Shop around the block
Find the fun and funky in Northeast Indiana's small towns
In town squares and down dead-end roads, there is a host of fun, funky shops across Northeast Indiana, and we’re here to guide you to some of the best. Whether you are looking for a fun afternoon’s jaunt or want to do some serious shopping (we recommend an overnight stay in at least two places), if it’s something you need (or want), you’ll probably find it in our shopping tour of the region.
As you drive south on U.S. 27, heading into Adams County from Fort Wayne, you’ll pass Amish farms, complete with requisite ponies and laundry flapping on clotheslines. And when you enter Berne, you’ll be guided in by the Muensterberg clock tower that honors the area’s Swiss heritage, on display throughout the town. Creative reuse of century-old buildings along Main Street and in the downtown area make each shop charming.
But Berne isn’t just a throwback to the Old World. It’s also home to some pretty fun shopping. From home decor to cast-iron skillets, Berne has you covered. Of course, there’s the furniture: Berne is home to several nationally recognized furniture makers and dealers, and there are plenty of locations that can help you find the living room or bedroom suite of your dreams. Accessorizing your home with a wide array of styles makes furniture shopping even more fun, and Berne is a great place to find the touches that make a house a home. We particularly liked poking around in Edelweiss Florist, 206 W. Main St., where a dizzying array of home decoration items and floral gifts almost overwhelms shoppers. Keeping it delightful are the color-coordinated vignettes that flow through the emporium. From rusty reds to peacock blues to lilac and yellows, there are items from candles to cocktail napkins that will coordinate in your home. And the staff there is helpful but not pushy.
Just down Main Street is Et Cetera Ecke, a Mennonite Central Committee thrift shop at 152 W. Main St. Staffed by volunteers, this unique gift shop offers Third World handcrafted jewelry, carved figures and religious items, plus a fairly well-stocked thrift shop with clothes and books. Next door is Nora Gray, 156 W. Main St., an American-made shop with its own line of baby and nursing swaddlers and scarves, sleeper sets and absolutely adorable baby moccasins. It’s not all baby all the time at Nora Gray, though: there’s a great curated collection of ladies’ clothing and accessories, plus skin care items. The Lasting Lites Emporium, 113 W. Main St., houses a collection of the company’s flameless electric candles and coverings, plus assorted home goods in a bright, high-ceilinged shop. Stop into the Berne Hardware Store, 114 W. Main St., for a terrific assortment of kitchen accessories and cast-iron cookware. (If you have a John Deere fancier among your kin, this would be a great place to find holiday presents!)
Just outside downtown is the Berne Antique Mall, housed in a former church building at 105 W. Water St. Don’t be put off by the exterior, which is in need of some paint – the inside is immaculate and absolutely loaded with Depression glass, vintage toys, books and bottles, plus beer steins, Steiff bears, antique furniture and more, all at excellent prices. The Barbie collection alone is worth a second glance.
Just a short drive up Interstate 69 (or you can cruise the countryside driving north on Coldwater Road) lies Auburn, home of one of the few remaining outdoor drive-in movie theaters and an annual car auction that attracts celebrities and car enthusiasts to this DeKalb County town every Labor Day weekend. But a visit there on a non-car day is also warranted, particularly if you are looking for quirky shops. The area around Sixth, Jackson and Main streets is easily walkable and has new shops springing up by the day. Our fave is the Savvy Avenue on 6th consignment shop that’s located inside a repurposed church at the corner of Sixth and Jackson streets. It’s loaded with clothing and home decor, plus vintage. Just down Sixth Street is the Sixth Street Emporium. It’s housed in a former furniture store that’s been renovated into a space for artists, a fun paperie, a frame shop and a used bookstore that supports the DeKalb County SPCA. Around the corner at 115 N. Main St. is Sixth & Main, a walk-through shopping experience that includes the Auburn branch of the gourmet olive oil retailer, The Olive Twist, plus PeeKerS, a shop with a fun assortment of gifts for the hard-to-shop-for.
