Economic development is a term some people like to toss out, but it can seem elusive without relatable or concrete examples. La Fogata Mexican Restaurant
—at 1812 Bluffton Rd. in the Quimby Village shopping center—is a case of how the right people making the right decisions can have a ripple effect.
The restaurant recently re-opened after a nearly two-month interior renovation. Its walls are refinished with modern murals and wood planks. It has new tables built by local artisan Parker Lee of 3 Feather Custom Wood. And its Facebook page is advertising a fiery new logo
that has earned comments, likes, and shares galore.
These changes are driven largely by its next-door neighbor, the fully restored and re-opened
La Fogata is next to the renovated Clyde Theatre.
With the Clyde attracting crowds to Quimby Village this spring for concerts, the Guzman family that owns La Fogata has seen a lot of new business.
The Guzman family is investing in Quimby Village by revamping their restaurant.
Drawn by the convenience factor and promise of authentic Mexican food, including street tacos, patrons and artists alike have flocked to the restaurant before or after shows.
This may be the current reality, but that wasn’t always the case, says Eduardo Guzman.
In fact, at one time his family had considered relocating the restaurant to a more attractive location, one with room for growth.
Guzman, who runs the restaurant alongside his siblings and father, says Quimby Village was an afterthought for nearly a decade. At one time, its fellow tenants included a video store, a cosmetology school, and a bowling alley. It was bustling, a destination.
“This place was moving,” he says. “It was alive.”
However, once the bowling alley closed, Guzman says a lot of their regular business dried up.
But he and his family held out and felt optimistic about Clyde Theatre owner Rick Kinney’s plans.
“When I met Rick he told me he was going to do what he’s doing now,” he says.
A new mural gives La Fogata a splash of color.
Guzman says the turning point was when the parking lot in front of the Clyde Theatre was renovated. Once tumultuous and full of potholes, it was repaved and made welcoming to customers again. Neighbors felt good about the changes, and there was a renewed interest in the shopping center.
Kinney has picked up on that positive energy, too.
“With a standing room general admission capacity of 2,155, the Clyde Theatre offers something completely unique to concert-goers in Northeast Indiana," he says. "From what I can tell, the redevelopment overall has really contributed to a sense of pride for the residents of the Southside of Fort Wayne, specifically the residents of the ‘07 (zip code).” La Fogata serves traditional Mexican fare.
Guzman has been able to monetize that pride early on. He says one of the first shows for the band Ghost at the Clyde was affirming.
“We got a little taste of the (post-concert) crowd early with Ghost,” he says.
And with a full line-up of shows this fall, that activity will likely continue to ramp up. In order to better accommodate current and future customers, Guzman says a few changes are in order, related to both the menu and the aesthetic of La Fogata.
Guzman hopes to make both more of a reflection of the times.
“We got feedback that the menu was huge," he says. "Nowadays you go to a restaurant, and it’s just a piece of paper.”
So in addition to the restaurant's traditional Mexican fare, he anticipates a smaller menu that features some classic dishes and maybe a few additions, like vegan options.
Regarding the ambiance, Guzman says he’d like the restaurant to have a more big city vibe with sliding doors and even outdoor seating someday, upon approval.
“This is just the beginning,” he says.
A new wooden wall and tables are part of La Fogata's renovations.
La Fogata's success has possible larger implications for the northeast Indiana community at large, too.
According to a 2012 study by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
, local businesses return a total of 52 percent of their revenue to the local economy, compared to just 14 percent for the national chain businesses. Similarly, local restaurants recirculate an average of 79 percent of their revenue locally, compared to 30 percent for the chain eateries.
"This means a much larger share of the money spent at a locally owned store stays in the local economy, supporting a variety of other businesses and jobs," the study says.
So like the Clyde, La Fogata is now feeding success in the Southside. But what's next for the rest of Quimby Village?
While Kinney is tight-lipped about plans for the continued development of the plaza, he alludes to the priorities.
“I can... say that my main focus, which has been the Clyde Theatre, is truly the anchor for the redevelopment of this entire area," he says. "It is my hope that the tenants that move into Quimby Village will contribute to a quality offering of unique chef inspired restaurants, art, culture, and recreation.”
La Fogata Hours
11:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday
11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday
11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday