8 min read

Feb. 20, 2024 | New developments on Fairfield

Feb. 20, 2024 | New developments on Fairfield

Hey Locals,

This week, we're focusing on Fairfield Ave., where we have exclusive details on a new taphouse under renovation and more developments in the area.

As we honor Black History Month, we also learn how BIPOCA Incubator and Art Gallery on Fairfield is supporting Black, Indigenous and People of Color whose craft has been excluded, unseen or exploited.

Plus, in Small Talk: Why some parents and students are concerned about Southwest Allen County Schools' recent speaker. And we follow up on a couple of ongoing community stories (restaurant turnover and the new county jail).

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The rumors are true: The 07 is getting a new woman-owned taphouse – and it could fuel the area's growth and walkability.

Co-Owners and neighborhood association leaders Melissa Kurten and Holly Munoz share plans for their new venture: the Packard Taphouse under renovation.

What's happening?

On Valentine's Day, owners of the Packard Taphouse hosted an open house. The new bar is under renovation at the old Billy's Dugout on Fairfield Ave. (near Bravas, Zeb's and Packard Park). The opening date is TBA, and you won't find details on social media. But we have the scoop on this project (and more) likely to enhance connections between Downtown and South side neighborhoods.

Here's what you need to know:

  • The Packard Taphouse is owned by two local women and neighborhood association leaders: Melissa Kurten and Holly Munoz. Melissa is currently President of Oakdale Neighborhood, and Holly was President of Fairfield Neighborhood (until November). They met through neighborhood meetings. "We didn't go into this wanting to be bar owners," they say. "It was more like: Billy's Dugout is a great place for the community; we want to keep it a community hub!"
  • It's going to feel like a swanky Mid-Century lounge. “Think Mad Men,” the owners say. “The bar up front is going to have wood paneling, and there will be a lounge in back with low seating. We’ve got some Adrian Pearsall furniture we’re working to get restored, too.”
  • Billy's Dugout regulars dig the new plans. Beth of Fox Ave., who has been going to Billy's (and known the family) for 20+ years, says that while the Packard will have a different layout and vibe, she's excited about it. "Billy has been in the bar business for decades and decided it was time to do something different. (Holly and Melissa) feel like part of the crowd here, and I think what they're doing is awesome."
  • They're keeping things local (and a little underground) for the time being. So you won't find them on social networks. "We’re just going to use a sandwich board out front to advertise, and see how it goes," the owners say.
  • You can BYO food to the future bar. Carry in Bravas or Zeb's. Order pizza. The taphouse will offer a stripped down bar concept with 20 beers on tap, wine and minimal snacks. They plan to host pop-ups, too.
  • The space has a cool history. The name Packard Taphouse is a nod to Packard Park next door. From 1872-1932, the site of the current park was home to the Packard Piano Company. In 1937, the City of Fort Wayne acquired the property, and turned it into a park with a softball diamond. From the 1940s-70s, the taphouse building was Harold Greiner’s "Bob Inn" Restaurant and Bakery. Greiner was a board member and manager of the Fort Wayne Daisies female softball team that played at the field nextdoor. He appeared in a 1987 PBS documentary that inspired the classic film "A League of Their Own."
  • Changes to Packard Park are also on the way. This summer, the park is scheduled to break ground on renovations, including walking paths, public art and a new event plaza for concerts, farmers markets and more.

See pictures of the taphouse under construction in our Deeper Dive.

Why it matters

We cover the ripple effects and what it means for the community in our premium newsletter, available with a 30-day free trial.

  • More restaurant turnover. O'Reilly's Irish Pub and the city's only Chili's both announced last week that they're closing their doors. These closings are part of ongoing turnover in Fort Wayne's restaurant and craft beverage scene, which is also seeing a new crop of eateries. In fact, there's already a restaurant lined up to take over the space O'Reilly's is vacating Downtown: an Indiana-based chain Los Patios Mexican Restaurant, which plans to open by the end of March.
  • ...And more jail news. Following up on another ongoing story, the Allen County Council passed an additional $6 million in funding* for the new jail project, removing the final funding roadblock to its construction. The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance is still considering a taxpayer petition that claims the project is unwise and unnecessary. If the IDLGA rules against the citizen petition, construction could begin late spring of this year.

Plus: Controversial SACS speaker concerns students and parents, new leadership at WBOI, Pontiac phase II and more. Read about these local stories in our premium newsletter.

Curator and Founder Clydia Early tells us about the space and the talent she’s bringing to town this year.

BIPOCA Incubator and Art Gallery is located at Wunderkammer Company at 3402 Fairfield Ave.

What's happening?

Since opening in 2022, BIPOCA Incubator and Art Gallery (inside Wunderkammer Company at 3402 Fairfield Ave.) has been uplifting local creators of color and bringing internationally recognized talent to town, like graffiti artist Kool Koor. As we honor Black History Month, we're exploring how BIPOCA supports the art of Black, Indigenous and People of Color whose creative work has been historically excluded, unseen and/or exploited.

Why we love it

  • Gallery Curator and Founder Clydia Early is a local gem who is using her experience as a longtime buyer and collector of art to address gaps in the art world — both locally and nationally. Namely: There’s a lack of trust between BIPOC creatives and galleries selling their work, as well as a lack of opportunities for artists to show or sell their art to predominantly white buyers.
  • BIPOCA functions as an art incubator, building trust and relationships with artists near and far to support their creative growth. This includes: personal development workshops, helping them craft plans to amplify their talents and hosting events, like artist pop-ups, workshops, classes, Meet the Artist events and other opportunities to connect with collectors and businesses.
  • BIPOCA brings national and international talent to Fort Wayne for mentorship and inspiration. Kool Koor has been here twice to support local artists and students, including a two-week residency at the University of St. Francis last year.

Learn more (and see who's coming to town this year) in our full interview!

  • Attend: a Creator Spotlight event by Creator Space, featuring lifestyle content creator Stephanie Bonner (also of the Green Frog!). The free event is Feb. 22 at Cinema Center from 6-8 p.m.
  • Buy: some local photography during an evening of art and brews at the new Chapman's Brewing Co. location at Electric Works. Tomorrow (Feb. 21) from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Talk: local foodways at "What's On Your Plate?" a dinner conversation hosted by Indiana Humanities (and moderated by The Local's guest editor Ryan Schnurr). Feb. 21 from 6-8 p.m. at Joseph Decuis in Roanoke. Purchase tickets online here.

What else? We recommend more things to do in our premium newsletter. Try it out with a 30-day free trial.

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Have a great week, Locals!

-Ryan Schnurr (+ contributions from editor Kara Hackett!)