If you’re in the mood for a little more highway driving, head up to Angola’s central town “square” (though it seems like a circle because of the traffic circle that smooths out the busy flow of cars and trucks). Regardless of geometric shape, there are a couple of worthy stops at the intersection of U.S. 20 and Indiana 127 (Wayne Street), where a Civil War monument towers over a steady stream of traffic. Dodge the trucks and pop in for a reviving coffee drink (we love John’s 101 Lakes with vanilla, caramel and white chocolate, plus the hand-twisted pretzels and the turtle brownie) at Coachlight Coffee House, 30 N. Public Square. Once you’ve filled your tummy, stroll along the square for Brighton jewelry and ladies wear at Calicos & Collectibles, 130 N. Public Square, or pop into The Bent Fork Art Studio, 90 N. Public Square, where you’ll find home decor and unique gifts, plus baby items. Several antique malls surround the Public Square area, so bring your walking shoes.
Let’s get this out of the way first: The shopportunities in Shipshewana require an overnight stay. Fortunately, the fine folks in the LaGrange County mecca know this and have conveniently put up several family-friendly hotels. The days to be in Shipshewana are Tuesday and Wednesday from May through September, when the Shipshewana Trading Place, 345 S. Van Buren St. (Indiana 5) is open. Row upon row of vendors offer everything from bedding plants to paper plates to home decor to clothing. A warning: This open-to-the-elements flea market (the vendors are covered; the shoppers, not so much) can be brutal on hot days or in the rain, so dress accordingly.
Fortunately, there are also indoor places to shop, all within walking distance of the flea market (though the traffic on Indiana 5/Van Buren Street can be a little frightening, especially where there aren’t any sidewalks). Across Van Buren Street from the flea market is Yoder’s Shopping Center, featuring a full-service shoe store, hardware store, cafe and more. Yoder’s Meat & Cheese Co., 435 S. Van Buren St., offers bulk and specialty food items, plus Amish specialties. And Yoder’s Red Barn Shoppes, 445 S. Van Buren St., showcases Amish handcrafted furniture, home decor, candles, candies and clothing. We particularly like Lotions & Potions, 459 S. Van Buren St., for its excellent collection of handcrafted soaps and moisturizers.
Just north of the flea market is another shopping area anchored by the Blue Gate Restaurant and Theatre, where you can enjoy Amish-style food and live theatrical productions, plus shop for Amish-designed and built furniture. Between Blue Gate and the Davis Mercantile collection of shops to the northeast are a dozen or more specialty shops, including those selling primitive-style home decor, 3-D maps and nostalgia. You can spend a full day just wandering in and out of these shops, where friendly staff can help you with your purchases, even recommending other merchants who might stock a particular item. Be sure to stop by the Blue Gate Bakery for some delicious, baked-daily sugar cream pie.
As you head back to Fort Wayne from Shipshewana, there’s a very “scent-sible” reason to follow Ligonier’s Johnson Street to where it dead-ends into railroad tracks: that’s where you’ll find Annie Oakley Perfumery Studio. Upon entering, you’ll find yourself floating on clouds of flowery scents, all of which blend together (there’s not a clashing smell to be found) into nirvana for the nose. One of the only perfumeries in the United States that makes and packages its scents on site, Annie Oakley is open for tours twice a day. You can even create your own scent, and the lovely folks will bottle it up for you while you wait.
Think about an overnight trip to the Warsaw area, as there are plenty of shopping and attractions to make a hotel stay worthwhile. Warsaw, about 45 minutes northwest of Fort Wayne on U.S. 30, bills itself as the orthopedic capital of the world, and if you’re in the market for a new hip or knee, we’ll take their word for it. But it’s also a place to find fun and unique gifts, foodstuffs and home decor items. Don’t miss the Jerky Shop, 206 S. Buffalo St., just off the courthouse square, where the owners are on some kind of Willy Wonka-esque quest to bring new flavors to beef jerky (marinara-style, anyone? Dill pickle?). Catty-corner across South Buffalo Street is the Indiana Antique Company, 123 S. Buffalo St., where vinyl lovers should explore the basement – it’s stocked with LPs and 45s from Hank Williams Jr. to Boots Randolph. There’s also a wide array of stereo turntables, plus a book section upstairs. MudLOVE, 122 S. Buffalo St., offers clay-based jewelry and mugs with a mission to supply clean water to the Central African Republic. If you’re feeling peckish, there are two worthy choices on North Buffalo Street: 110 Craft Meatery, 110 N. Buffalo St., which caters to carnivorous foodies (21 and older only) and B-Macs, 114 N. Buffalo, which caters to diner lovers (think Cindy’s Diner crossed with Coney Island). Try
the biscuits and gravy. Seriously.
