Meet these 7 northeast Indiana business owner couples who are crushing it
By Lauren Caggiano | Input Fort Wayne
Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. These local couples have decided to face the odds and go into it together. Here’s what they have to say about their unique working relationship.
HYDE + ALCHEMY
JON-PAUL & LEAH CAPITO
What started as a simple idea born on their honeymoon in October 2015 has turned into a full-fledged boutique perfumery operation.
“Since (my wife) Leah had always struggled wearing alcohol-based fragrances (due to allergies), we found ourselves feeling inspired by all the handmade, natural products offered around us,” says Jon-Paul. “Once we arrived back home, we dove deep into education and understanding the fragrance industry. We took some time, and decided that if we were going to do this, we wanted to do it right! So, we created a natural product we could not only stand behind, but, enjoy ourselves.”
Today, HYDE + ALCHEMY is a Fort Wayne-based company that produces small batch handcrafted fragrances using the highest quality natural ingredients.
Just like the product line took time to develop, he says the working relationship has taken time to curate and nurture, too. There have been ups and downs along the way, but the end result makes it all the sweeter.
“In midst of those roller coaster rides, you find yourself taking a moment to look over at your spouse and see them for something so much more than before,” he says. “You’ve now created another form of partnership that bonds you together even stronger.”
Crimson House Café
JEFF & HEIDI REED
Jeff and Heidi Reed have always been passionate about food, coffee, and caring for others. While they were missionaries in Mozambique, Africa, with their two youngest children, they would often host other missionaries for coffee and meals.
After returning to the United States, their children challenged them to dream again—instead of just trying to see others’ dreams fulfilled—and so they did.
Today, Crimson House Café is the result of those dreams. It's a café and venue in Ossian, just south of Fort Wayne, but it’s not just any coffee shop.
“Crimson House Café is unique from the moment that you step into the door and see the handmade sign that reads: 'The best is yet to come,'" says Heidi. “You walk into an atmosphere that is cozy and inviting. The food is made from scratch, in-house, with love.”
MATTHEW & NICKY NOLOT
For Matthew and Nicky Nolot—owners of the downtown establishment Tolon—food is about love.
"Food and cooking were one of the first things we connected over, and it continues to bring us together,” says Nicky. “I love that we collaborate together on dishes that go on the menu at Tolon. We both learn from each other over techniques for preparing a dish… For us, it’s about (being) together.”
They also take pride in the fact that they were first at the table locally with their concept. According to Nicky, they were the first farm-to-table restaurant in Fort Wayne and one of the few chef-owned restaurants.
“With that, it gave us the opportunity to create a slate that allowed us to use the freshest in-season ingredients that are grown in our own backyards when possible and introduce our guests to the amazing farmers we have in Northeast Indiana and throughout Indiana—not just with food, but with spirits and wine,” says Nicky. “We make everything that we can in-house, from scratch, and this includes our bar program, as well with fresh squeezed juices and house made syrups and mixers.”
ERIC & EMILY HARRIS
Like many businesses, Two-EE’s Winery unofficially began as a hobby—in a basement, of all places.
“When I met my wife's father (at the time we weren't married), he was making wine from kits in the basement,” says Eric. “I took a strong interest in it for a variety of reasons, and it was a great bonding experience for the two of us. We turned what was a hobby into an obsession, and the basement was slowly taken over by 60-gallon barrels, glass carboys, and thousands of bottle-capacity wine racks on every open wall.”
Eric and Emily saw an opportunity to monetize the fruits of their labor—literally—and Two-EE’s Winery became a legal entity. The award-winning winery is located in Huntington, a short drive from Fort Wayne, and features a tasting room, events, and live music.
Eric attributes their success to teamwork.
“We complement each other's strengths, and fill in the gaps for our weaknesses," he says. "Everything I struggle with, she handles with ease, and I trust her to do it. The same works in reverse.”
ADAM & REBECCA HANSON
Adam and Rebecca Hanson wanted to open a business that would put Huntington "on the map."
“We wanted to be a unique, family-friendly destination that would draw and serve visitors from out-of-town while providing a cool hangout for locals that they could take pride in,” says Rebecca. “We love meeting and greeting people from elsewhere and sharing our passion and love for our community with them.”
Antiqology checks all of those boxes. It’s a store that sells more than 700 flavors of craft soda, as well as antiques, hard-scooped ice cream, and nostalgic candies. Think old school soda fountain/general store, but with a modern twist.
For example, their inventory of antique/vintage items are different from what you’d find in other stores. They also sell some locally handmade items, as well as offer a selection of new-factory-direct Fiesta dishware.
According to Rebecca, their selection of craft soda is one of the largest in the country. They sell their own locally crafted varieties in glass bottles and on draft, and their ice cream flavors are sought-after, too.
So what’s the recipe for success as a duo? “We just work better together,” says Rebecca. “We each have unique talents and abilities that work well with each other. Where one of us lacks, the other makes up for it.”
Sprunger & Sprunger
CORY & ALLISON SPRUNGER
Cory and Allison Sprunger are partners in their law practice and in life. The couple met while in law school in California.
“After law school, we decided to move back to Indiana where the cost of living and starting a business was tremendously more advantageous than in California,” says Cory. “After graduating and moving back, Allison worked at the prosecutor's office in Allen County in downtown Fort Wayne, and I started the practice in Berne, Indiana.”
Four years, 7 attorneys, and 3 offices later, Cory says they are in growth mode at Sprunger & Sprunger. They plan to launch a title company for real estate closings this year.
He attributes their success to betting on the underdog.
“We are unique in that we are actively seeking out the small towns, which we believe to be the heartbeat of America," he says. "We are expanding rapidly with a model that focuses on innovation and bringing efficiencies through technology with a fresh new look at the outdated law-firm model that has dominated small-town America for decades. We are different because we believe in innovation, and more importantly, we believe in small-town America.”
LUKE & WHITNEY WRIGHT
Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. Luke Wright, Founder and Director of Vision and Strategy at the Warsaw-based MudLOVE, will tell you that's how he first approached his craft.
"I studied ceramics at Indiana Wesleyan University," he says. "After college, I worked with construction with my dad, but he was about 7 months away from retiring because of health complications. Soon to be jobless, I decided to jump head first into my own pottery company that helped people get clean drinking water. Little did I know what that would eventually become."
Today, MudLOVE sells handmade ceramic bracelets, mugs, and more to benefit clean water projects in the Central African Republic.
Luke's wife and colleague, Whitney, brought the jewelry side to the business. She was initially drawn to jewelry-making for its cathartic properties, which helped her get through a rough patch in 2001. Eventually, what began as a hobby for her turned into a business after friends and family started requesting custom pieces of jewelry.
It was their respective hobbies that later brought them together as co-workers.
"Our relationship was built on working side-by-side," Luke says. "Although we aren't always focused on the same things, I love that we get to build something together and bring creative ideas to the world. A lot goes into doing that, including many ups and downs, but we have each other to talk things through and lift each other up."