Chicago transplants opened a humble bar and restaurant in The 07 that's coming alive with local art

In September 2020, as many small businesses were facing uncertain times during the pandemic, a new restaurant was opening in the neighborhoods of The 07.

In a gray building at the corner of Fairfield Avenue and Maxine Drive, which has been home to several eateries over the years, Chance Bar and Restaurant made its debut.

Chance Bar is located at 4301 Fairfield Ave.

The owners, a husband-and-wife duo, Corey and Amy Bowers, have spent the last eight years working at a variety of restaurants, including five years at a Michelin-recommended bistro. They hope to use this experience to give Fort Wayne a dining opportunity it has been lacking. Corey Bowers

“There are lots of really great restaurants in Fort Wayne, but none quite like Chance Bar,” says Corey, Head Chef of the restaurant. “It’s diverse and funky. It’s a reflection of our personality. It’s a place you can go for a nice meal without being pretentious or intimidating.”

Corey prides himself on having curated a diverse menu to reflect the spirit of the establishment.

“We serve something for everyone," he says. “Anything from a classic steak to a chicken sandwich. We pride ourselves on being a place where anyone can come and eat a meal they’ll love.”

Chance Bar uses local ingredients for its burgers, including beef from Wood Farms, pickled quail egg salad from Schmucker's Produce, and microgreens by Something Better with Beth.

When opening Chance Bar, the Bowers wanted to create a “cozy, neighborhood restaurant” where they could form relationships with their regulars and become a part of the community they are serving. In just more than a year that they have been open, they feel they have achieved this vision.

“We had one of our regulars come in the other day, and he said, ‘I’ve lived on this street for about 38 years, and I remember when the old Hartley’s was here, Lamborghinis and Mercedes filled the parking lot,’” Corey says. “‘I don’t see that anymore. This is a place for everyone now, and I’m glad.’”

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget that,” Corey adds.

Chance Bar offers an array of options for the adventurous or classic eater.

The Bowers moved to Fort Wayne from Chicago, where they spent most of their time as restaurateurs. They came to Northeast Indiana for the opportunity to start a family, and they were drawn to The 07, in particular, because of their hopes for the area’s future.

“Lately, there’s been a huge growth, in businesses and in popularity in the downtown area," Corey says. “I want to see that same kind of growth reflected in the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Chance Bar offers an array of options for the adventurous or classic eater.

The couple chose a risky time to relocate, initially planning to open their restaurant in May 2020 (though this date did get pushed back to September of the same year). The couple knew, however, that it was meant to be.

“We sat down and thought about it and eventually realized: We either open the restaurant now, or we never open it,” Corey says. “It was something we had been planning and talking about for a while, and it finally felt right.”

Kusshi oysters at Chance Bar.

This high-stakes choice ended up working out, and the business has been steadily increasing in traffic ever since.

“Back when we were first opening, we’d seat only 40 or 45 people on a Friday night,” Corey says. “Now we’re seeing like 60 to 70 guests on a good weekend night.”

Along with providing a new neighborhood hangout, Chance Bar gives back to the local community by decorating its walls with the work of local artists. Recently, this support has extended to the exterior of its building, too.

“We’ve always kind of known we wanted to have some sort of mural outside,” Corey says. “One of our employees is an artist. That’s as local as you can get, the way I see it.”

A mural by Fort Wayne artist Tyler Toole on a large cooler behind Chance Bar.

Tyler Toole has been working for the restaurant on and off since August, and when Bowers came to him with the idea of a mural on the large grey cooler behind the building, he jumped at the opportunity.

“This is one of the coolest projects I’ve ever done,” says Toole. “Corey gave me pretty much entire creative freedom over the process, and I’m so excited to see how it turns out.”

A mural by Fort Wayne artist Tyler Toole on a large cooler behind Chance Bar.

Toole is a newer artist on the Fort Wayne arts scene, having only begun painting seriously within the past year. This is his first-ever mural, but he isn’t intimidated by the massive demands of the project.

“It’s not really any different than painting on canvas; I just paint what I feel is right,” he says. “I knew I wanted the piece to be bright and lively, but from there, I’m working where my brush leads me.”

A mural by Fort Wayne artist Tyler Toole on a large cooler behind Chance Bar.

So far, the brush has led the artist to create an abstract work at the back of the restaurant. Toole's mural is a compilation of bright colors, nature, faces, animals, and formless shapes. Within less than a week of starting it, the bleak, grey box attached to the building has come alive in color. Neither Toole, nor the Bowers, intend on this being the end of the project.

“We’ve talked about it, and we’re thinking that in the spring, I’ll continue the mural on either the side or the front of the restaurant in a similar, colorful abstract style,” says Toole.

A mural by Fort Wayne artist Tyler Toole on a large cooler behind Chance Bar.

While the Bowers were not initially sure what would happen when they opened Chance Bar as the rest of the world was closing up, now they can’t wait to see what the future holds.

“This restaurant is the culmination of everything I’ve learned in working in the industry," Corey says. "I’m so excited to continue sharing what I love and giving back to the city I’m raising my family in."