There may be a lot more foot traffic along the western, historical end of Main Street on Saturday when visitors and residents walk along the annual ARCH Historic Home & Garden Tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The self-guided tour will highlight up to 10 commercial and residential buildings representing the “historic flavor” of the neighborhood. ARCH, or Architecture and Community Heritage, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic Fort Wayne structures.
One stop along the tour offers a sneak peek of Mercantile on Main, an up-and-coming business at 1735 W. Main St. The historic bungalow-styled residence is a future retailer of vintage finds and artwork, said Pam Michel, owner of the shop and former owner of Antiquery, located on Broadway in the 1980s.
Pam Michel, 63, has worked 26 years in the antique business, from renovating antique lights at the former Bass Mansion at the University of Saint Francis to those at various local churches. She bought the house, along with two nearby vacant lots, with her husband in 2009. They spent the first year on exterior work alone, including the stripping of asbestos-coated siding and repair of rotting woodwork. One of the lots is reserved for the relocation of the original depot of the Findlay, Fort Wayne and Western Railroad.
The couple, currently living in Wildwood Park, plans to run the shop alongside their two daughters, Addie Michel and Hannah Michel, who will create vintage clothing. While the store has no definite open date, pending an occupancy permit, Pam Michel is excited to showcase the shop during the tour with the help of renowned Indiana reuse artist and self-proclaimed “Cornbelt Cowboy,” Michael “Hap” Hapner of Wabash County.
Having his start in Fort Wayne, Hapner will demonstrate the debut of his flowers, made of vinyl records and other reuse items, in an Indiana garden.
He emphasized, however, that “the main focus is ARCH…they do so much for Fort Wayne and tourism, and I'm just an added attraction.”
Saturday also marks Hapner's 60th birthday. He said he always tries to do something artistic on his birthday and will also explain how he creates his signature flowers, costing $10-$25, which he said are often reminiscent of Dr. Seuss illustrations.
Well-known for his self-taught “spots and dots” style, Hapner constantly experiments with colors and shapes so that he never has two pieces of identical art. Some of Hapner's most iconic artwork is his cowgirl “bicycle sculpture,” where he takes a used bike and paints and remodels it in a colorful Western style. These cost $700-$3,000.
For both Hapner and Pam Michel, antique materials seem to find them once people know they're looking for reusable items. “Art is all around you,” stated Hapner, “Every time I turn around, I'm learning something new…like a new flower pattern.”