BARGERSVILLE, Ind. -- A once quiet, farming community about 30-40 minutes south of downtown Indianapolis is now a bustling town.
"It's one of the fastest growing communities in the state of Indiana," said Dan Cartwright, the Town Manager for Bargersville. He adds that it's the quickest growing community in Johnson County today, "Bargersville is booming."
At the corner of State Road 135 and State Road 144, a bright-colored building welcomes families inside to the smells of bacon, eggs and biscuits and gravy.
"We want to be a place where you can come in and have a good time with your friends and family," says co-owner of The Grove Cafe, Tristan Bufkin. The young entrepreneur just celebrated a year in business with his father.
The pair renovated this space during the pandemic and leaned in to their local roots when preparing the menu.
"We have a Trayce Jackson-Davis tenderloin," Bufkin says, celebrating the Center Grove and IU basketball standout, who is now heading to the NBA.
Bufkin says they recently expanded their business hours and offerings thanks to acquiring their alcohol permit, so they can serve alcoholic beverages to patrons.
"Once we had our liquor license, we started seeing more customers coming in," says Bufkin.
These alcohol permits that allow restaurants and bars to serve customers are determined based on the population size of different communities across the state of Indiana.
It is a quota system, and the availability for these types of permits is often limited.
According to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, each county has a quota set in place to determine the number of liquor licenses available in each community. The quotas are determined by the official population sizes verified by the U.S. Census.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, the Town of Bargersville had a population size of 4,013 people.
In recent years, the town has annexed more land and also applied for a riverfront permit, which opens the doors for more of these permits to become available.
The population itself has also surged.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2020, Bargersville had grown to a population of 9,570 people.
It continues to grow at a rapid pace.
Cartwright says the town estimates that today, it has approximately 12,000 residents and that around 800 home sites sit ready to be built on.
"That's a bunch of homes," says Cartwright. "So we gotta work, concentrate on the amenities for these people."
Cartwright says that the town leadership is very pro-growth, but there needs to be plans in place to accommodate this population surge. He's been in this position about a year, and says the town has been following and implementing a comprehensive plan for growth, and they are looking several years into the future.
"You gotta think the big picture and long term," says Cartwright.
According to the town's website, Bargersville is committed to growth and progress but not at the expense of its tight-knit community life.
One of the amenities the town is working to improve is walk-ability and access to parks.
The Town recently established their first parks department and is in the process of opening Kephart Park, which sits along State Road 144 and County Rd. 450 North.
This new community park will feature 8 pickleball courts, a large playground, splash pad, shelters and walking trails. It was partially funded by a crowd sourcing campaign matched by a grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.
In addition to the new parks department, the town is working on several major infrastructure projects like paving projects, wells, sanitary lift stations, and a new water tower.
The town is in the process of creating more walk-ability into the downtown area and around neighborhoods and increasing access to parking downtown.
There are also plans in place for Umbarger Plaza with a stage and green space for community concerts and events.
"Some of our expansion in the town may go into areas that have never been developed, and that will create more parking," says Cartwright. "We are spending millions of dollars in preparation for the growth."
Some of the revenue for parks projects and also road construction improvements come from fees that businesses have to pay, called Impact Fees.
According to the Johnson County Highway Department website, rapid growth in communities can stress the existing infrastructure and improvements to roads may need to be made to accommodate growing populations.
In partnership with the county, Bargersville implemented these Impact Fees in 2021. Indiana Code allows for these types of fees, but the revenue generated must address future infrastructure issues caused by rapid growth, not fixing existing issues.
Cartwright says the town is continuing to look at these fees and how assessments are done, but says the Impact Fees are not discouraging developers.
"We have people calling here, businesses and developers, wanting to come to Bargersville," says Cartwright. "It's a unique position, because everyone wants to be in Bargersville."
Over the past 6 months, several businesses have opened along main thoroughfares in the town as well as right in the main downtown area, adding to the amenities for the growing population.
Cartwright says in the past, Bargersville is what you would call a "bedroom community" where people live and sleep, but then they travel outside of town for work and play.
That could start to change as more commerce comes to town.
Three of the newest concepts in downtown Bargersville belong to husband and wife duo, Nathan and Leah Huelsebusch.
The pair are behind Taxman Brewing Company, which got its start in Bargersville several years ago. The concept came from their time living in Europe and wanting to bring Belgian style beer to their new community. The brewpub and names of beverages are based on Nathan's past occupation in International Taxes.
Taxman Breweries can now be found in Fortville and also at CityWay in downtown Indy.
But Bargersville and it's unique opportunities for business growth brought the couple back to their old stomping ground to create their 3 newest businesses.
"We've always wanted to do more in Bargersville," says Nathan. "I think the timing worked out really well."
Nathan and Leah are drawn to old buildings in town, and typically use existing structures to create their spaces, each with their own identities.
Pizza and Libations or P&L is an artisan pizza and craft cocktail space taking over the old Bargersville Bar and Grill location, which is more commonly known by locals at Red's.
The pair saw the space and worked to bring it new life, as well as the neighboring Masonic Lodge, which became a separate project.
Cellar's Market in that space is a bakery and bottle shop with artisan goods on store shelves and gelato.
The concept reminds Leah of how smaller shops in some European communities supported neighbors and helped people shop local.
"I think we saw how the communities kind of depended on each other," says Leah. "I think it keeps people in the community and allows it to blossom."
Above that space is Up Cellar, a modern steakhouse and wine bar.
Nathan says he hopes the increased foot traffic and amenities in town will help drive people to checkout Bargersville.
"How can we kind of cultivate a main street that has foot traffic," says Nathan, looking to places like nearby Franklin with its bustling downtown business community.
Where there isn't foot traffic, Bargersville is getting a new boost of activity and interest after the opening of the new interstate 69 on the west end of town.
The interchange at State Road 144 welcomes travelers into the downtown area and can quickly connect them to other main thoroughfares like State Road 135.
That's where a new business is in bloom.
"We have everything from patio furniture, shrubs, trees," says McKella Marsh, manager of Mrs. T's Home and Garden by Sundown Gardens.
The landscape company already has a location in Westfield in Hamilton County, but the owners looked through several options when picking their second location.
The population growth and interstate access made Bargersville a top choice for a south side spot.
"We saw this land and how it was growing in a short amount of time," says Marsh. "It's just going to be easier and easier for people to get to us."
Marsh and her husband Sam are natives to Greensburg and recently moved to Bargersville as the business is going up on the east side of State Road 135.
"I live in Bargersville," says Marsh, who says it has been an easy adjustment and that the community has welcomed them. "It's kind of that small town feel."
This is the balance town officials have to weigh when it comes to rapid growth and preserving agricultural roots.
If you want to learn more about future projects and the status of many of these improvement projects, you can head to the town's website at https://bargersville.in.gov/ which was recently re-branded.
FAST FACTS on Bargersville:
- Bargersville was platted in the year 1850 by Jefferson Barger.
- Bargersville is served by both the Center Grove Community School Corporation and Franklin Community Schools.
- The Bargersville Fire Department serves a much larger area, 71 square miles of both Johnson and Morgan Counties.
- The Bargersville Police Department was the first police department in the country to utilize an all-electric Tesla in its fleet.