Teds market builds community around suds and shareable food

Ted's Market is a testament to the communal culture of the far north side of Fort Wayne.

Once a small, neighborhood grocery store with an intimate wine bar below, it converted its upstairs space to a German-inspired beer hall about a year ago to create more room for customers to enjoy long tables and longer conversations. Brian Hench

Brian Hench, the owner of the evolving space, says it's all part of the fun.

He, his wife Laura, and their kids James, 8, and Gina, 5, are transplants to Fort Wayne and residents of the north side themselves. 

James recently made a sign for the beer hall’s stage, marking its location at the mysterious corner of Coldwater Road and Laddie Lane known as Royville, apparently named after a farmer who once owned the land.

“These days, I don’t know if anything but the stage is actually part of Royville,” Hench says, laughing.

Today, about a year after his grocery store became a restaurant business, Hench talks about how the company has retained its original neighborhood character and its focus on natural, local food.

It serves beef and pork from Custom Quality Meats, chicken from Miller Poultry, barbecue sauce from Best Boy, coffee from Utopian, and beer from several regional breweries. It also plays host to several community events and performers.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Hench to learn more about why he came to Fort Wayne, what originally inspired him to start a grocery store, and what’s next for teds market, the beer hall and wine bar.

IFW: How long have you lived in Fort Wayne?

I've lived here about six and a half years. Moved here from Jacksonville, FL.

I grew up in Defiance, Ohio. My wife is from Chicago, IL, and I went to school there, so that's how I met her.

Right after we got married, we moved down to Jacksonville for work. Then when we started a family, and we had no family in Florida, so we wanted to move back closer to home. Fort Wayne was right in between (Defiance and Chicago).

So we did about four years here, and then realized we wanted to try this grocery store thing, and it was so much work, so we decided to stop doing the grocery store, and start just doing beer, wine, and a restaurant.

IFW: Where do you live on the north side?

BH: I’m in Twin Eagles neighborhood. There are a lot of families with younger kids, roughly our kids’ age.

Something we love there is, in the summer, there’s a community pool, and we’ll hang out there. A lot of our regulars at teds market come from there, and we’ll see them at the pool. Royville refers to the area around teds market at the corner of Coldwater Road and Laddie Lane.

IFW: Why did you choose the north side of town to live and to work?

BH: There’s a lot of parts of Fort Wayne I liked. At the end of the day, I was driving to Ohio for work, and to get where I was going, it was easier to live on this side of town. We found a neighborhood and house we liked.

I grew up in Defiance, so I like that there’s some space out here. We’re on the edge of the city, which is literal, because the city ends right here at Union Chapel Road.

We also picked the space as a market because there wasn’t a lot of markets up here at the time. Kroger had not opened its supercenter. There wasn’t EarthFare, so there wasn’t as much being offered here, and we found a cool building.

I always liked the smaller more crowded heavily merchandised market spaces with a lot of warmth and closeness to them, so this space with all the wood had that neighborhood feel as opposed to being in a strip mall or a shopping plaza. It’s something a little more personal.

IFW: Tell us about the original inspiration for teds market.

BH: Growing up my grandfather, Ted, who this is named after, was a grocer. (He started Chief Supermarkets in Defiance), and my dad took over his business.

My grandpa was the first generation here from Germany. His father, my great grandfather, migrated from Germany as a butcher. Then my grandfather was a butcher–him and his brother. And then they started a grocery business, probably in their mid-30s, about 65 years ago.

So the family has been in the grocery business, and that’s why I felt like I had enough background on the grocery side of things to open up the market.

IFW: Did you always know you wanted to follow in the family business?

BH: I got my undergraduate at Notre Dame in chemical engineering, and I did that for about four years when I was I Chicago. I got my masters degree at Notre Dame. Then I went down to Jacksonville, FL, and worked for Johnson & Johnson in marketing, where they manufacture ACUVUE Contact Lenses.

Did that, and then came up here, joined the family business for three to four years, but living in Fort Wayne. Then I left that open teds market.

IFW: Did your family’s grocery story or any other grocery store you visited inspire you?

BH: Actually, there was a Wegmans I went to in Pennsylvania when I was a kid that blew my mind, preparing foods fresh. That was a big inspiration.

At first with teds market, people were like, “So are you like a Trader Joe’s?” and I always thought we’re the antithesis of Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is all about efficiency and having things premade and prepackaged. You know, it’s your Aldes model up-scaled. In addition to the beer hall and wine bar, teds market also sells bread to local restaurants.

We’re the opposite of that. We’re handcrafted, and we have lots of labor that goes into making it. So not Trader Joes at all. But now we’re not that either.

IFW: Today, you still have the wine bar in the basement, and you’ve expanded that concept to include a beer hall and restaurant upstairs. Tell us more about the change.

BH: The inspiration for the beer hall was from how much beer we were doing downstairs, and how far we’d gotten from being a wine bar to being more like a pub downstairs.

