Toasting new beginnings: Fortville wine bar changes ownership

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FORTVILLE — Right around the time the original owner of 305 Wine Garage was planning to move, Fortville residents Jeff and Libby Wyatt were thinking about how they could invest more in their growing town.

Jeff Wyatt asked Steve Boulanger, who ran the business for 2½ years, if he was planning to sell. Boulanger was, which motivated the couple to consider taking it on.

It turned out the Wyatts and the wine bar paired well together, and they became the new owners in late September. While they’ve carried out some changes and have others planned, they intend to maintain the intimidation-free invitation into the wine world that drew them to the business in the first place.

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Located at 305 S. Main St., 305 Wine Garage is hard to miss while heading south through downtown, with the large mural on the north side of the building paying homage to Fortville founder Cephas Fort as well as the town’s rail heritage.

Boulanger announced on the business’s Facebook page in September that his family was moving out of the area after his wife accepted a new position with her company.

Jeff Wyatt, CEO of CertaSite, an Indianapolis-based fire protection company; and Libby Wyatt, who runs Libby’s Ice Cream & Gifts just down the street from 305 Wine Garage and serves on the Fortville Town Council, said they always admired the concept behind the wine bar.

“Steve wanted to have a casual, not-intimidating-at-all place to drink wine,” Jeff Wyatt said.

At 305 Wine Garage, people should be able to have a glass of wine or beer, which is also served there, and feel comfortable, he continued.

“One thing I’ve learned, and perhaps it’s my palate, but you can have a really good bottle of wine and it can be relatively inexpensive,” he said. “People think you have to spend $100 to get a really good bottle of wine. Actually, you can spend $25, or less, and get a wine you really enjoy.”

The couple visited wineries in Napa Valley after getting married in 2013.

“When I think about this place, part of me realizes how much we enjoyed that as a couple on our honeymoon,” Jeff Wyatt said.

The Wyatts have expanded the business into the vacant space next door and filled it with more seating. Jeff Wyatt said it will be particularly beneficial on weekends, when excess capacity is often needed. They also plan to offer the new space to be rented out for private gatherings. Katie Cissna, owner of the former Rogue Art in the Alley in Fortville, is working with local artists to get paintings hung in the new space.

The Wyatts have also added bars inside, including in front of the garage door from which the business gets its name. Patrons can now sit in front of the garage door’s windows and look out on downtown Fortville while enjoying a glass, and be closer to the fresh air when it’s nice enough to open the door.

A general manager, Theresa Werking, was added to run the day-to-day operations and lead the kitchen and serving staff of about five.

Jeff and Libby Wyatt have expanded the business’s chocolate selection and plan to grow its desert options as well. They’re also considering additions like wine slushes and selling foods in a retail capacity that go well with wine, like cheeses and sausages.

“This is our first month, so we’re being very careful,” Jeff Wyatt said. “Let’s just keep doing what Steve was doing, with the expanded space, and then we’ll start adding pieces to that over time.”

Libby Wyatt agreed.

“Steve had a really good product anyway,” she said. “We just want to enhance what he did, and just enhance that experience that I think people like when they come to Fortville.”