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March 26, 2024 | How 'affordable' is Fort Wayne?

March 26, 2024 | How 'affordable' is Fort Wayne?

Hey Locals,

What does it mean to "live comfortably" in Fort Wayne? This week, we're talking local wages – and how the city might not be as affordable as it often gets credit for. We also share menu recs and tips for your first visit to Rune Restaurant, opening March 29. Plus, we have details on memberships at the new Summit City Climbing Co., Fort Wayne's first official climbing gym, opening this spring.

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Now, let's get started!

How 'affordable' is Fort Wayne?

A recent smartasset.com study draws attention to how the city is both nationally "affordable," yet still out of reach for many locals.

Local residents earn about 85 cents on the dollar.

What's happening?

Fort Wayne has long topped national lists as one of the most "affordable" cities in the U.S. But a new report by smartasset.com (published on WANE 15) draws attention to an often-overlooked gap in that equation: local wages. Namely, their ability to keep up with inflation.

  • How so? Smartasset.com's study calls Fort Wayne the 20th most affordable place to “live comfortably" in the U.S., but says a single person needs to earn $84,032 a year to live comfortably here. For a household with two working adults and two children, that figure rises to $200,262 – based on the most recent data for cost of necessities, including housing, food, transportation and income taxes.
  • It's important to note: Smartasset.com defines "living comfortably" based on its recommended 50/30/20 budget, which parcels your income by needs (50% on housing, groceries and transportation), wants (30% on entertainment and hobbies) and debt/savings (20%). (See details on each category and how to factor your own income.) What "living comfortably" means to you might differ from this equation, but it does offer a baseline to compare livability across the country.
  • Overall: "(Locals) make about 85 cents on the dollar, but our cost of living is somewhere about 95 cents on the dollar," says Community Research Institute Director at Purdue University Fort Wayne Rachel Blakeman. "So as a practical matter, Fort Wayne is a very expensive city for many people to live in, when we compare it against wages.”

Why it matters

Regardless of how you divvy up your budget and what you consider "comfortable," local wages are closely tied to Fort Wayne's current talent pool and its prospects.

We break down key insights from Blakeman in our premium newsletter, available with a 30-day free trial.

NOTE: Links to Journal Gazette articles are marked(*) and may be behind a paywall.

  • Summit City Climbing Co. is opening the city's first rock climbing gym May 18, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and already offering memberships for early access. The gym will be just east of Downtown at 1331 E. Berry St. with 2,130 sq. ft. of indoor bouldering on 10-15 ft. walls for all ages and abilities, as well as a weight-lifting gym for strength training. Monthly memberships start at $75 ($110 for families) with discounts ($55) for students, teachers, nurses, social workers, non-profit organizations, first responders, and veterans. You can also purchase a day pass for $17, starting May 18. Become a member today, and early access begins April 13, 6-8 p.m. with CRASH sessions (BYO crash pad), until pads are installed May 1. Plus: membership fees don't start until opening day. We'll share more when the gym is closer to opening!
  • Citilink saved its Southgate Plaza bus shelter, thanks to support from the community. "We have been working with the property owner, and for the foreseeable future, the bus stop will be able to remain where it currently is," its Instagram says. "We will continue to work with our supervisors and the FWPD to work to make sure that the bus shelter is being used for riders only. We are continuing discussions with the property owner to develop and determine a final, community-minded solution to help our riders and reduce loitering. We will continue to provide updates as they come. Thank you all for using your voice to help advocate for equitable solutions for our community! With your voice, we will continue to link people to life."

Plus: more shakeup on The Landing, a USPS update, a controversial new hotel and more. Read about these local stories in our premium newsletter.

Rune restaurant opens March 29, offering a “taste of Fort Wayne.”

Chef Sean Richardson shares his team’s plans to use foraged regional ingredients for the ultimate local dining experience.

Samples at a Rune media event Saturday night before its grand opening March 29.

What’s happening?

After years of hosting sell-out pop-up dinners around town called Rune, Chef Sean Richardson (a James Beard Foundation Award-nominee) is opening a brick-and-mortar March 29 in the former Trubble Brewing space on Broadway. Hours will be Friday-Saturday 5-9 p.m. and Sunday-Monday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. A sample menu is already posted online, but it’s subject to change based on what’s in season. That's because Rune is designing its food and drinks around regionally foraged ingredients in partnership with Certified Forager Carrie Vrabel of Wild Edible Indiana.

