Building on the Clyde's success: How Sweetwater is creating a neighborhood hub at Quimby Village


 
There's a new development as part of the Club Room at the Clyde Theatre in Quimby Village.

There’s a new social destination developing on the South Side.

Since Sweetwater’s Chuck and Lisa Surack helped fully renovate Clyde Theatre at the once-fledgling Quimby Village in the spring of 2018, the area has drawn crowds and a wave of reinvestment.

The Clyde’s next-door neighbor, La Fogata, fully renovated its storefront in the fall of 2018. Soon after, the Halls family increased their investment in the area, too, opening Hall’s Takes the Cake and Don Hall’s Catering inside the old Food Factory Express building. Then, the Sweetwater-backed Club Room at the Clyde restaurant opened for lunch, dinner, and events in the spring of 2019.

Now, about a year later, Sweetwater is investing in Quimby Village yet again—and this time, they’re finding ways to keep the area busy, even during a pandemic.

The Club Room at the Clyde is expanding into an adjacent building to make room for a coffee shop, a cafe, and a patio seating area.

Crescendo Coffee & More is Sweetwater's third redevelopment project in Quimby Village.

The new Crescendo Coffee & More serves ice cream, homemade pastries, sandwiches, and pizza—with many ingredients sourced from local purveyors—only blocks away from several booming ‘07 neighborhoods. The project was completed ahead of schedule and unofficially unveiled in early July.

But for many, the revival of Quimby Village has been a long time coming, says Jeff Ostermann, who serves as Sweetwater’s Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer. Ostermann

While interest has been growing in the South Side neighborhoods of Fort Wayne for a few years now, neighborhood hangout spots had been under-invested in for a long time before the Clyde Theatre opened.

“Being in the Quimby Village area, we noted that there hadn’t been any reinvestment in a big way in decades,” Ostermann says. “We knew that there would be an opportunity to bring a lot of value to that community.”

Once Sweetwater established the Clyde and Club Room, they considered what else they could do to keep advancing the area.

“In talking with residents in the area, we heard a lot from people that there could be more morning and daytime hangout spots,” Ostermann says. “So, we thought, ‘Let's jump in, and do kind of this mixed concept—coffee, ice cream, and sandwich shop—which is Crescendo Coffee & More.’”

Named after Sweetwater’s in-house café at its US-30 Headquarters, the new spot is positioned to succeed in the food and beverage scene with the company’s existing knowledge and partnerships, Ostermann says.

The café has also more than doubled the space of the existing Club Room, allowing additional patrons to enjoy its stage for community gatherings and live music. During COVID-19, having extra room for indoor seating, as well as a new outdoor seating area, helps patrons socially distance while dining, too.

Crescendo Coffee & More serves ice cream, homemade pastries, sandwiches, and pizza—with many ingredients sourced from local purveyors.

Speaking of COVID-19, Ostermann says Sweetwater’s team had to make some unexpected human resources decisions this spring, in which it benefited them to have a variety of job opportunities for employees. When the pandemic forced Indiana restaurants to shutter dine-in operations temporarily, Sweetwater executives offered Club Room employees the chance to keep working at Sweetwater’s distribution center to avoid being furloughed. Since Sweetwater’s online music and audio retail sales skyrocketed during the quarantine, they needed the extra help, too.

Ostermann says many Club Room employees took advantage of the temporary job change to keep earning wages during a challenging time for service industry workers worldwide.

Even though venues in Indiana still aren’t at full capacity due to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s multi-stage Back on Track Plan, Ostermann says he anticipates a warm reception for Crescendo Coffee & More. He’s proud of all the thought that went into the design of the space and hopes neighbors feel at home there.

“We referenced a number of different concepts in a number of other cities, but the priority was to really create a vibe that would be consistent and yet somewhat unique to the Club Room itself, and to the community in which it resides,” Ostermann says. “It was really important to us that people walking into the space would feel like this is uniquely Fort Wayne.”

Crescendo Coffee & More offers products from vendors like GK Baked Goods.

To amplify the local vibes, Sweetwater used Utopian Coffee beans at the cafe and sourced baked goods from local vendors, including GK Baked Goods, 375 Donuts and Sweets down the street, a Markle-based bread baker, and an Indiana-based ice cream company.

Open seven days a week, Crescendo Coffee & More is doing more than extending the Club Room’s space; it’s also building on the venue’s momentum as a hub for local music and culture, says the Clyde Theatre’s Executive Director Gregg Coyle.

Along with managing shows at the Clyde, Coyle and his team have been experimenting with live, local music at the Club Room, too, creating more opportunities for Fort Wayne area musicians and artists to share their talents throughout the week.

“We started doing a Jazz Night every Wednesday,” Coyle says. “I thought, initially, that we just need to stick with it for six months to give it time to build momentum. But we had 150-200 people come for our first night. Then they came back the next week and so on.”

Crescendo Coffee & More provides a new daytime hangout spot on the South Side.

