There's a new coffee shop and brewery on the Landing in downtown Fort Wayne

Steps away from the riverfront Promenade Park, the Landing cultural district is coming to life in downtown Fort Wayne.

The new Utopian Coffee + Kitchen opened at 118 W. Columbia St. on Monday next door to the soon-to-be-open Landing Beer Co. While the two new developments share the same kitchen, they have intentionally distinct vibes and hours, explains Co-Owner Brendon Maxwell.

“If you walked into these spaces, you wouldn’t know they were connected in any way,” he says.

Utopian Coffee + Kitchen has a modern, bohemian vibe, with splashes of color in plant potters and decorative floor tiles, wicker coffee tables, and original, exposed wood beams from the 1870s. With ample seating indoors and outdoors, the café will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

On the other hand, the Landing Beer Co. opens in the afternoon through the evening, offering a laid back, California vibe reminiscent of old Hollywood drive-ins with vanity lights, neon signs, and playful pastel hues.

The Landing Beer Co. has a laid back, California vibe reminiscent of old Hollywood drive-ins.

On July 4, the Landing Beer Co. was planning to debut its offerings at a Block Party, which ended up getting canceled along with other city celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Maxwell says his construction schedule for the café and brewery is running slower than expected due to COVID-19, too. But he and his Co-Owner, Caleb France, are not losing momentum.Maxwell They're just dealing with changes as they arise and staying positive. After all, they’ve been able to hire restaurant and café workers during the pandemic, and they’ve found that many workers are eager to be part of the culture developing on the Landing.

“There are lots of places here serving great food and drink, so the environment is drawing people to the opportunity,” Maxwell says. “We’re still really optimistic about what this project is and what it means for the city.”

For the past several years, Maxwell has been running Utopian Coffee as a wholesale operation out of a renovated house on Pearl Street, just a block away from the historic cultural district. When he saw designs for the Landing coming to life, his team planned to move their coffee roaster and operations to one of the upper floors of the old Fisher Brothers Paper Company Building at 118 W. Columbia St. Then the Landing’s developers, the Model Group out of Cincinnati, asked Utopian to open a ground-level café on the cultural district, too.

Utopian Coffee + Kitchen has a made-in-Fort-Wayne Modbar brewing system.

While Maxwell hadn’t worked on the brick-and-mortar side of the food industry before, he partnered with Caleb France of Cerulean Restaurant in the Village at Winona Lake, and the two added a brewery concept to the plan, as well. France

“Caleb is a great partner,” Maxwell says. “He’s already built a fantastic reputation in the region—not just for great food, but also for a great dining experience.”

To run the Landing Beer Co., Maxwell and France hired a production brewer who has previously worked for several breweries in Southern California, including Mother Earth Brewing Co. and Ballast Point. Maxwell says his team is still hiring brewery staff. Their café team is already staffed and serving guests.

Both spaces will share menu specials, like Saturday brunch, Maxwell says.

Throughout the week, the café will offer breakfast, lunch, and brunch, showcasing Utopian’s Fort Wayne-brewed coffees sourced from growers around the world. Maxwell’s interest in coffee began with his passion for travel. As such, he has personally visited and worked with several of the microlot farmers he buys from, helping some of them do the dangerous work of transitioning from growing cocaine to growing coffee beans. Utopian is also working to create jobs that help women rise out of poverty and trafficking overseas.

Maxwell hopes the new café will encourage more residents to realize the powerful purpose behind Utopian’s work.

“At the café, we’ll have a Colombian coffee that is part of our project turning cocaine farms into coffee farms,” Maxwell says. “We’ll also have a great espresso blend. With this warm weather, we're excited to have some espresso-based beverages that can be served hot or cold.”

The Landing Beer Co. is opening at 118 W. Columbia St. in July.

As for the Landing Beer Co., they plan to start out with staples, including IPAs, a blonde, a lager, and a pilsner. For food, they’ll have a BBQ theme.

“We don’t want the food to steal the show,” Maxwell says. “We just want it to compliment the drinks and be sharable and communal.”

Overall, he says that creating a space for Fort Wayne’s community is his and France’s goal with the brewery.

“We want to create a space for good conversation, for depth of relationships, for connecting with old friends and meeting new ones,” Maxwell says. “We think it will have a fun and approachable environment.”

 

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
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