Toast of the town: Pink elephant set to rejoin its familiar spot in Fortville

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FORTVILLE — The pink elephant will raise its martini once more.

That bubblegum-colored, bespectacled behemoth clutching an olive-garnished glass with its trunk is slated to return to its old stomping ground next month. When it does, it’ll be outside a new Elite Beverages store whose owner wants to see his liquor retail business keep up with the growth of the town it serves.

Ray Cox, who owns seven Elite Beverages stores in the Indianapolis area, has owned the Fortville location at 308 W. Broadway St. for over a decade. He had it torn down to make way for its replacement last fall. Cox estimated the former building was built in the 1950s and spanned about 1,300 square feet.

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The new store going up will be about 4,300 square feet and have a mezzanine for tastings and other events. There will also be about 1,300 feet of space on the property for a tenant as well, Cox said.

Cox said the new store will start out with three employees, but he anticipates it won’t be long before that total rises to four to five. His Fortville location formerly employed two. He expects he’ll need a bigger staff because of the new store’s larger size, bigger selection, anticipated rise in sales and the new service of hosting tastings and other events.

Elite Beverages should reopen in Fortville in April, Cox said.

“We’ve been looking to develop that property for quite some time,” he said. “We thought now finally was the time.”

Business is good, he added, and Fortville is growing. He described the town as “a natural expansion of Geist.” When he drives on East 96th Street between the two areas, he can’t help but notice the rooftops flanking both sides of the road.

“You can just see it coming,” he said. “Now that the town is starting to grow along with it with some nice restaurants and plans to redevelop, we just thought it was time for us to finally reinvest in Fortville.”

And while that reinvestment consists of a new store, one familiar feature will be the statue of Talmadge the pink elephant standing outside, which Cox calls “an iconic mascot of Fortville.”

“If you grew up in Hancock County, you know the pink elephant,” he said.

A friend is holding on to Talmadge in the interim, Cox said.

The elephant is a leftover from the liquor store that operated on the property before Cox bought it. He’s planning on holding an online contest to rename the mascot ahead of the store’s grand reopening.

Cox collects history on the pink elephant and said he always inquires those he meets with knowledge on it to find out more. He encourages those with historical information on the statue to reach out via the Elite Beverages Facebook page.