Coyle says strong community interest gave his team the confidence to add more weekly events, like “Blues, BBQ & Brews Monday Jam Sessions,” “I Love Saturdays” free live music nights, and "Friday Night Vibes” events hosted by WBOI’s Julia Meek, showcasing revolving artists from the community.

But with the limitations imposed by COVID-19, the Club Room had to adjust course temporarily, both food- and entertainment-wise, too. Coyle says he believes they were one of the first restaurants in town to start implementing social-distancing measures. They also had to pivot in a short amount of time to offer carryout and delivery service. He credits his team for making the execution seamless—and even putting their special touch on the guest experience.

“We thought it would be a great idea to give every customer a message that all of us are thankful, so we all wrote messages on the to-go bags,” Coyle says. “We'd sit there, and everybody would sign a hundred bags a night and write a message of gratitude. That really took off. The customers appreciated our efforts.”

Since the Club Room reopened for dining and events at partial capacity on July 1, Coyle has been excited to see guests returning. He believes the community developing at Quimby Village has laid a strong foundation for Crescendo Coffee & More, and the timing is right for a more robust community presence.

“From what I've seen in the last 24 hours—if that's any measure of future response—people want to be back and connected to the community again,” Coyle says.

This Special Report was made possible by Sweetwater.
 
Gregg Coyle
Gregg Coyle
Executive Director of the Clyde Theatre


Before he became Executive Director of the Clyde Theatre in Fort Wayne, Gregg Coyle had a lot of experience in the national entertainment industry. Since Sweetwater recruited him, his team has been experimenting with live, local music at the Club Room, too, creating more opportunities for Fort Wayne area musicians and artists to share their talents throughout the week.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Coyle to learn more about his background, his take on Fort Wayne's music scene, and his work at the Club Room.

IFW: You have an established career in the entertainment business. How did you end up in Fort Wayne?

GC: 
I was first connected to Sweetwater through one of their recruiters. I was formerly the General Manager for Live Nation Entertainment in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I brought in acts at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey. So I’ve worked for some very high-profile people in the business, and Sweetwater heard about me through my work.

When the recruiter first reached out, I didn’t know much about Fort Wayne at the time, despite being in the hospitality and entertainment business for over 30 years. At first, I was like “Fort… what? Is that in Texas?”

But when I met Chuck Surack, it was a no-brainer. We literally talked for 15 minutes, and I was sold. Chuck is all about taking care of your customer, your business, your community, and your employees all at the same time. They're not exclusive to each other.

I think I started working at the Clyde Theatre two weeks later, and then they're like, “Hey, we're working on this little restaurant. We wanted to kind of describe it as like a dive bar.”

I don’t think they fully saw the full potential that I saw. To me, that was a goldmine. We got the Club Room restaurant opened in about six weeks from start to finish. Then, from there, it just took off. We were packed here every night since we opened.

IFW: As someone moving to Fort Wayne from out of town, how was it making the adjustment?

GC: 
I didn't come with many expectations because I can be happy anywhere. But I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly everybody was here. People waved at me with their whole hands. I had never seen that before.

When I moved here, I moved to West Central, and I specifically chose that neighborhood because it’s so welcoming. Naturally, my social life revolves a lot around work. But since I love what I do, I could do it endlessly, and that's okay.

On my days off, I usually do something outside or go to restaurants.

IFW: What’s your take on Fort Wayne’s local music scene?

GC:
I've learned that there's a lot of great musicians in Fort Wayne. There's not a lot of nightclubs here, from a nightlife perspective. But, when it comes to live music, there's certainly a lot of good people. It’s always great to see how talented they are.

As far as genres, I love everything. There's not much I don't enjoy because in my business I have to appreciate a lot of genres. But what I appreciate is how hard everybody here works at it. Luckily, I've had some good people to help guide me. For example, 96.3XKE's Doc West and WBOI’s Julia Meek are curators of good music. They make recommendations, and their choices usually make it to the top of my playlist.

IFW: What is it like working for the Club Room at the Clyde?

GC:
You have to be like a chameleon. Everyone on our team has to go from a country show, to a rock show, to a metal show, to a gospel show, to corporate private events. And so, we really take on the mentality that we want the concertgoers to be our fans next. We want them to come to more concerts like that. For example, if we have a country show, I make sure there's country music on, or we might add a BBQ burger to the menu that night.

We got to re-open the Club Room for dine-in on July 1 at partial capacity, and now we have a restaurant that's three times the size it was three months ago. Seeing customers come back was emotional. We’re happy that we can really welcome people back in a safe way that we all feel good about. No matter what the government says we can do, we're still going to do things in a thoughtful way because we care about our customers.

IFW: What do you most enjoy about your job?

GC: 
Getting to hire people is so rewarding, especially when you’re offering a job in a setting that’s healthy, safe, productive for people, and one they can feel proud about. One rule I have in life is that I never stop looking for good people. I'm always open to the idea that if somebody really good comes along, you should try to make room for them. We talk to people all the time. And sometimes we save their applications so that when a job comes along that’s a good fit, we always have a good, strong network behind us from an HR standpoint.