When it comes to Fort Wayne, you tend to run into two kinds of people: those who grumble about how Fort Wayne is the most boring place in the US, and then those who believes there’s a bright future to Fort Wayne. I admit, I was at first a grumbler, then a changed believer.
One day while chilling on my laptop in Fortezza Coffee off Calhoun Street in downtown, I ran into someone from high school, but it wasn’t one of those awkward, “I see you, but I’m going to act like I don’t see you” kind of scenarios. We chatted about travel, about Indiana, and about moving away. I ran into him again. And again. And again. Literally four times at the same coffee shop and that’s how I know that if you’re chilling in the same coffee shop as me, by yourself, doin’ your thing, then we’re probably on somewhat of the same wavelength.
Ben has been on the lookout for a creative modern city like Portland, but for now, he’s enjoying life as a twenty-something in downtown Fort Wayne. Not bad. If you’re a Fort Wayne reader, you know that the downtown of today’s Fort Wayne is already 10x better than the Fort Wayne of ten years ago.
So, what do you do in Fort Wayne?
I currently work at the downtown YMCA as the Wellness Director and a Group-Exercise Instructor. I switched my major halfway through college from Nursing to Sports Medicine & Exercise Science to set myself up for a career I truly was passionate about. I love that I am given so much support to be as creative as possible to get our community active.
In your opinion, what should Fort Wayne be known for?
I know many people are discontent with our city because they have expectations that just aren’t realistic. We’re never going to be an Indianapolis, and that’s okay. Although the thing is, like Indy, we also have a great downtown area that is growing, just on a smaller scale. We have always had the bones of a great downtown area, but only in the past 5 years have business and companies begun to take the risk of moving back downtown after the great exodus due to the construction of South Town Mall, Glenbrook Mall & Jefferson Pointe. People want to be downtown again – to do their shopping, to eat, live, work, exercise, find entertainment, hang out – you name it. So to answer your question – I think Fort Wayne should, and I’m most certain will, be known for its vibrant downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods in the years to come.
How do you spend an evening in Fort Wayne?
So I get off work, and meet my friends to ride our bikes around before we eat at, in my opinion, the best downtown spot, Dash-In. We probably also have a beer, or two, because why not? Hop back on the bikes and make it back to Sheridan Court apartments in the Historic West Central Neighborhood. More friends come and join us. I’m feeling generous so my roommate and I are passing out our stock of beer and mixing drinks. We’re rotating the DJ’ing duties. We decide we should head out and see if we can’t expand our circle of friends – beginning at Brewerks local brewery, maybe a stop at JK O’Donnell’s for much of the same, then to the Thirsty Camel to end the night, because dancing at this point is a must!
Let’s keep it real; what are a few things that you don’t like about FW?
There is still a widespread belief here that people should act, believe, dress, think, look…a certain way, and that anyone who doesn’t fit that mold is regarded with contempt.
Say you meet a tourist in Fort Wayne; what are some spots you recommend they go, and why?
If you’re looking for an authentic live music bar, then the Brass Rail has the best live shows and is always a good time.
If you want to go all in on a three course meal and drinks, Club Soda has all that plus a great jazz atmosphere to go along with it.
Looking to spend a day being active outdoors? Go to Fort Wayne Outfitters, and rent a canoe or stand-up paddle board and have a great day on the river.
There’s also a great local juicery, Beet Street Juicery, that just opened up last year. They have great drinks, and they will be doing some great and exciting things this summer.
What is your favorite cheap place to eat and why?
I would say a little out-of-the-way nook in the ‘07 area called the Friendly Fox is my favorite spot. They specialize in homemade sandwiches, soups, wraps & ice-cream. They have acoustic music on weekends – my dad is actually frequent performer there. Very nice place that is starting to receive the following and credit they deserve.
Is there a neighborhood or side of Fort Wayne that is “cooler” than another?
West Central, Foster Park and Lakeside Park neighborhoods have so much character, architecturally and personality-wise, that set them apart from all the other places to live in town. The 46807 area is really doing some cool things thanks to some individuals that saw the potential in that area. Wunderkammer Company and their whole social following of young artists and people that believe in our city has really created some excitement as far as forming a movement of individuality and originality in Fort Wayne.
Any tips to someone who just moved to Fort Wayne?
I think what holds true with moving anywhere new is that you need to find a way to get connected in a manner in which you truly enjoy or think you’ll enjoy. I’ve expanded my social circle exponentially each time I join a new soccer team, which in turn broadens my ability to try new things. Even having lived here all my life, I still meet people that are able to give me new experiences or introduce me to new things/places in this city. Just make sure you have a plan to stay active and social during our winters especially. Seasonal Affective Disorder is real!
Check out more of Ben (@bj_linehan)
If you’re a cool local of your city, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to your Instagram and 140 characters about why you should be featured in our “Locals of” series!
[In our “Locals of” series, we will be highlighting locals of each city we travel to. Go figure. These aren’t just randos walking down the street; they’re people we have personally connected with and vouch for in terms of knowing how to do their city right. They’ve got some juicy deets that might just change the way you see their cities and we want to share them with you.]