Schoolhouse 7 Cafe
Fishers Family Opens New Coffee Shop In 118-Year-Old, Former Schoolhouse
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
Over the years, those in the Fishers and Geist area have often driven by the old building located off Cyntheanne Road. The two-story home sits on its own lot of land on the corner of Southeastern Parkway and Cyntheanne— right around the corner from HSE Intermediate and Junior High School. What many may not know is the history found there.
The old house was actually built in 1901, originally as a school called Schoolhouse 7.
It is a piece of history that Curt Tappendorf and his wife Sarah were surprised to learn about after buying the building earlier this year. Tappendorf, for the last several years, had been interested in opening a venture of his own — a project to take on with his wife and four kids.
“I live about a mile and a half from (the schoolhouse),” he says. “We were going to a parent-teacher conference one day and I saw a realtor putting a sign up in the yard. I started thinking about it more and more and loved that corner and the building. At the time, the owners were using it as a house and decided to sell. So, I called the realtor that night, put an offer in and we got it.”
Tappendorf, who works for Simon Property Group, knows his fair share about the real estate industry. After purchasing the building, he originally decided they would rent the house out and he would work it as a landlord. But once Tappendorf started a few renovations to the home, he quickly came across exposed brick and realized the home might have been something else in the past.
“The more we got into this project, we started to understand the history of it,” he says. “I had no idea it was a schoolhouse.”
Tappendorf met with HSE Intermediate and Junior High School Principal Tim Mankin and was surprised to find that Mankin had an old binder full of history, report cards and old photographs from the schoolhouse in the 30s. The binder had been given to Mankin back in 2012 by George Underwood, who attended the school for seven years during his childhood. Sometime after the school closed in the 40s, it was purchased and used as a home.
“It was all really cool to see,” Tappendorf says. “That’s when the history started grabbing my attention and I thought, ‘This could be something really special.’ Back in 2006, the property was actually zoned as commercial. We thought about doing maybe a boutique or a daycare, something to put it to good use rather than just rent out for housing. The more I thought about it, none of those ideas really excited me. I decided that it needed to be a coffee shop. East Fishers does not have very much commercial. The focus has been downtown. It was a good opportunity for us to start something out here that is community-based. We decided to do a cafe and keep the schoolhouse name.”
Tappendorf even had the opportunity to meet with Underwood about the venture and get his opinion on everything they were doing with the former Schoolhouse. Underwood obliged and has provided helpful input for Tappendorf throughout the process.
Schoolhouse 7 Cafe officially opened August 23 to much excitement. Tappendorf fully committed to the idea and completely renovated the property. The cafe has first-floor seating for about 25 people, where food and coffee can be ordered. The second floor includes “spill-over” seating for those who want to use the space to study, work or have meetings. The upstairs seating also includes a community table big enough to seat 10 people. The table was created from the original floor joists salvaged from the schoolhouse.
“We have salvaged a lot of the original woodwork,” Tappendorf says. “The bar downstairs is made from all of the original floorboards to face up the bar. We’ve done a lot of reclaiming of the original wood for tables, the mantle and more.”
The outside includes a patio and a drive-thru for those looking to grab coffee on the go. The renovation also includes a two-story deck for patrons to enjoy in the summer and fall weather.
“We want this to be a place that people want to flock to,” Tappendorf says. “It will be a nice place to sit back and relax.”
Tappendorf has partnered with Brickhouse Coffee in Greenwood. Brickhouse will be supplying the beans for Schoolhouse 7 Cafe.
Brit Killinger, a local entrepreneur, caught word of Tappendorf’s venture and loved the idea and vision. The two decided to go into business together as co-owners.
Both Killinger and Tappendorf have made the cafe a truly family business. All four of Tappendorf’s children have roles, including 7-year-old Tyler, who wants to be a greeter at the doors, Ella, 9 years old, helps pick up and clean tables, while Aidan, 12 years old, will help with trash duties. Tappendorf’s oldest child, Brianna, 14, is a barista at the new cafe.
“The kids are all excited about their roles,” Tappendorf says. “[Brit and I] are both family men. The main title that I really want is dad. So, I’m excited to have this opportunity where I can involve my family and have them be a part of this on a daily basis. The Killingers share that same value system. Overall, we want to make sure people not only get a great cup of coffee but great service and a great atmosphere when they come here.”
Tappendorf has been hands-on with the project throughout the entire process, including driving some of the equipment himself to help get the outside patio and drive-thru completed. Along the way, he’s had some naysayers.
“Throughout the process, I’ve heard, ‘It’s not going to work. You can’t do it. It is too small of a site. You can’t get a drive-thru in Fishers,’” he says. “Those can’ts are what motivated me. I wanted to show my kids, too, that if you believe in something, you can make it work. We hope it’s a lasting landmark for a long time and a place that people enjoy coming to.”
Schoolhouse 7 Cafe is located at 12125 Cyntheanne Rd in Fishers. For more information, visit them online at schoolhouse7cafe.com.