• Winona Lake
Any trip to Warsaw has to dedicate a good amount of time to the charming shops of the Village at Winona, centered on East Canal Street and Park Avenue, just east of Warsaw. Anchored by Winona Mercantile, 700 Park Ave., which has been undergoing renovations, the Village features craftspeople and artisans offering everything from beads (The Beaded Peacock is at 805 E. Canal St.) to nostalgic candies (Rocket Fizz, 1005 E. Canal St., has everything from foreign candies to candies of yesteryear). You can also find specialty sports apparel, home decor items, furniture – we’re addicted to the Spice Merchant at 903 E. Canal St., where you can find that obscure spice you need for that one recipe you’re dying to make. Bring your bicycles and pedal between shops, stopping in at Cerulean, 1101 E. Canal St., or The BoatHouse, 700 Park Ave. for delicious lunches and dinners. One caveat: the Village at Winona takes its Christian faith seriously, and everything is closed on Sundays.
Tiny Pierceton, just east of Warsaw on U.S. 30, is trying hard to market itself as the Antiques Capital of Indiana. Though it may have a way to go until it reaches that distinction (most stores are reliably open only on the weekend, for example, and you’ll need to watch your step as the sidewalks are uneven), it is worth a stop – particularly if you are in the market for primitives or vintage pieces. North First Street is the main drag, and it’s got a half-dozen or so antique shops that are worth a peek. The recently opened Rustic Haven, 301 N. First St., features handmade primitive wall art, candles and furnishings. Next door, A Slice of Hevin, 303 N. First St., has a collection of vinyl records that should intrigue collectors, plus DIY and mid-century modern furniture. Head north across the railroad tracks, take your first right and poke your head in at Kelsea Design, 105 W. Market St., where you’ll find repurposed furnishings and furniture. Back up on First Street, check out the nearly overwhelming assortment of items at Roberta’s Daughter Antiques, 117 N. First St. Housed in a former hotel (really?), the collection will make collectors of glass and kitchenware happy, as will the snug back room filled with books. A few doors north you’ll find the Village Antique Gallerie, 109 N. First St., an immaculately maintained collection of unique European and American antiques and lighting fixtures (seriously, we didn’t spot a speck of dust in the whole store!). Blue Pearl, 112 N. First St., offers fine estate jewelry and antiques, plus artwork.
Another place you might want to spend the night is Wabash, about 45 minutes southwest of Fort Wayne on U.S. 24. That’s because of the Honeywell Center, which draws national touring acts to this small central Indiana town. Just in the past two months, Kristin Chenoweth, Aaron Lewis, Kool & The Gang and more have performed there, and taking in a show there, plus dinner at one of Wabash’s restaurants, is a lovely escape from the Fort. The Charley Creek Inn, 111 W. Market St., offers a variety of lodging options, and the Herrold on Hill bed and breakfast, 313 W. Hill St., is housed in an 1885 neo-Jacobean Victorian manse. Come for a Friday night show at the Honeywell Center, then stay overnight and explore Wabash on Saturday. The Wabash Farmers Market runs 8 a.m.-noon each Saturday in the summer at the Honeywell Center/Elks parking lot on the corner of U.S. 13 and Market Street.
Downtown Wabash has experienced a resurgence in recent years, and new shops are springing up along Market and Canal streets. The town recently won a $500,000 national contest that will spur even more development in its historic downtown. Be sure to pop into the charming Wabash Visitors Center, 221 S. Miami St., for a walking map that highlights the wonderful shops and art galleries within the historic district. The wine selection at the Charley Creek Inn shops is well curated (inside the Inn’s street-level shops, which include a candy store that makes flat-out the best chocolate malt we’ve ever sipped). Marelli’s, 35 W. Market St., is a full-service flower shop that also offers an interesting assortment of home goods and women’s clothing, while Lost Treasures in Tyme, 47 W. Market St., features lighting, table tops, linens, artwork and much more. Stinson’s Trading Post, 98 W. Canal St., is a testament to the adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Example? Shelves of costume jewelry ready for remaking into funky, retro baubles.
First appeared in the July 2016 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.