“One of the great things about Fort Wayne is we still have a lot of rural community around us to harvest ingredients,” Richardson says.

We sat down with him to get key insights for your first visit:

  • Ukrainian food: You might not recognize some items on the menu, like “varenyky” (vah-REH-nee-key) Ukrainian dumplings or “gougeres” (goo-zhehrs) cream puff pastries. Richardson grew up cooking with his grandparents, and his grandfather is 50 percent Ukrainian. “Our Christmas dinners were always Ukrainian food,” Richardson says. “Traditionally, varenykies are potato and onion or sauerkraut filled dumplings, but we’re doing them with celery root, cheddar cheese and apple.” (We especially loved his spicy gougeres, made with a mouth-numbing szechuan peppercorn and parmesan.)
  • Pasta: Rune has a pasta extruder, which means fresh, handmade pasta will be a mainstay on the menu. “We’re starting out with two pastas: spaghetti and rigatoni. The spaghetti is vegan with a roasted peanut and parsley pesto that’s nice and fresh – not as heavy. The rigatoni is kind of like an alfredo base, but I’m steeping the cream in white pine needles, so it’s got a different flavor going on – a little bitterness – and we’re using these awesome chestnut mushrooms from Myzel Risin' at Ft. Wayne’s Farmers Market that are insane.”
  • Monday brunch: Along with Sunday brunch, Rune will be open for Monday brunch, too – a move Richardson hopes appeals to fellow service industry professionals and other workers not on typical 9-to-5 schedules. He’s planning some more affordable menu options, too. I want to do party nachos.” His famous avocado toast (ala Conjure) might make an appearance as a brunch feature at some point, as may chilaquiles, his personal favorite brunch dish.
  • Boutique spirits and cocktails: Bar Manager Mae Strubel is making the spirits menu at Rune extra boutique and seasonal, like its food, with the exception of one vodka-based house cocktail called the Montana, which will be a menu regular. (It’s refreshing and the perfect amount of sweet and will be only slightly manipulated based on foraged ingredients of the season.) “Whatever ingredients Carrie (the forager) is able to get her hands on, we’re going to try to use as much as possible on the menu.”
  • Menu recs: Rune’s menu is divided into sections: snacks, pastas, proteins and desserts. “If you come in with one other person, you might order one or two snacks to start,” Richardson says.Right now, I would say: You’ve got to get the gougeres. We’re putting chili crisp and anise honey on them, so they’re a great starting course. Both pastas and both desserts are going to be delicious, too. One dessert is a carrot and sweet potato tea cake with a butterscotch sauce. The other is a white pine pot de creme with shagbark maple syrup and peanut brittle.”
  • Popups: Just because Rune has its own space doesn’t mean it’s done hosting creative events. Once we get our legs under us, it’s something we want to do – not only having other cooks in town cook food here with us, but also bringing in chefs from out of town. I’d love to cook with friends from Chicago, Detroit and Indy.”

Why it matters

  • Diversification: Along with being another great local place to eat, Rune brings a different type of dining experience to the South side, near where Richardson lives in the 07. It sets a different tone in the service industry, too, by only opening for limited hours, so employees have time off with their families.
  • Creativity: Rune prioritizes culinary creativity (executed with expertise) among its staff. All of the food and drink samples we tasted were not only delicious, but also one-of-a-kind flavor combos that expanded our palates and opened our minds to foods we never knew we might enjoy — like chicken liver pate (on crackers topped with pickles and rosé mustard). It's cool to taste regionally unique ingredients, too, and savor more of what makes Fort Wayne special.
  • Value: While Richardson acknowledges his menu has price points on the higher end of nearby offerings, he says his team is working to source ingredients, products and talent responsibly and locally so they add as much value as possible to the community. “To me, it’s important where your money trickles down,” he says. “We’re spending money with local farmers and producers. I think the evolution of restaurants is to get back to being truly local, small, sustainable. I’m not changing the world here, by any means, but we do our small part. And if people come here, they can feel comfortable where their dollar is going — even down to our selection of spirits and wines. We’re looking at the practices of people making these products and investing in what we think is important.”

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Got a story tip or idea?

Let us know at thelocalfortwayne@gmail.com.

Have a great week, Locals!

-Your Editor, Kara Hackett