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Open for Business: Young Business Owners Leave Mark in Fort Wayne

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Written by: Communicator StaffSeptember 10, 2014

Regularly talking to young people on a daily basis  in Fort Wayne and eventually you’ll hear the same old complaint; there is nothing to do in this city, no opportunities and no fun. Lots of young people in the community claim that the city functions with a small town, big city mentality. However, in my limited time in the community, I’ve met more young people beginning their own businesses, and doing well for themselves, than many of the other larger cities I’ve lived in. Perhaps people my age have lost perspective. There is a wealth of opportunity in the community and highlighted are just a small sample of those young folks making a name for themselves.


The Clyde Theatre




When Rick Kinney was 13, he saw the Deftones play in concert at the Rivera in Chicago, and said he knew his life had changed. From that moment he was going to dedicate and commit his life to music.

Fast forward 20 years later, sitting in the vacant Clyde Theatre off in the Quimbly Village shopping center on Bluffton Road, Kinney, owner of Even Keel Event Productions LLC, sits perched at the edge of an office chair. This vacant building has been his “baby” for nearly two and a half years.

His goal is to create a multifunctional event center.

Speaking with Kinney, it is clear he is a man possessed with ambition and vision. He speaks quickly, moves quickly, his thoughts move a mile a minute. After every statement he makes he’s anxious to get onto the next thought, tapping fingers at the edge of the chair.

The Clyde Theatre doesn’t look like much from the outside yet. The building sits in the center of an ignored shopping center that is easily overlooked. The inside is vacant, gray, chillingly quiet with haunting echoes, but the integrity of the once thriving theater remains and Kinney has a vision to revive it.

“The [Deftones] show kind of changed my life. I knew that I really loved that energy in a large standing room rock show. I just loved that vibe….and I really wanted to bring that into Fort Wayne,” Kinney said.

He had looked at many places before finding the Clyde Theater. With a standing capacity of 2000 to 2100 people it was exactly what he had been looking for

It was when he was studying piano tuning and restoration that he found out about the Clyde Theatre. His instructor had mentioned it to him in January 2011 and they took a look. He admitted that at first he didn’t think it looked like much other than a bunch of glass doors. During the walk through the vision of a big show began to come to him. He speaks of it as almost a vision from a hallucination he was trying to make a reality, a common theme he often expresses is the idea of thoughts creating reality.

“It was filled with pigeons and pigeon shit and asbestos and all this really, really sick filthy shit everywhere,” he said. “It was a little bit scary, but at the same time, all I could see is a really big show. I never let the sheer size and volume of this project scare me. I could just see this show.”

Through Fort Wayne’s own Brownfield’s program he was allotted a $52,000 grant that allowed him to clean up the mess. From there the project began to move forward.

Kinney’s vision has stayed with him throughout the entirety of the renovation process, and he admitting that his ambition to see it to the end may have been the cause of a few failed relationships.

“I want to do anything and everything,” Kinney said. From acrobats flying from the ceiling, to a skatepark, to a place where people can view and purchase art—he has big ideas.

His target opening date for the Clyde Theatre is mid-2016. Tight-lipped about the grand opening events, he did say that it would be “basically, a week of opening gala events.”

Kinney describes his approach to this project as a “measure three times, cut once” ideology. Every inch of this project has been carefully and practically thought out – down to the wardrobe. When taking photos for the article, he had arrived with three options of shirts.

“No, maybe not this shirt because it’s a band shirt and I don’t want people thinking that’s the only kind of music we’ll play here,” he said before settling on what he arrived in.

“I don’t have the option to do this wrong the first time. It has to be perfect.”


Mockingbird Kitchens



Zoe Martin, 37, says, with a laugh, that she has extra foundation in her purse to combat looking tired. She walks into Mockingbird Kitchens with a child in her arms and says that she often is tired between bartending at the Brass Rail, co-owning at Mockingbird and getting her two boys to the bus stop on time. She is the co-owner of Mockingbird Kitchens, alongside husband Jim Martin, 34, which opened in May. Her eyes tell a different story, they’re bright, energetic, friendly and determined.

Walking into the sandwich shop it becomes very clear that the owners are not only in touch with a wide array of cliental but also incredibly creative people. Everything, from the food, the interior design, the cohesiveness in which they were able to combine their space with Cottage Flowers and down to their tattoos, they have creativity that creates a thriving business. Walking in to the sandwich shop is like walking into a collaboration. Attached to Cottage Flowers, the sandwich shop draws an eclectic crowd of all ages.

