Not all coffee is created equal. Don't believe it? Just ask coffee expert and local business owner Sean Wang. What started as a hobby has now turned into a business, and Wang hopes to shake up the downtown coffee scene with his new shop.
Wang's new coffee shop in downtown Fort Wayne is called Fortezza Coffee, but this isn't his first time owning a shop. He also owns Trionfale Espresso on Dupont Road.
Fortezza Coffee, 819 S. Calhoun St., is different from his other shop, though, which is why Wang said he didn't want to use the same name for the different locations.
Fortezza not only offers artisan coffee but it also has a light brunch menu with open-faced sandwiches, quiches and more. The dessert case is another highlight. Customers can find everything from muffins and tarts to roll cake and cheesecake. These added food items are special to the downtown location and are all made in-house.
“With a different name, we can do different things here,” he said.
When Wang opened Trionfale years ago, he wanted a downtown location, but at the time nothing was available other than office space, which is too costly to renovate into a food service space. When he saw the Calhoun Street space bought and renovated over the last few months, he knew it was finally time to open a shop downtown.
“We've always wanted to be downtown, but the timing was never right. Now, with the recent development, people are just excited about it here,” he said.
With gray adorning the walls and a metallic finish on equipment, the coffee shop looks like an upscale, big-city hangout. Looking up, the white historic ceiling panels embrace the downtown coffee shop feel. But all looks aside, the space is also functional. Off the main entrance and away from the counter, the business also has a large dining area as well as a closed-off area for business meetings.
Wang is passionate about his trade, which is why he only carries the best of the best. First, he starts with the hi-tech brewing equipment from local company Modbar. Then, he enlists the services of Counter Culture Coffee, a direct trade coffee company that promotes direct communication and price negotiation between buyer and farmer; just think a more direct, controlled form of fair trade.
“The more you get into learning about coffee, the more you realize it's not just the basic brew that you make at home or get at Starbucks. There's a lot of techniques and small details,” he said.
Steve Erick has been brewing coffee professionally for more than 10 years. He said working with Wang is a real experience and he appreciates the company's emphasis on quality equipment and coffee.
“It's common to find this type of coffee shop in cities like Chicago or New York, but it makes it even more special to find it here in Fort Wayne, Indiana,” he said.
For both Erick and Wang, coffee is not just a beverage: it's an art form. Many Fortezza customers find designs from tulips to hearts in their coffee. The process, called latte art, uses the mix of espresso and steamed milk to create designs that not only look great, but mix the drink almost perfectly.
Fortezza launched last week with a soft opening. As with anything new, Wang said he wanted some time to work out the kinks. Starting Monday, the shop will now be open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. He hopes this will not only reach the regular business folks and commuters, but also give people a chance to venture downtown to give it a try after work.