Union and various financial institutions,” says Lahrman. During its initial years, the Strauss Building was ahead of its time. It was one of the first locations in Fort Wayne to have early telegraph lines, the conduits for which can still be seen in the building’s basement. The Strauss Building went on to serve as the first office for Lincoln Financial Group, a Fortune 250 company that still has a large office location and prominent community presence in Fort Wayne. Later on in the twentieth century, it hosted several different business including boutique retail shores, a chiropractic practice, and general office space. Now When Fortezza Coffee owner Sean Wang was searching for a location to establish his business, he knew the Strauss Building’s historic charm and location in the heart of downtown were the right fit. “The landlords were able to save a lot of the original uniqueness, such as the ceiling and the brick walls, but also keep up with the updated safety code and functionality,” said Wang. In spite of its age and varied uses, the Strauss Building has fared incredibly well over time. Lahrman shares that some some long-forgotten signs of wear were discovered when the current management acquired the property. “There were signs of small fires when we began sanding and renovating the wood floors...

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Thank you, Bill! – Bill’s Smokehouse
Dec03

Thank you, Bill! – Bill’s Smokehouse

My husband and I have a lot of trouble eating out. Over the last ten years or so, we’ve become what I would call “at home chefs.” Between Food Network (with a heavy lean towards Alton Brown), ChefSteps (YouTube) and Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel, we’ve learned how to make phenomenal meals at home. We invested in an immersion circulator several years back and it’s changed our meat game like nothing else. We can pretty much make a restaurant quality meals at home, for a fraction of the cost, and have it cooked to perfection. Now, that’s kind of a double-edged sword . . . one, we don’t get the feeling of getting all gussied up and ‘going out’. Two, we don’t get to sit and relax and be waited on. Finally, the restaurants we might splurge on have disappointed us. Steaks aren’t cooked to the right temp. Asparagus is fibrous. Dishes were just lacking proper seasoning. I sound like a huge food snob, I’m sure, but when you can make food to a certain standard, you expect a restaurant to be able to hit the same standard, especially when paying so much. So, this brings us to Bill’s Smokehouse. Naturally, we were leary. We hold a special place in our hearts for barbecue. It’s smokey, succulent and just plain delicious. Also, it’s something we can’t do at home . . . yet. 😉 So we have our favorite place in town to get it and hold all others to that standard. As we walked into Bill’s on a cool, dark evening, we could smell the smokers from the back. The restaurant was quiet as there were only a couple other tables with guests. The room was moderately lit and looked nice with a classic, high-end look with a lean towards the a western theme. Booths and tables are both available and our booth was comfortable. Soon, we were the only table. Considering the menu is full of local, organic meats, it’s kind of hard to make a choice.We had a nice basket of corn bread while we made our decisions. While the inside was tender and sweet, the sides were dry. I went with the 28-day wet aged USDA choice tenderloin filet, six oz, a ⅓ rack of ribs, a side of apple slaw and fried Brussell sprouts. My husband got the pulled pork and brisket with sides of collard greens and green beans with bacon and onion. We also tried the sausage sampler as an appetizer. The sampler came with a smoked pork sausage, a chicken sausage, a couple cheeses and two mustards, as well as plain and...

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Solbird Kitchen and Tap – a Powerful Duo
Nov20

