South Shore CVA announces final Faces of Tourism

2013-07-31T16:23:00Z South Shore CVA announces final Faces of TourismNicki Mackowski-Gladstone | Vice President and Communication Officer for the South Shore CVA

HAMMOND | The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority has announced the final six individuals of their 30 Faces of Tourism campaign.

This week’s group includes U.S. Congressman Pete Visclosky; Josh Halpern, president of Albert’s Jewelers; Matt Valuckis, Whiting Pierogi Fest’s Mr. Pierogi; Gordan “Big Daddy” Biffle, owner of Big Daddy’s BBQ; Nicole Bissonnette, owner of Bistro 157 and Venue by Bistro and co-owner of Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill and Tavern; and Joe Frasca, vice president and general manager of Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza.

Since proposing the Marquette Plan in June, 1985, Congressman Pete Visclosky has established and actively pursued it in order to restore and revitalize up to 75 percent of Indiana's Lake Michigan shoreline for public use. The Marquette Plan is designed to make our region more attractive to current and future residents, businesses, and visitors by improving the quality of life in Northwest Indiana.

Josh Halpern started working in the family store in East Chicago cleaning up, changing watch batteries and cleaning the bathrooms. After graduating from Ball State University in 1995 and studying entrepreneurship, Halpern worked with his father. With things having worked well for six months, Halpern attended the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, California, where he earned his certification as a gemologist. In 2010, he became the president of Albert’s Diamond Jewelers. Halpern and the Albert’s team contribute an enormous amount of work to different charities.

Matt Valuckis has been entertaining crowds at the Whiting Pierogi Fest as Mr. Pierogi since 1996. He loves being a part of the festival, meeting people from around the world during the fest (including visitors from Australia, China, Norway and Italy) and helping to keep the Eastern European heritage alive.

What began as a barbecue tent at the Market City Flea Market in Gary, Indiana, in 2008, has grown into popular restaurant Big Daddy’s BBQ. In the spring of 2009, Gordon (Big Daddy) Biffle leased and renovated an old office space to open his restaurant, generating so much business that less than a year later he was able to expand the restaurant and lease the property next door. On Wednesday, July 31, Big Daddy’s BBQ will open a second location in Hammond.

Chef Nicole Bissonnette acts as head chef, restaurant and catering manager for her restaurant, Bistro 157, and her catering and event planning business, Venue by Bistro, both located in Valparaiso. Bissonnette also joins her husband, Gary Sanders, as co-owner of Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill & Tavern in Beverly Shores. Between the three popular businesses, and balancing time with her family, Bissonnette works hard to keep family a priority while delivering visitors a superior experience at the restaurants.

Joe Frasca has 30 years of diverse experience in the hospitality industry, the last 14 years at the executive level with White Lodging. Since early 2010, Frasca has served as vice president and general manager of White Lodging’s charter hotel, the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza. In this role, Frasca has overseen the repositioning of the hotel from an operational and marketing perspective. This has resulted in significant improvement in key result areas of the hotel.

To celebrate their 30th anniversary, the South Shore CVA will be releasing information on the 30 Faces of Tourism. The 30 Faces of Tourism are individuals who have highly impacted the hospitality and tourism industry along the South Shore. For more information on these individuals, or to learn the stories of the other Faces of Tourism, visit

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