When Donna Kessler opened Calhoun Street Soups, Salads, and Spirits back in 2007, she envisioned it as a quaint sandwich spot near downtown—a place where locals could hang out and enjoy fast, healthy meals.
Known as CS3, the third “S” in the name was originally “sandwiches.”
It later changed to spirits when she opened the bar, and with that, her vision shifted.
Her nephews in local bands started playing shows at the Tiger Room in back, and CS3 became a full fledged bar, restaurant, and venue hybrid where touring bands and local arts groups gather for live performances.
With its low lights and high-volume atmosphere, it's a far cry from Kessler’s original vision, but she loves how it's evolved. In fact, her success with CS3 and its catering services is what initially prompted her to search for a larger kitchen. Delightfuls will fill the storefront at 1932 S. Calhoun St. across from CS3.
She needed more space to prepare for catering weddings and events without getting in the way of her serving staff at CS3. So she started looking at buildings nearby, across the street on Calhoun, and that’s when she realized it was time to bring her original vision back to life.
Catty-corner of CS3, in a quaint building with white and brown molding, there's a large enough kitchen to handle all of her catering needs, and a storefront where she's opening her new venture: A deli and tea house called Delightfuls. Tables at Delightful showcase vintage postcards of northeast Indiana.
“It had to be Delightfuls because Donna starts with a ‘D,’ so it’s Dee-lightfuls.” she says, laughing. “And it will just be fun.”
Planning to open in early February, Kessler says Delightfuls will satisfy her original vision for a "girly," vintage space with dainty tea cups, doilies, and of course, custom tea parties.
A tea lover herself, Kessler doesn't drink coffee, but she likes the atmosphere of coffee houses, and she hopes to emulate that at her tea shop with an expanded menu and a make-it-your-way deli.
“I want to do for tea what people have done for coffee,” Kessler says. “There aren’t enough tea options in Fort Wayne. A lot of people think of tea as something their moms drink or something they drink with honey when they’re sick. But tea is amazing. It has so many flavors, and it doesn’t overwhelm the flavors. If you put citrus in tea, you taste citrus.”
Kessler hopes her new tea venture can help bridge the gap in Fort Wayne’s tea offerings by providing more teas that are healthy and not made with a premade sugar mix. While tea will be the focus, Kessler says she will have AeroPress coffee with frothed milk on the menu along with a special focus on vegan and organic foods.
Even her tea is going to be organic. Sourced from Full Leaf Tea Company, Delightfuls will carry organic teas served hot, cold, in smoothies, and by the box.
“They have hundreds of teas from all over the world,” Kessler says. “Organic teas are not much more expensive than regular tea. We’ll make whole fruit smoothies made from frozen organic fruit with no sugar added and no syrup. We’re mixing fruit in a blender, and instead of juice, we’re using tea.”
Although Donna is not a vegan vegetarian herself, she appreciates the value of healthy eating and especially healthy eating on busy schedule. She’s seen the struggle that her employees who are vegan face when they want to find a fast, nutritious meal around town, where the options for eating healthy usually take more time than fast food.
“It’s difficult for them to eat fast and well without a lot of steps in the process,” Kessler says. “The deli concept lends itself to options for them to choose.”
And don't think healthy means boring food. Kessler says Delighfuls will offer CS3's dessert menu as well as a full selection of made-to-order flatbread pizzas, noodle bowls, soups, salads, and sandwiches. But nothing will be deep fried—not even the donuts on her pastry menu. Delightfuls t-shirts will be available in the shop at 1932 S. Calhoun St.
“We’ll have really good, obscure baked donuts,” she says.
Looking more like cupcakes, baked donuts have a creamy filling. Kessler says there will be two vegan options, a chocolate and vanilla apple spice. They’ll also have flavors like rocky road and pancake with maple glaze, topped with caramelized bacon.
Customers can also order a tea party, complete with vintage tea sets, fingers sandwiches, and desserts.
Once open, Kessler plans on hours tentatively from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.
In late December, vintage postcards sat beneath glass table tops ready for customers with a dust pan in the center of the space and local art scattered about the seats.
Kessler says she plans to sell vintage cookie jars at her shop as well, and “lots of fun things” are sure to ensue. But in all the busy preparations and last-minute tasks, she knows one thing for sure.
“It’s what I always wanted to do," she says.