For two years after Fritz Fentz bought the building at 110 E Broadway St. in Fortville in 2017, it was his man cave, complete with couches and a pool table. Fentz lives next door — you can’t miss the pink flamingos — and knew the previous owner, Denver Lee.
“Denver and I got to know each other over 14 years, and one day he said he was going to retire soon,” Fentz said. “I had already told him to let me have the first opportunity to buy (the building) and told him I would name a restaurant after him.”
The building, which is now a unique restaurant – Denver’s Garage Pizza & Brews — first opened in 1956 as a service station, complete with a gift shop inside.
“I fell in love with the building. The design is Mid-century, and there was no other gas station in Indianapolis that looked like this,” Fentz said.
The building is one of five historic service stations left today in Indiana. It features large glass windows and a 22-foot sloping overhang, and two garage doors that can be opened onto the patio in warmer weather.
After operating for many years as a gas station, Lee bought the building, and it became Denver’s Auto Repair. Lee owned and operated it for nearly 20 years. But the underground tanks that stored gas remained, and they needed to be pulled out before the building could transition into a restaurant.
“We had to go through the environmentals, where they had to do the coring and the testing of the soil and the water,” Fentz said. “During that time, it made it easy because I could remodel in here. COVID kind of helped because I could slow down and put the finishing touches. I cut some openings and tiled the floors, and it wasn’t a rush to do a concept.”
In July 2021, Denver’s Garage Pizza & Brews opened. Fentz’s partner in the business is his brother, Karl.
“I just asked if he wanted to come in and start a restaurant, and he said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Fritz said.
“I thought it was a great location,” Karl added.
The siblings already worked together at Service Master (Fritz owns a local franchise) and Karl oversees sales.
“We think a lot alike. He’s more technical than I am, and I am a little more creative I would say,” Fritz said.
Both also have backgrounds in the food service industry. Fritz worked for MCL from age 16 to 30 as a cafeteria manager at all the locations, while Karl was a food broker.
“So, he knows the best dough to buy, the best sausage, the best cheese, etc.,” Fritz said.
Fritz said he initially thought about opening a barbecue restaurant.
“But then I thought, most people eat barbecue maybe once a month, but people eat pizza probably once a week, and we get people in here three times a week,” he said. “We have four other pizza places in town, but they are more pick-up places, you can’t go in and grab a beer. And none of them have live music.”
Denver’s Garage Pizza & Brews menu is simple, offering pizza, wings, breadsticks, tots and salad.
“Our goal is to get the pizza out to customers within 20 minutes of sitting down and ordering,” Fritz said. “We have a galley size kitchen so it is just too small to add a bunch of other menu items.”
Customer favorite pizzas include the Denver Lee, named after the former owner and loaded with sweet onion, green pepper, mushroom, black olives with thick-cut pepperoni and pork sausage; the Charlie, a meat lover’s pizza named for a former mechanic who worked at the location; and the Fortvillain, a Denver’s Garage original with olive oil, garlic, Grande mozzarella/provolone cheese blend, gorgonzola, goat and Romano cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes and mushrooms topped with oregano.
“It will give you bad breath, so I call it a date night pizza because you should both eat it,” Fritz said, laughing.
Denver’s also offers gluten-free crust.
A Hot Rocks Pizza Oven is the main attraction in the kitchen. The oven can cook a pizza in 5 1/2-half minutes. The stone granite is cool on both ends, ensuring kitchen staff don’t burn themselves putting food on the conveyor belt and taking it out on the other end.
The 2,200-square foot building features decor Fentz has collected through the years, ranging from a speed limit sign to the back of car complete with bumper stickers to knick-knacks lining a high shelf running along the wall.
“It was already in here when it was my man cave, so I just took it out, painted the place and then put everything back in,” Fritz said.
The brothers hope customers will enjoy their time at Denver’s.
“It’s a great place to hang out, very laid back,” Karl said. “During the warm weather and when we have a band, it’s a great place to meet a group of friends.”
For more, visit denversgpb.com.