Tucked inside on the first floor of the majestic Lincoln Tower in Downtown Fort Wayne is a tiny business that has stood the test of time.
The Lincoln Tower Soda Fountain is legendary to those who work and do business in the historic building which was built in 1929, and stood as Indiana’s tallest skyscraper until 1969.
“It’s absolutely a hidden gem,” says Jarod Lengacher, a cook at the Soda Fountain. “Even if you know where it’s at, you may not know how to get in the building. “When there is uncertainty, people tend to avoid the situation.”
“It’s kind of hidden away downtown,” says co-owner Mandy Tye with a chuckle. “Sometimes people say they’ve never heard of it and I say, well, it’s only been here for over 90-years. I understand. It takes people a while.”
Mandy and her husband Joel Tye bought the Soda Fountain during the pandemic in 2020.
Joel grew up in Fort Wayne and frequented the Soda Fountain many times.
The couple knew they were taking over a business that holds a special place in the hearts of many.
“It’s a piece of history,” says Mandy as she looks around the place which has remained largely the same over the years. “All the pictures of when they opened, the elevator operators, the bankers.”
“A lot of this was here. Why bother changing something that looks so good?”
“The ladies that had it before us did a wonderful job.”
“Vickie and Theresa had it for 40 years and their mom had it before that. It’s really been around.”
On a Thursday morning, the smell of bacon sizzling on the griddle fills the cozy space.
Lengacher scrambles some eggs as he prepares one of their delicious breakfast sandwiches.
“There is something about starting somebody’s day right that is kind of just where it’s at,” he says. “It’s cool.”
“The food here is really good and the service is excellent,” says Jennifer Hitchcock who works in the building. “I enjoy the personal touch that the people who work here give every day. They know my name. They know my order.”
Dave Hawk has been coming to the Soda Fountain for over 40 years. “I don’t have a sandwich named after me, but I do come down here and use this facility. It’s really to have it here.”
WANE 15 Photographer Dani Hough couldn’t resist the “All in One” breakfast sandwich which is made on Texas Toast and includes cheese, egg, bacon, sausage and hash browns.
“This is the best breakfast sandwich that I’ve had,” says Hough with a smile. “And I’m a breakfast sandwich fanatic!”
Elizabeth Toole is another regular who frequents the Soda Fountain often. “It always feels really friendly and everyone is always so nice.”
The original Soda Fountain still sits behind the counter, but maintaining it over the years was a challenge because of its rare parts. A newer model sits right next to it and can create any number of flavor combinations with the same old-time feel.
Cookies are also a big seller. “We make our own cookies,” says Tye. “Peanut Butter, Snickerdoodle, Monster and Chocolate Chip. We sell tons of cookies!”
“I’d come and eat here every day if I had the chance,” says Abel Sitianus with a little grin. “But, I gotta watch my figure too!”
“I smell the lovely popcorn popping,” says Miracle Riley just outside the building located at 116 E Berry Street.
“It’s amazing,” she says. “It’s the way the wind blows. You can smell it from the courthouse. It makes you hungry all the time, so I love it when I come this way.”
“This is a gem,” says Hitchcock. “People need to come see it.”
“From the outside, you can’t really understand what the architecture is like on the inside.”
Jason Gerardot agrees. “It’s really cool when you walk in because you never really see the motif in other buildings like you do here, except for maybe the courthouse.”
“It is pretty cool,” says Mandy Tye. “It really is.”
The Lincoln Tower Soda Fountain is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Mandy and Joel Tye currently operate four small businesses all within walking distance downtown. They’re working on a fifth to open soon in Citizens Square.