Denver’s Garage Pizza & Brews Transforms 1950s Gas Station Into New Restaurant
Writer / Renee Larr
Photographer / Amy Payne
Brothers Karl and Fritz Fentz found inspiration for their new pizzeria in an unlikely place – a garage. To be more exact, the place was called Denver’s Auto Repair.
“My brother would go over and visit with the owner of Denver’s Auto Repair, Denver Lee,” Karl Fentz says. “Over time they struck up a friendship. Denver is a very quiet man. He just stands there and listens. Fritz would always tell him if he ever wanted to sell the place, ‘Let me know. I want you to sell it to me. I want to put a pizzeria in here and name it after you.’”
The day Lee wanted to retire finally came, and Fritz purchased the 1950s gas station.
“For a while he used it as his man cave,” Fentz says. “People would stop by all the time and ask, ‘What is this place?’”
Finally, the time came to open Denver’s Garage Pizza and Brews in July.
“It was important to us to have a conveyor stone oven for our pizzas,” Fentz says. “We traveled to Cincinnati to check one out. The guy we talked to had nothing but positive things to say about the oven. He’d been in the pizza industry 20 years and had burns on his arms from other ovens. Once he got this oven, he never burned himself or a pizza.”
The Hot Rocks Pizza Oven can cook a pizza in five and a half minutes. Menu items include wings, breadsticks, potato skins, specialty pizzas, beer and wine.
“Everything is made in the oven,” Fentz says. “I’m not a fan of fryers. They’re messy with the grease and the smell. We designed the menu around things we could do in the oven. As we go along and get things figured out, we’ll add more items to the menu.”
The gas station was designed in 1956 when there weren’t many local gas stations. The building needed renovations to be suitable for a restaurant.
“We had to redo the whole inside of the building,” Fentz says. “We have Kentucky bluestone that we added. It’s a tile-like slate out of Kentucky. We also had to put in a new HVAC system, a new ceiling, new bathrooms, new overhead doors, an emergency exit and double doors at the main entrance.”
The overhead doors will open to the patio when the weather is nice.
“On our patio we can seat about 100 people, and about 60 people inside,” Fentz says.
In addition to the renovations inside, four large underground tanks had to be removed.
“It was a gas station, after all,” Fentz says. “Those had to go. We couldn’t change the exterior design. It was too beautiful. A bunch of gas companies wanted this gas station because it was so unique. It was important for us to keep that overhang on the building.”
The location for Denver’s Garage on Broadway Street in Fortville is a prime spot due to the traffic that passes by.
“It’s all about location, location, location,” Fentz says. “It’s the perfect spot for a restaurant. Back in its gas station days, it was the only one in the area. With State Road 67 being right there, about 13,000 cars go by a day. It’s just amazing.”
Another perk of the location is accessible parking.
“A lot of the other restaurants in Fortville don’t have a lot of parking,” Fentz says. “We have a parking lot and plenty of off-street parking.”
The transition to restaurant owner was natural for Fentz, as he has experience in the food industry.
“I used to work for MCL cafeterias before going into the food distribution side,” Fentz says. “I worked for U.S. Foods and Sysco. I know a lot about the restaurant industry.”
An essential factor for the brothers was to offer quality products, even if it means their costs are higher.
“Since I was in the distribution field, I know there is a reason why things are more expensive than other things and that’s because of quality,” Fentz says. “That’s what we’re shooting for – using the best that we can get. It does make a difference.”
Before opening, the pair created a Facebook page to drum up interest in the business.
“That first day, our little Facebook page had 8,000 views,” Fentz says. “We had hundreds of followers before we even opened. It’s amazing the amount of people that just stop in to see the place, too. People are excited. We want this to be a place people come to hang out. We want this to be more than just another pizza place.”
The community has rallied around the new pizzeria.
“We have wonderful reviews on our Facebook page,” Fentz says. “It’s just been great to see it all come together.”
Denver’s Garage Pizza and Brews is located at 110 East Broadway Street in Fortville. For more information, visit facebook.com/denversgpb.