Region residents should soon have an easier time getting their caffeine fix, since Gloria Jean’s Coffee is looking to open two to five more locations in Northwest Indiana.

The coffee shop chain, which was founded in Chicago in 1979 and is now owned by Australia-based Retail Food Group, has had a coffee shop and coffee kiosk in the Southlake Mall in Hobart for around 20 years. Now local franchisee Mike Alia is looking to open more standalone Gloria Jean’s coffee shops across the Region.

He's been scouting for real estate, and is especially interested in Valparaiso, somewhere near the Purdue University Northwest campus in Hammond, and the intersection of Indianapolis Boulevard and U.S. 30 in Schererville.

"I like the area. It's growing. It's a nice community," he said. "Coffee shops are the new social hangout, especially for college kids."

Business at the Southlake Mall has been strong in the 20 years he's operated there, except for a slowdown in 2007. Alia has gotten requests from customers to open a coffee shop closer to home for them, such as in Valpo or the Tri-Town.

Gloria Jean's offers more than a dozen flavored coffees such as Blueberry Sunrise and Pistachio Nut Coffee, seven non-flavored blends, roasted coffee beans for home brewing, and more than 15 Chiller frozen coffee drinks. Its largely mall-based coffee shops also carry espresso drinks like mochas and lattes that can be customized with flavored syrups like mint and caramel.

"We're known for our flavors," Gloria Jean's Coffees President Brian Balconi said.  

Gloria Jean's Coffees now has nearly 900 stores worldwide, and the new owner that acquired the brand for $163.5 million in 2014 is looking to grow the brand further through franchising. Franchisees can open a new Gloria Jean's coffee shop for between $185,000 and $485,000 in startup capital.

"We're popular in shopping centers, and are also looking to expand outside the mall," Balconi said.

The Chicago area, including Northwest Indiana, is a key market to the chain's national expansion plans.

"The brand is very strong there," Balconi said. "People have fond memories of Gloria Jean's. Back in 1979, we were offering gourmet specialty coffee before there was a coffee culture. It was a novel concept."

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.