The Wine Market in Fountain Square taking over high-profile Pioneer building

The Wine Market, which opened in Fountain Square in 2017, is preparing to move down the street to the Pioneer building at 1110 Shelby St., a much larger space that will allow the business to expand its food and drink menu.

Owners Kris Bowers and Zachary Davis say they’re bursting at the seams in their current location, a 3,100-square-foot building at 1031 Virginia Ave. The business is both a restaurant and a shop where customers can buy wine by the bottle, with a focus on smaller winemakers and bottles priced at $20 or less.

“We’re as full and as busy down there as we can be,” Bowers said. “We need more space. We need more capacity.”

The Pioneer building, which previously operated as an Italian restaurant and a performance space and event venue, contains 12,500 square feet of space over two stories and a basement. Located at the key commercial intersection of Prospect, Shelby and Virginia streets, the property also offers a dedicated parking lot, outdoor patio and a larger kitchen than The Wine Market now has.

“It’s a great property, and it’s got a lot of things that we don’t have at our current location,” Bowers said.

On the first floor, The Wine Market will offer an all-ages dining room with seating for 60, a 21-and-up bar area with seating for another 34 people, plus an outdoor heated patio that can seat 60. The business is also securing a three-way liquor permit that will allow it to serve beer and liquor along with wine.

Bowers and Davis say they expect to be open at the new space in September. They’re also renovating the second floor into three apartments that should be finished in November.

Currently, The Wine Market is mostly a dinner spot, offering brunch on weekends. The new location has a larger kitchen, which will allow Bowers and Davis to offer brunch and dinner seven days a week.

“We’ll have a much-expanded menu,” Bowers said.

Bowers and Davis purchased the building from its previous owner, Bryce Caldwell, in June.

Workers have removed the decorative metal paneling from the interior of the first floor to expose the brick interior walls, creating a cozy and historic feel to the space. Other than that, Bowers and Davis say, they aren’t making too many changes to the property. They’re keeping the corner stage, and plan to bring in artists for live background music on weekends—something The Wine Market doesn’t currently offer.

Between the real estate purchase and the renovations, Bowers and Davis say they’re investing between $2 million and $2.5 million in the project.

Bowers and Davis opened a second location of The Wine Market in Irvington in 2018, but that location fell victim to the pandemic and closed last year. The situation was considerably brighter at the Fountain Square location, however.

When stay-at-home orders closed dine-in restaurant service in the early months of the pandemic, the Wine Market relied on selling bottles of wine. Wine sales went way up, in part because people who might have otherwise gone out to eat were buying wine for at-home meals.

Davis said being adjacent to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail also helped the Fountain Square location. In the absence of other things to do, people flocked to the bicycle and pedestrian trail, and in doing so some people discovered The Wine Market for the first time.

Overall, Davis said, the shop’s revenues in 2020 were about flat with 2019, and it was able to keep all five of its employees on payroll during the pandemic. He expects this year’s revenues will be flat again, in part because the business had to shut down for three weeks in January after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The Pioneer building, which dates back to 1900, has seen a variety of uses over its lifetime.

Caldwell had owned the building since 2010, opening an Italian restaurant and music venue called Pioneer in 2015. The restaurant went through a number of different concepts before closing in 2018. Caldwell was using the space for dance parties and performances until December 2019, when he closed the venue for good.

Before Pioneer, the building was the home of Deano’s Vino restaurant and wine shop. That establishment closed in mid-2010.

The south portion of the Shelby Street building was also the original home of Santorini Greek Kitchen, which operated there from 2001 to 2003 until moving to 1417 Prospect St., a few blocks away. That restaurant closed in 2018, although owners Jeanette and Taki Sawi still operate a catering operation, Santorini Greek Kitchen Catering, at the Biltwell Event Center on South White River Parkway West Drive.

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One thought on “The Wine Market in Fountain Square taking over high-profile Pioneer building

  1. Exciting stuff! I commend brave entrepreneuers like Chris and Zachary that are so committed to keeping the Fountain Square district vibrant. They’ve done a great job with The Wine Market and I’m sure this upgrade is going to be a huge success. Kudos! Now, we the public, have to do our part to support the independent restaurants and bars of Indianapolis.

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