Former Wood Shack owner reflects on neighborhood change, future

Local News

After 45 years, the owner of The Wood Shack in downtown Fort Wayne closed up shop Thursday.

Jerry Vandeveer sold the building and several neighboring houses on the block he helped change for the better.

If you go back in time 20 years,  you would find the block of Baker Street, off Fairfield Ave., would not be filled with flowers, but with drugs and prostitution.

On Friday, Vandeveer thanked the people who helped him clean up the streets while looking to his future.

“I guess that’s the time I sit in the rocking chair and rock back and forth and say those were the good ‘ol days,” Jerry Vandeveer said with a chuckle. “No, they weren’t the good ‘ol days, they were hard days.’ Now the good old days are coming forward. I should say the good new days are coming.”

Don’t get him wrong. Jerry told NewsChannel 15 he is thankful for the laughs he had with customers and the parts of history he collected and sold. His focus tends to be on his little neighborhood though. He’s moving out of his house and selling six others. It’s the place him and his late wife worked hard to clean up, after crime nearly chased them away.  

“We talked, Linda and I, tears in our eyes, we’re going to close our shop and move,” Vandeveer recalled. “We can’t do this.”

Jerry and Linda became big advocates of police in the community after a conversation with an officer changed everything.

“Told him about our dilemma and he said ‘jeez, if you guys want to stay, I promise you that we will do anything that we can do anything to help you,” Vandeveer explained.

It was a promise kept. The neighborhood has pulled a 180 since then. Now, with the sale complete, something new is in the works for the block. The houses and business were sold together. NewsChannel 15 is working to uncover the details of the planned project. 

Jerry said his efforts can work beyond Baker Street.

“I’m glad that we were a part of it,” Vandeveer added. “And I’m so glad that we were able to work with the police and fire department and code enforcement. I mean, there’s.. you just can’t believe it. I mean no one entity can do it. You gotta work together.” 

While the store was closed until further notice, there is a possibility of it reopening. The new owner has not shared an official decision on the future of the store.

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