Our Most Livable Small Towns: Pendleton
A surprisingly sweet Main Street makes this town past Geist a best-kept secret.
This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s July 2016 Small Towns package. For more on these cozy small towns, click here.
With its mix of historic preservation and of-the-moment businesses, Pendleton feels more like Meridian-Kessler than somewhere so far north on I-69. The centerpiece is Falls Park—more on that in a minute—but a short stroll from its chattering waterfall sits State Street and its smart, under-the-radar blend of lively storefronts in turn-of-the-century buildings. One of those houses the weekly Times-Post newspaper, which, trivia fans, was the first to run Jim Davis’s original strip, “Gnorm Gnat.” Falls Perk (zing!), a brick coffee shop, fills with locals and strollers and is nicely complemented by Quack Daddy Donuts, a newish (and enormous) bakery that balances its magnificent icings and toppings with sponsored races and fitness events. B’Dazzled boutique feels just as trendy as Indy’s Dottie Couture. The Bank Restaurant’s owner will tell you all about the historic namesake structure while you dig into the brownie a la mode, and just down the road, you’ll find an unlikely ethnic-food outpost, Pierogi in a Pinch.
The Story Shop, a content marketing firm started by locals Luke Renner and David Neidert, has grown to seven employees and has worked with the NFL. “It’s nice to be able to go to work but feel like you’re in a little bit of a burg,” Renner says. “Pendleton for years has had the antiques shops and thises and thats. But there are a lot of cool things coming on line.”
Charmed by Pendleton’s dignified red-brick downtown, it’s easy to forget that the place is home to three jails, including the federal Pendleton Correction Facility adjacent to (of all things) a golf course. “It’s fascinating to me that Pendleton hasn’t developed a reputation for the reformatories. The jail looks like Shawshank,” Renner says. “Some towns are prison towns. This one’s just not that way.”
Where’s your office?
Well, I work from home or Falls Perk, but my clients are large customers in Indy and Carmel.
How’s the drive to Indy?
If you time it right, it’s not bad at all.
What if you don’t time it right?
It’s challenging. But you learn the routes. You can go over to I-70, you can go Old Pendleton Pike—which, back in the old days, was the only way downtown. Or I-69.
Why stay up here?
It’s quiet at night, but there are still good restaurants. I basically take people to dinner for a living. Madison’s is my favorite. The salmon’s probably the best I’ve had. [Owners Summer Hellis and Daniel Stackpoole] bring in jazz piano players, and claim to have the largest Scotch collection in Indiana. The Wine Stable has music three or four nights a week.
What’s your house like?
Old house, 1875. If you go to Fishers, it’s addition, addition, addition. Here, there’s more countryside. There are only three or four subdivisions, so it’s not inundated with cookie-cutter homes. We are worried about the new Ikea and the traffic. But everybody has to have their Ikea.
Two words: Move fast. Mandee Sears at The Real Estate Pros of Keller Williams says their spring inventory was half what it was a year earlier, and houses will host a half-dozen word-of-mouth showings before hitting Zillow. More than a quarter of the town’s stock was built before 1940, and those downtown-adjacent homes run between $130,000 and $200,000. Thinking bigger (and newer)? Neighborhoods such as Hickory Hills East and Huntsinger Farms can reach the $300s.
Check It Out
Jimmie’s Dairy Bar scoops up critically acclaimed BBQ and tangerine ice cream with crunch coat (it tastes like an orange pushup) … Quack Daddy Donuts has beaten Indy’s fried-dough scene to the build-your-own-donut idea. Naked rings are iced and topped to order per a checklist that includes such ingredients as sea salt, coconut, and bacon … Outfitters clothed 945 students on free and reduced-lunch programs last year. Support the cause at the downtown block-party fundraiser on August 20.
How to Make Friends
Hang Out at Falls Park
The green space (299 Falls Park Dr., fallspark.org) acts as the de facto town center. In the mornings, it’s full of trail runners, pet parents, and folks sipping coffee, trying to work themselves into Monday, and on select summer Fridays, it shows outdoor movies. Bring extra popcorn to share.