HIGHLAND – Having roots in Highland and the community’s welcoming attitude have spurred several small business owners to open unique shops in Highland this past year.
Mary Ellis, co-owner of Primitive Peddler with her daughter Amy Siebenhaar, grew up, raised her family in Highland and was friends with the building’s owner, the late Dave Darnell. Her children and grandchildren live in the town.
Ellis was also drawn by the building’s rich history.
“Everything about it is original including the pictures on the history wall,” Ellis said. “One shows the original building in 1926 with men standing in front waiting for President Calvin Coolidge to dedicate Wicker Park.”
The restored original wood floor and an 1893 wagon which serves as the store’s centerpiece create an old-fashioned feel.
Opened at 2813 Jewett one year ago, Primitive Peddler has a Shipshewana-like atmosphere, Ellis said. Merchandise includes: replicas of antique furniture; luminary, bereavement and LED candles; Crossroads photos of the Amish; table accessories; berry garlands, wind chimes; and a large assortment of stars.
Within the next two weeks, Ellis said, they will sell handmade moisturizing hypoallergenic soaps for sensitive skin.
“I think everyone in Highland has been so warm and friendly,” Ellis said.
Open March 11 at 2014-45th St., Tasty Olive Company owners Al and Lynn Gandolfi, chose the location for its high traffic volume, ample parking and Highland’s community atmosphere.
Gandolfi said the store has received a good reception from the community.
“People are either really excited that we are here or they have never seen anything like it because you can taste all of our oils and balsamics,” Lynn Gandolfi said. “You can taste almost anything that we have in the store before you buy it.”
“The nuts and bolts of our business are our high-quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars,” Lynn Gandolfi said.
Tasty Olive Company also carries handmade pastas from Italy, biscotti made locally in Munster and a few specialty items like spices and sea salts and olives.”
On Saturday, July 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tasty Olive Company and The Gourmet Goddess join together to share some fun and easy appetizers that can be re-created for summer parties. The appetizers will feature wild mushroom and sage, basil, garlic, Tuscan herb and lemon balsamic.
Located at 2008 Porte De L’eau Plaza, Yoga on 45th opened April 22.
Co-owners Allison Haugh and Rose Oprisko previously taught yoga at another location. When that owner “changed directions,” Haugh and Oprisko decided to look for a place to bring their students.
They chose the store’s location for its size and proximity to 45th Avenue.
“It was facing onto 45th, had good exposure and the landlords worked well with us,” Oprisko said.
Oprisko said her business has been well-received by the community.
“Lots of people come through and are really happy we are here,” Oprisko said. “There isn’t another yoga place near the area.”
Oprisko said Yoga on 45th offers yoga classes, from beginning to advanced levels in a safe, friendly environment with friendly instructors.
“We offer a class that is suitable for more advanced students and teachers wishing to take their asana practice to a higher level,” Oprisko said.
RSO Jewelry, which stands for Robert Stephen Originals, offers custom-made jewelry. RSO, which opened in November, is located in Highland’s downtown at 2647 Highway Avenue. Robert Hansen said he and his co-owner wife Avarie both grew up in Highland. It is where they live and are raising their children.
“We liked the downtown and we wanted to be part of bringing more business there,” Robert Hansen said.
RSO specializes in custom designed and hand-made jewelry.
“People appreciate getting custom repairs and getting custom pieces made,” Hansen said. “We get a lot of positive comments on our overall style and look.”
Robert Hansen said his business has received a good reception from the community.
“A lot of people like the fact we are here,” Robert Hansen said.
Avarie Hansen said business has been good especially now that the downtown is very artsy with a blend of established and new businesses.
“People can bring in something that was special to them that they would not walk into your usual jewelry store with - their turquoise bracelet that they got on their honeymoon in Mexico five years ago,” Avarie Hansen said. “They don’t think it is worth it. When in reality it is worth it because it is what they love. It is completely subjective. It is all about what you love. It is not about what it is made of or how much it costs. It is about who gave it to you and where you got it. They walk out of here with just the biggest smile on their faces.”
The Comfy Couch, owned by Julie Glenn, moved from another Highland location to the downtown at 2631 Highway Ave. in 2012.
A Highland resident, Glenn thought the downtown location would be a great place for her furniture consignment business.
“It was partially because there are the Bible Missions Thrift Store and Paws Humane Society Resale Shop downtown,” Glenn said. “Like Crown Point with all its antique stores, I thought it would be nice to have a grouping of consignment and thrift stores that people would be able to go to.”
“People are happy we are here bringing retail life to the downtown,” Glenn said.
The Comfy Couch is a 5,000 square foot consignment shop selling used furniture, everything from kitchen tables to dining room tables, couches, love seats, chairs, outdoor furniture and other household items.
“We have everything decorated in little vignettes,” Glenn said. “We have a lot of household items including florals and candles, sconces, pictures and kitchen items.”
Comfy Couch carries some small electronics like electric can openers.
“Everything that you need for your home we have,” Glenn said. “It is just previously owned.”
Glenn said consignment furniture tend to be better quality items which people don’t want to throw away or donate because there is a lot of life left in them.