Solbird Kitchen and Tap – a Powerful Duo

Some couples were just meant to be together. Batman and Robin, Han Solo and Chewbacca, Bert and Ernie, and the newest collaboration on the Fort Wayne food scene – Sol Kitchen and Birdboy Brewing. Sol Kitchen was one of Fort Wayne’s founding food trucks boasting an elevated version of Tex-Mex fare. Inspired by the Bravas hot dog stand, owner Jerry Perez knew that Fort Wayne was ready to embrace the mobile food concept and embarked on a menu including Latin inspired tacos and quesadillas. Perez named his food truck after The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen”, where Jim Morrison crooned the lines “let me sleep all night, in your soul kitchen”. Just as Morrison was a huge fan of soul food, Sol Kitchen soon had a just as devoted fan base including yours truly who would never be deterred by a long line at the food truck, knowing the deliciousness that awaited you. After five years of serving amazing food on the truck at venues all around Fort Wayne and even in Roanoke, Perez set his eyes on higher sites. A stand along brick and mortar restaurant so he could expand his menu and fan base. Birdboy Brewing is a local brewery created by Ben Thompson who combined his love for planes and craft beer into brewing his own unique creations that can be found at over 60 high-end bars and restaurants such as Joseph Decuis. Birdboy was founded in 2015 and has a taproom located in Roanoke. With names like ‘Wit’s a Bird, Wits a Plane’ and ‘Redturn of the JedIPA’ you can see the creativity that goes into Birdboy’s European style beers. Loyal fans of both Birdboy Brewing and Sol Kitchen were ecstatic to learn of their partnership in the form of Solbird Kitchen and Tap located at 1824 W. Dupont Road in Fort Wayne.  Perez and Thompson have created a kitchen and tap concept that is destined for great success. The Solbird menu boasts food of many cultures, not just traditional Mexican flare. Next to the shrimp ceviche (which was a perfectly portioned bite on crisp tortilla chips and served with fresh pico de gallo and avocado crema) were Korean pork sliders and further down on the menu was a Thai shrimp burrito. Utilizing fresh local ingredients, strong influence from his Mexican roots, and some Latin flare, Perez does not shy away from flavorful profiles, which takes the Solbird menu to a whole new level. For the drink part of the equation, Birdboy Brewing has both flights and growlers available with everything ranging from a Belgian pale ale, a full-bodied Belgian Imperial Stout and, of course, a classic...

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Exploring local and ethically-sourced food with Heartland Communities
Oct25

Exploring local and ethically-sourced food with Heartland Communities

Local food and green collar industries have seen renewed interest in recent years. Living Fort Wayne recently caught up with Heartland Communities’ Jain Young and Rowan Greene to discuss the mission of Heartland Communities and their vision for the future. LFW – How does Heartland Communities plan to help facilitate the emergence of “green collar industries”? Heartland Communities – We hear about a “triple bottom line” these days – people – planet – profit or the 3 p’s of sustainability. At Heartland Communities, we have held those values as our mission since before the phrase was coined and we called it economic, environmental and cultural sustainability. As a community economic development organization, we are focused on creating opportunities to put those values into action in business, jobs, and entrepreneurship. To take it a step further, Heartland is organized to help create cooperative and worker-owned enterprises. Heartland’s current focus is bringing green infrastructure to the food industry with Plowshares Local Food System Project, which began in 2014 with a USDA grant through the Local Food Promotion Program for research and planning. Plowshares works with intention and organizing to re-establish local food system infrastructure, which changed over the last 50+ years from local to global. Now, four years into the project, we are launching a local food distribution business called Plowshares Food Hub. It will create efficiencies for local farms and business while making locally grown and processed food more accessible. The Sustainable Indiana 2016 initiative gave Heartland a “Green Light Award” for Plowshares. As we create a local food system, food production is a green collar industry when farmers use regenerative methods that require less water and fuel, build our soil, and protect pollinators. As food moves from farms through the value chain to the consumer, food jobs become “green” when the transportation miles are reduced, so locally produced food is more green than the same food that rides in a truck from California or Brazil. In Indiana, the average meal travels 1,500 miles while we import 90 percent of our food from out of state. So you might think of a green collar industry as a solar panel manufacturing plant but sometimes it is doing the things we have always done but finding a way to be good to the planet and value your people with good jobs, while being successful financially. Another Green Light Award was given to an organization Heartland incubated as fiscal agent and through organizational development over a period of seven years. The nonprofit Save Maumee Grassroots Organization has become a green collar industry in watershed management and jobs have been created with nearly $200,000...

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