Harmony Café, Photo Provided
From Portland, Indiana, to Muncie, one entrepreneur offers international classes and cuisine
With two dance studios, two cafes and a pizza truck, David Fennig has a busy schedule.
Fennig fell in love with the concept and atmosphere of a restaurant while working for a small cafe during his time in college.
“I have always loved to host dinner parties and events for my college friends,” Fennig said. “I love the atmosphere that is created when people get together over food, so I fit right in to the restaurant business, but I have had to learn on the go since I have no formal training.”
He enjoyed the environment so much, that when he was given the opportunity in 2013 to open his own restaurant, it was “too good to pass up.” Fennig created Harmony Cafe, an in-house restaurant and catering business in Portland, Indiana.
In 2015, however, Fennig felt Harmony Cafe was not serving as many guests as he was hoping, so he decided to close the restaurant aspect of Harmony Cafe and focus more on catering.
That summer, he and his father, who taught him how to cook, decided to open a food truck together called Fire and Brimstone Pizza.
Soon after, Fennig took his passion for dance, which started when he was 15, and opened a dance studio alongside his other businesses.
“Teaching dance is something I’ve always felt very comfortable doing, and I’ve always believed that dance can be amazingly influential in people’s lives as an art form,” Fennig said. “I have really enjoyed passing on the joy and community that dancing provides.”
After two years of balancing the restaurant, food truck and dance studio, Fennig decided that it was time to expand his businesses to Muncie.
“Last year, I decided that it was time for a change in my business,” Fennig said. “I didn’t want to cut back, so I expanded instead. It is definitely a juggling act, but I have found great people that have been willing to help, and they have gotten me through.”
Fennig opened both Harmony Cafe and Harmony Dance, which are located in downtown Muncie, in 2017.
While Harmony Cafe in Portland serves as a catering business, the Muncie location serves more as a walk-in restaurant. His dance studios, however, are more similar.
Fennig teaches between 12 and 25 hours per week at his dance studios, showing dancers how to waltz, rumba, foxtrot, cha cha, quickstep, tango, west coast swing, east coast swing, salsa dance, and argentine tango.
“I think Harmony is a perfect fit for the Muncie community,” said Michele Owen, a graduate student at Ball State and one of Fennig’s employees. “The cafe offers a wide variety of options, including vegetarian and vegan, so it’s the perfect place to meet a group for lunch or dinner. The studio offers a place where partners can learn dancing in all styles in a non-intimidating environment.”
The cafe and dance studio are influenced by Fennig’s exposure to many different cultures.
When he was young, Fennig lived in Zimbabwe with his parents, who were missionaries, for 11 years. He has also been to more than 10 countries, all of which influenced both his menu and dance classes.
Fennig said his menu features an “eclectic fusion” of flavors with inspiration from Cuban, Italian and Moroccan cuisine.
“I love to try new things and go into international restaurants that I have never heard of before to taste their food,” Fennig said. “I also love to go into international stores and pick up ingredients that I have never seen. I take the item home, and I do a lot of research about it in order to find out the best cooking methods and preparation. From there, I love to play with different combinations until I find something that I like.”
Because he experiments with combinations of food, Fennig does not write his recipes down, which makes it harder to train new employees. Training employees also adds to the difficulty of balancing his businesses.
“I have had several dance lessons scheduled and an employee not show up to work,” Fennig said. “I had to balance the lessons and close the cafe for the night. I have eight people that work for me, but since I frequently run two or three events at the same time, I’m very dependent on those employees showing up to work.”
Having employees like Owen, who work at both the dance studio and catering business, helps Fennig keep everything running smoothly.
“I couldn’t ask for a better boss because he is hard-working and is building something worthwhile in the Muncie Community,” Owen said. “He expects quality out of his employees, but he gets to know us all on a personal level, and he’s very easy to work with.”
Even with his five businesses, however, Fennig plans on further expanding to downtown Richmond and possibly South Bend. He also hopes to start a permanent pizza location with his father along with their food truck.
Fennig said he is driven to expand his business for the same reason he was inspired to open his first restaurant.
“There is something so satisfying about having people come into a space that you make available,” said Fennig. “They can eat, talk and enjoy themselves, and I love walking around and seeing the interaction, but I guess that is just the host in me.”
Contact Tier Morrow with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.