The Women at 503 Wayne Street

Small businesses supporting each other is a beautiful thing. It builds community, it’s good for consumers, and it’s good for the local economy. It fights the mindset of scarcity, and makes space for abundance and collaboration. It’s a win-win…win-win-win. 


If you find this idea refreshing, you’ll want to pay a visit to 503 Wayne Street—where you’ll meet a collection of women–owned businesses housed together in a stunning historic building.  


The businesses at 503 operate separately, but with the mentality of a sisterhood. Their support for one another is infectious. What’s more, they share a core set of values that bind them even further. Their shared mission? To steward their clients’ well-being through creativity and healing acts of self-care. 


Here’s a look at the collection of women-owned businesses at 503 Wayne:


*Trigger warning: This article will briefly discuss a specific person’s experiences with sexual abuse.  

Hope Denton Photography — Boudoir, family, and wedding photography studio

Molly: What inspired you to start your business?


Hope Denton, owner: While I photograph some families and weddings, my main focus is boudoir. I empower women, help tell their stories, and watch them take back the confidence they’ve had stripped from them. It’s more difficult and personal than that, though. As a child, I was sexually abused. The abuse made me feel ways I can’t describe to someone who hasn’t experienced something similar. The people I reached out to for help thought I was “seeking attention.” It wasn’t until my abuser confessed later on that people saw how I was hurting, and how they had failed me. 


It took many years before I could fully forgive those who had wronged me—both through abuse and by the lack of help out of it or believing in what I said was true. Anyways, at the age of approximately 13 yrs old I was gifted my first camera. At the age of 21 I started photographing for friends and family. Eventually I stumbled into boudoir while at a photography conference. I felt how empowering that was when looking back at the images. There’s a lot more to this story but this is the gist of it.


Molly: I understand that there’s some serious synergy between you and the other women-owned businesses that share space with you on Wayne Street. What’s it been like having such compatible neighbors? 


Hope: I actually used to work with Stacy Harting before we both ventured into photography, so it’s really cool that we get to work next to each other again. even though our businesses are separate. As for the other women-owned companies, I adore that our building has such a healing energy about it. I empower women through boudoir, Stacy empowers new moms by photographing them and capturing their journey through motherhood, Indigo heals through her expression of art, and our massage therapists heal through their art of relaxing people’s bodies. I think we are a powerful group of women. And it’s a safe place for anyone.


Molly: What can visitors expect when they visit you?


Hope: A day of fun and healing. Most of my clients are nervous walking into the studio, but we strip down those blocks and quickly feel like old childhood friends. During hair and makeup, we talk and get to know one another, listen to music, and just laugh. When my clients return for the same day reveal session, or when we view their images, it can be emotional. Most of these women have never seen themselves in such beauty. It’s not uncommon for them to get teary eyed or even full-on cry. It’s a very healing experience throughout, but especially when we get to the reveal.


Molly: Why did you choose to be Downtown Fort Wayne?


Hope: It actually felt like it chose me. The building felt like a home—safe and welcoming. I wanted my clients to experience that feeling, too. As an added bonus, I already knew one of my co-renters inside from a previous place of employment.


Molly: Is there anything you want readers to know about you, your business, or this group of women-owned businesses?


Hope: The first step to healing is letting yourself. We can’t move forward with our lives if we don’t allow our trauma to just be a part of us, not the center of us.


To learn more about Hope Denton Photography, visit their Linktree

Indigo Studio All-ages arts & crafts studio + creative coaching

Molly: What inspired you to start your business?


Jennifer Zartman Romano, owner: I’ve always been creative and enjoyed doing a wide variety of arts and crafts. In the past couple of years, I’ve found that art is incredibly important to my well-being, and that it provides a powerful way to navigate difficult points in life, improving my physical, emotional, spiritual and overall well-being. I want to provide a place where people can explore art and enjoy the many benefits of including it in their lives. When I had the opportunity, with my family’s support, to open a brick and mortar art business, I jumped at the chance to pursue this dream.


Molly: I understand that there’s some serious synergy between you and the other women-owned businesses that share space with you on Wayne Street. What’s it been like having such compatible neighbors? 


Jennifer: It has been wonderful to be housed in a space that is so supportive and complementary. We are all doing something creative, and I respect all of them so much. Everyone watches out for each other, and we’re all genuinely interested in seeing each other thrive. It’s also nice to be co-located with other creatives and creative businesses. 


Molly: What can visitors expect when they visit you?


Jennifer: Our studio is a place where people of all ages and skill levels can experiment with a wide variety of arts and crafts. We are dedicated to providing a fuss-free, low stress environment to create and explore through art. We offer acrylic painted canvases, wood and ceramics, clay, jewelry, drawing, watercolor painting, paint pouring, weaving, resin, tie dye and more. In addition to walk-ins, we also have one-on-one creative coaching, during which we will help you schedule time and reach your creative goals. We also host birthday parties, special events, classes, workshops and children’s art camps!


We are always available by appointment, which can be booked through our website. I am hoping we can soon expand to offer walk-in times at our Fort Wayne studio. We currently offer select walk-in times at our Columbia City studio. 


At both of our studios, you can walk in and find a list of available projects, all the supplies needed, and experienced guidance to help you create a project. The pride and excitement our guests feel after creating a project is incredible. Also, we clean up the mess! That means all our guests can focus on trying something new and having fun.


Molly: Why did you choose to be Downtown Fort Wayne?