Our goal was to get that back to being a wine bar, and then let the beer have its own space. In doing the beer side of things, Ted, my grandfather comes from German heritage, so being a beer hall, we have that kind of feel.

We weren’t going to rebuild the building, but we put in more of the community tables and that kind of ambiance, and we just keep it very light and friendly. We want to make sure with the windows keep it still looking open and kid friendly.

Up here, that’s a big piece of what we do. We want to be more of a community gathering place, which works well for this area.

A lot of the things that worked out recipe-wise for us originally with the wine bar were things that we built from. We’re known for a lot of our breads and pretzel rolls, so that evolved into our giant pretzels that we serve today that people go crazy for. A lot of that came out of what we learned at the market, and the relationships we built on the beer side.

The wine bar was all about better wines and craft beers, so we had relationships with a lot of the craft beer vendors community, and we were able to build from that.

IFW: It sounds like you’ve always had the desire to create an intimate, communal space. Has that original vision caught on with the beer hall?

BH: Absolutely this is a place where we see big groups of people coming in and bringing their friends and neighbors.

When we first started off, we had really long tables. They were 16- to 20-foot-long tables, and it became a little bit unwieldy for our servers to handle. But literally you would have groups that would come in and start as four people. Then three or four more friends would join, and then they would all shift down the table because then four or five more people would come in, and then the original four left, and it would just kind of morph throughout the night, you know, where this one group had the whole table. But they just kind of shifted from one side of the table to the other.

We still get a lot of that. We definitely love having groups come in here. We’re always trying to figure out ways we can get another big table up here because there always tends to be more big groups than we have tables for.

We’re not the fastest place to turn tables over because we do get people who come in here, and sit down, and want to spend the night. We’ve got games back there, and we’ve got one couple that will come in every Thursday night, and get a board game, and they’ll play one probably every week since about the third week we opened. We love our regulars.

IFW: It sounds like the food is made for sharing, too.

BH: Yep. We love people coming together and sharing food. A lot of our appetizers are not individual portion appetizers. They’re designed to be shared. A full order of pretzels is a whole pound of pretzel, so it’s a lot.

You can always tell when people are new because they each order an appetizer, and think it’s going to be for themselves. It’s just not the style. Our pizzas are super popular, and we call them 15”, but they overhang our 16” plates, so we know they’re bigger. But the idea is being able to come in here and share stuff. It’s what the community seems to enjoy.

The beer hall at teds market is a popular hangout for large groups.

IFW: Does the name teds market confuse people since it's not a market anymore?

BH: It confuses some people for sure. They come in and expect to see groceries. We usually hand them a menu, and say next time, we’ll have lunch ready for you.

IFW: Another part of being a communal space is the events you host. You have popular food truck events in the summer. Tell us about those.

BH: Again, it's something that started before we were a beer hall. We wanted to reach out to the local food community, because we didn’t want to be your normal big box giant grocery store. We wanted to be more of a community thing. But the first year we were opened, the food trucks were booked up, so we got it set up for the second summer, and did a trial run of six to eight weeks in the middle of May.

About three weeks in, people were packing the place, so we extended it out for the rest of the summer. Then last summer, we took time to re-evaluate how we were going to better arrange the trucks to make it more community-focused.

The first year was a little bit separated where we had seating up here on the patio, but the food trucks were down in the parking lot, so we re-arranged everything to pack it into one intimate spot.

This past summer, we had a forecast of rain for like 15 of the 22 Thursdays, but we still had tons of people come out and support the food trucks, which was awesome. We shut down our kitchen for those nights and just do beverages. If the weather’s nice, we’ll have music outside, too. 

IFW: We noticed a stage in the beer hall. It seems like you have a lot of performers on your events calendar.

BH: We like to say it’s the biggest stage in Royville. We do at least one show a week. We try to do two a week, if possible.

We’ve got a couple regulars that just started to come out. We’ve got three or four that play regularly, and then we add others in.

We like to have events. It kind of brings the whole community together. Whether that’s the north side community, the craft beer community, or the music community.

IFW: Tell us what you see for the future of the north side.

BH: The number of housing units that are going up here is insane. There is an apartment complex that was a pile of dirt six months ago, and is now eight gigantic apartment buildings.

There’s three or four developments where you see new houses. Parkview continues to be a huge draw for residents on this side of town, so as people keep coming in, we hope to keep expanding here.

IFW: What can we look forward to at teds market this year?

BH: Our managers just met to go over the plan for 2018.

This time one year ago, we had a grocery store that we were converting into a beer hall. Now that we have a beer hall, and we’re just going to try to come up with some new, fun events for the north side of town, so stay tuned.

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara is a Fort Wayne native, passionate about her hometown and its ongoing revival. As Managing Editor of Input Fort Wayne, she enjoys writing about interesting people and ideas in northeast Indiana. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
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