The concept came to them originally as a food truck, but after crunching numbers they decided that they didn’t like the idea of not having much revenue in the wintertime. That is when the space they currently sell from became available for rent and they began putting the plan to open their own business into action, a goal they had planned to do for eight or nine years before moving back to Fort Wayne, Jim’s hometown, from Charleston, NC., where they met and had their first child.

Jim said that college had never worked for him. He didn’t like sitting in a classroom or attending lecture halls so he moved to Charleston for culinary school “and it all just kind of clicked from there,” he said. Growing up in the food industry and spending time in kitchens he had developed a real love for cooking and the industry.

“We both really had a thing cut from the same cloth in that we have a crazy work ethic, but it’s really hard for me to watch someone that I love in a kitchen working for someone else as oppose to what I do bartending, because that’s a couple  nights a week, but in a kitchen you’re stuck pulling sometimes 90 hours a week… I told him I’d rather do that, if he’s gonna pull those hours, do it for us. And do something we’re both proud of.” Zoe said.

The work ethic extends into their home life as they often discuss new dishes over a glass of wine in the garage late into the evening.

“You know, when you’re up at the hour and you’ve had a beer or two it’s like ‘this sounds delicious,’” Zoe said.

Zoe says that Jim has something she often attributes to musicians being able to hear a song in their head, he is able to think of food concepts in his head. “Like this Thai coconut soup I had.… I was just able to describe it to him and he made it,” Zoe said hands to her temples of her forehead. Jim admits that many times things only make sense once it’s all put into the pot and stirred.

The two agree that their work has never been difficult but do say that keeping on top of the day to day, being busy is difficult. However, they enjoy their work.

“It doesn’t seem like work, it feels like fun. I can’t picture myself doing anything else career wise. This is my hobby….” Jim said.







Alexandria Bing, 28, began her business during a time of need. In 2009 she was in a time of separation between her and her ex-husband and knew she needed to provide for her son, 6, Everest. “And so I created Foreverest so everything I do is for him,” Bing said.

She buys vintage furniture to refinish and sell, a skill she taught herself. Alongside refinishing furniture she sells and resells vintage goods and decor. Bing said that she mostly sells her merchandise from Facebook but also has an Etsy page and sells as a vendor at Saving Grace downtown.

Her passion began at a young age, and she was inspired greatly by her father.

“My dad is a collector of antiques. As I grew up he would take me picking with him. So I had a love for old things at a young age,” Bing said.

Just one of many ways Bing said her father has influenced and helped her grow Foreverest. “My dad is my biggest influence. He’s a business owner. He owns two companies, so through that I saw a lot and learned what handwork is.”

The idea for her business began with her distaste for modern, cheap furniture, but old furniture had an integrity that she enjoyed and thought to herself that she would begin learning to refinish furniture three years ago.

“I had a friend that who knew how to paint furniture that taunt me how to hold a paintbrush and I was like ‘oh, yeah, I can do this’ basically just, like, trial and error,” Bing said.

While her business has done a sufficient job providing she does express a struggle that she doesn’t have a steady paycheck with her business.

“I pay myself, and I also have to put money back in my business,” she said.

Bing smiles wide, speaking with her hands, as she talks about the things that she finds. “I found some JFK newspaper from the day he died, a paper for everyday of the week, like in a paper bag for a dollar. … and finding someone who loves the things that I find more than I love them that is so awesome. It’s amazing.”

She hasn’t just stopped with selling. Recently, she found a vintage RV on the side of the road for sale that she intends to fix and take her business mobile as she travels to surrounding cities selling and buying.

“I started a blog as well, and I really want to inspire people,” she said. “I really want to motivate people, be it traveling and home selling and meeting people.”

Being young hasn’t hurt her at all, in fact it’s allowed her to approach refinishing furniture in a new way that gives her a competitive edge. She says that sometimes people think that she might not know what she is doing due to her being young but believes that the work speaks for itself. She says that many others who do what she does have one style, typically shabby-chic, but she has the advantage of having a younger perspective.

“I think that my business and my lifestyle, everything I do speaks for itself,” Bing said.

By: Logan Hursh