Restaurant Notes extra: CS3’s Aug. 18 ending a beginning for owner Donna Kessler
Donna Kessler hasn’t had a vacation in 11 years. Now that the lease for her Calhoun Street Soups, Salads & Spirits hasn’t been renewed, she’s going to take time to step back.
“I don’t want to make any rash decisions that I’ll regret later,” said Kessler, who has known since mid-June that the building’s owner wanted her to vacate.
She has talked with the Downtown Improvement District as well as Blue Jacket about running a restaurant in a community center and checked out a building. However, she wants to stay focused on Dlightfuls, a teahouse that she started in April and calls her “baby” that sits across the street and down a few storefronts. She leases that space from the same owner of CS3’s building.
She plans to move over the CS3’s wraps, soups and sandwiches and salad bar while still serving the smoothies, noodle bowls and other fare she created for Dlightfuls, 1932 S. Calhoun St. However, the kitchen there isn’t equipped for fryers or burgers.
She already had moved the catering business there because it has a larger kitchen, and the CS3 phone number, website and Facebook page will stay operating for a long time so clients can get in touch.
She expects to have everything up and running there Sept. 1, the date that owner Leo B. Vodde will take possession of the building at 1915 S. Calhoun St. for another business, which Kessler wouldn’t discuss, saying only that plans didn’t call for lunch to be served there. A message left for Vodde wasn’t returned.
Vodde also owns Babylon on the same block, next to CS3’s patio. The outdoor space is something Kessler really didn’t want to lose, particularly for summer. So she said she and Vodde agreed to the Aug. 18 date. That way she wouldn’t face lawsuits for cancelations of national comedy acts that were booked. Also, she only had a couple of events scheduled after that: a small fundraiser that will still be held at CS3 and two Christmas parties that she’ll find new locations for if they can’t also be held there. Small meeting groups will be allowed to continue to use the CS3 space.
“No one will be left in the lurch,” Kessler said.
She’ll add a few more seats at Dlightfuls, which currently seats 24. However, she also plans to start delivering lunches downtown. CS3 already has a good takeout business for lunch. The building still has the Welch family’s name on the entrance. They operated a hardware store there from 1901 until they sold the building in the 1950s. Kessler hung over the salad bar a photo of the hardware store that had been given to her by a Welch great-great-grandson.
The timing works so that none of her CS3 staff will be put on the unemployment line. Two of her kitchen guys can go full time at their other jobs and two young staff members were headed back to college in August anyway. She’ll bring the remaining kitchen staff to Dlightfuls and another 1 or 2 employees will work there part time.
As I assured Kessler, a Fort Wayne native and 1984 Bishop Dwenger High School graduate, she has built a name and following. Others, such as Lindi Miller, have closed some doors downtown and opened others. Miller opened Lindi’s in April at 256 W. Main St. to serve soups, salads and sandwiches, and that delicious Key lime pie, after moving her Deli 620 a couple of times.
If you make it well, customers will come.
Kessler is thankful to all hers.
“My heart is exploding with all the wonderful contacts I’ve made,” she said.
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