Jennifer: We were motivated to open a space in downtown Fort Wayne for a few reasons. First, there are a lot of exciting projects and development happening in downtown Fort Wayne, and we wanted to be close to all of that. Second, we have a lot of repeat customers from Fort Wayne, and we thought it would be great to be located somewhere they could visit easily. Third, Downtown Fort Wayne has demonstrated a great love of art and support for creativity, so it just made sense to be located in the heart of all of that.


Molly: Is there anything special you want readers to know about you, your business, or this group of women-owned businesses?


Just that there are wonderful, interesting and exciting things happening at 503. Our space has been connected to the arts in many ways over the years and it’s really exciting to be a part of that.


To learn more about Indigo Studio, check them out on FacebookInstagram, or visit their website!

Massage Connections Therapeutic massage and bodywork

Molly: What inspired you to start your business?


Ayla Hosler, owner: I enjoy healing and helping people! I truly believe in the benefits of massage therapy, and I am very passionate about my profession. I hope to grow as a company so that I can make a greater difference in people’s lives every day here in Fort Wayne!

As a massage therapist, I have worked for many different companies, from chiropractor offices to spas. When I was working for others, I learned a lot, but I always wanted to start my own business, so here I am. I feel blessed and grateful to be doing something I love for a living! 


Molly: Tell me about the synergy on Wayne Street. What’s it been like having such creative and compatible neighbors?


Ayla: It all comes down to respect, we all respect each other, and do what needs to be done around the business to keep it running smoothly. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to work with all women! We’re all truly talented business owners, and more importantly we’re all passionate about what we do! 


Molly: What can visitors expect when they visit you?


Ayla: Visitors can expect an entirely zen atmosphere as soon as they walk through the doors! All massages include optional hot towels and essential oils. They will be able to de-stress and disconnect while experiencing true relaxation and healing from start to finish. 

Molly: Why did you choose to be Downtown Fort Wayne?


Ayla: I chose downtown Fort Wayne because this is my home. I have lived in West Central for seven years now, and it’s a true joy to be able to work close to home. I absolutely love this neighborhood! 


Molly: Is there anything you want readers to know about you, your business, or this group of women-owned businesses?


Ayla: I want the readers to know that I am very passionate about what I do, and I care deeply about the well-being of the human body. I created the name, “Massage Connections” with the slogan, “dedicated to helping de-stress and disconnect every day,” because it seems that we are all connected to our devices daily, whether for work or pleasure, and the truth is, it’s not good for our bodies and minds!


Massage therapy is not just a luxury. It’s a necessity, a true way to completely de-stress and disconnect!


To learn more about Massage Connections, check them out on Facebook!

Stacy Harding Photography — Wedding, newborn, and family photography studio

Molly: What inspired you to start your business?


Stacy: I fell in love with photography on a whim. My husband gifted me an entry-level DSLR. At the time, I had a blog and he felt it could help me in growing my blog. I took a very simple online course to learn how to shoot my camera in manual-mode. A friend who knew I was taking the course asked if I would like to practice by taking her family photos. I happily obliged, and the rest is history. I posted that first “session” on my blog and from there I received so many inquiries from other’s wanting photos! My photography business wasn’t something that I had ever planned, but it grew so easily and organically on its own. I’m so happy it did! 

Molly: Tell me about owning a business in 503 Wayne. What’s it like having creative neighbors?

Stacy: It’s been great getting to know the girls and watching their businesses thrive. Though our paths don’t cross often (we’re all by-appointment businesses), we always try to support each other in business. We even recommend our clients to each other! It’s created a great synergy. 

Molly: What can visitors expect when they visit you?


Stacy: My hope is that my clients feel at home when they walk into my studio. I have two separate spaces: one space is where I do all of my shooting, and another space is where parents and siblings can come in and relax. While I encourage parents to hang out with us in our “shooting space” and experience how I work with their little ones, many take advantage of the space to relax! I’ve had many clients tell me that they loved their experience at the studio, and that it was really exciting to see how I work with newborns. 


Molly: Why did you choose to be Downtown Fort Wayne?


Stacy: I lived in the downtown FW area for 10 years. I would often pass this building during my drive home and I fell in love with it. I truly always dreamed of having a studio space inside. When I heard that a space was available, I jumped on the opportunity! I moved into my studio six and a half years ago. 


Molly: Is there anything special or important you want readers to know about you, your business, or this group of women-owned businesses?


Stacy: My main goal for my clients is for them to have timeless heirlooms that they can proudly display in their home and pass down to future generations. The saying “babies don’t keep” is so true, so I always want to document every feature of their little one. It’s something they can always look back on to remember just how little their child once was!


Another is that safety with newborns is my number one priority during every session. I’ve taken numerous courses, and I have assistants with me at every session, so that there are extra hands as an added assurance! I’ve done this for many years, and it’s become like second nature for me—many of my clients call me the “baby whisperer.” 


I’m also just so proud of my work. In 2018 I was named a Top Newborn Photographer in the World by Shoot & Share. I was also awarded as Fort Wayne’s Best by Fort Wayne Magazine in 2021. My work was featured in the Fort Wayne Museum of Art exhibit that year. It’s been a fun journey these past nine years! 


To learn more about Stacy’s work, check out her Facebook page. She’s also on Instagram, where you can find her wedding photography and newborn & family photography on separate accounts: WeddingsNewborns and Families


Photography by Stephen J. Bailey

Molly Conner is a Fort Wayne native and freelance writer. Having lived in Downtown Fort Wayne throughout her twenties, she loves watching her stomping grounds grow. With her love of storytelling and community in tow, she’s eager to tell Downtown Fort Wayne’s story piece-by-piece—exploring the people, spaces, and organizations that make it thrive.