Meet Brackenridge Village: A new cultural district developing downtown near Parkview Field

Just steps away from Parkview Field, Rudy’s Shop has been offering patrons a premium selection of cigars, wines, beers, and chocolates to enjoy in its quaint, historic home or around its backyard fire pits since it opened in 2013.

Over the years, the neighborhood surrounding Rudy’s has come a long way, too, due in large part to the success of Parkview Field and other efforts of neighborhood investors. The establishment's owner, Rudy Mahara, is among the area's key players, and he says they’re only getting started.

Rudy Mahara owns Rudy's Shop.

If plans come to fruition, Brackenridge Village—which encompasses block surrounded by Fairfield Ave., Brackenridge St., Baker St., and Ewing St.—will be Fort Wayne's next hot mixed-use destination for retail and dining downtown. Mahara says the idea for the cultural district has been percolating in his mind for some time now, but the timing had to be just right to take action.

Brackenridge Village runs along the W. Brackenridge Street in downtown Fort Wayne.

“My wife and I vacation in Freeport, Maine, and I noticed how historic homes there were renovated and converted into shops,” he explains. “That concept stuck out in my mind. So when Jerry Vandeveer from the Wood Shack Architectural Antiques (previously located at 444 Baker St.) was ready to retire, he called me and gave me first right of refusal."

While Mahara says he didn't have the financial wherewithal to purchase the building himself, a few friends and longtime patrons at Rudy's began to rally around the idea.

"They said, 'We need something else nicer down here,'" Mahara explains. "So all a lot of them got together with ideas of what this area could be.”

Rudy's friends and patrons have made Brackenridge Village possible.

These efforts resulted in the formation of a corporation, Brackenridge Village, LLC, currently made up of several investors. Mahara, who is not one himself, serves as a visionary of sorts for the team. He says they currently have 17 people involved and a total of 32 shares. The group has developed a five-year plan, but in his words, "there's no rush."

In general, Mahara says their vision calls for renovating the historic homes so that the downstairs spaces can be used for commercial purposes and the upstairs can be residential units. To date, they have three signed tenants, with more hopefully coming online next year.

Simply N Style is one of the most recent tenants at Brackenridge Village.

Mahara, who also lives in the neighborhood, is especially excited about one particular win. 

“The future tenant at 418 W. Baker St. is a historical renovation nerd,” he says. “He's going to take this five-bedroom house and completely put a whole new storefront up and invest a lot of money to make it historically beautiful. And he's going to sell high-end antique furniture downstairs.”

Rudy's serves premium cigars, beer, wine, and chocolate to suit patrons of all tastes.

They’ve also been approached by a microbrewery and a purveyor of cider about setting up shop in the Village. 

While Mahara is bullish about the success of future tenants, he says his own success with Rudy's was a bit of a fluke. On paper, he says, the idea behind the cigar and wine shop shouldn’t have been as well received. When he first opened in 2013, the neighborhood was still a bit rough, and downtown was just starting to become a destination for dining and entertainment. 

However, it proved to be the perfect storm of factors at just the right time. 

“It’s an attractive place to bring a date,” he says. “She can have her wine slushy and DeBrand’s chocolate, and you get a craft beer and a cigar, and it's a special night. No place else in the country that has cigars available is as female-friendly as we are, and that's what's gotten us national attention in the cigar world.”

Rudy's serves wine and cigars alike.Speaking of female-friendly, Brackenridge Village recently made headlines for another of its tenants, Simply N Style, a new women’s resale boutique, which opened at 1401 Fairfield Ave. earlier this fall. The owner, Janie Garrison, says she aspires to bring an inclusive shopping experience to downtown Fort Wayne's boutique scene.

“We’ll dress your body type," she says. "We don't care about the sizes. It’s about what makes you look good and feel good. Customer service is our number one thing.”

Brackenridge Village is already on the rise.

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.