Porkchop, a Chicago-based chain specializing in barbecue and southern comfort food, didn't last a year at the Southlake Mall in Hobart.
The trendy BBQ joint, an “urban interpretation of a Southern backwoods experience," has closed its eatery near the mall entrance by the JCPenney store at the mall at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street. It opened the 4,200-square-foot location there in early December.
The restaurant chain, which also has locations in the South Loop, West Loop, Hyde Park and Bolingbrook, did not immediately respond to messages. Porkchop, which promises "pretty damn good barbecue" and "some of the world's top whiskey," also closed its south suburban location in Glenwood last month.
Porkchop served items like pulled pork sliders, ribs, smoked wings, shrimp po’ boy, chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, elote and, of course, pork chops made-to-order in a casual setting. The "unapologetically unpretentious neighborhood party spot" featured hip decor, including a minimalist logo of a butcher's guide to different pig parts.
Both the Southlake Mall and Glenwood locations got some scathing reviews online, including about service, wait times and the lack of a hostess to seat diners. The Hobart location got 2.5 stars with many one-star reviews on both Yelp and Open Table.
Southlake Mall spokeswoman Kristi Jackson said there were no immediate replacements lined up for Porkchop, which occupied a prime location facing the heavily trafficked U.S. 30. The mall also will soon have to grapple with the closing of the bankrupt Carson's department store, which has been an anchor at the mall for decades.
NWI Business Ins and Outs
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Once upon a Child, Verona Pizza, and Octave Grill reopen
Last June, a fire that started at Colonial Cleaners in Valparaiso ended up ravaging through the Thornapple Plaza strip mall on U.S. 30, displacing a half dozen businesses, including Salon Diva, Porter County Pet Clinic, and Once upon a Child.
After a year of picking up the pieces and working through an insurance claim, the children's clothing resale shop Once upon a Child, a favorite with local parents and especially foster parents, has reopened at a new location about 1.3 miles east on the state highway.
"It was a total loss," said Tina Williams, who owns the store with her sons Kevin Hutnick and Kris Williams. "Everything was smoke-damaged, burned or water damaged."
An operator belt caught fire in Colonial Cleaners and the only employee in the establishment ran out after a fire broke out.
"It was devastating," Williams said. "I was in Oklahoma and my son called and asked if I was sitting down and then told me the store's on fire right now. Luckily, no one was hurt but it was still pretty debilitating."
Once upon a Child served the Valparaiso community for nine years, but had to decide whether to renew the franchise for another 10 years.
"The nicest thing is we've gotten to know our customers and watch their kids grow big," she said. "It's heart-warming."
Once upon a Child asked customers for donations so it could reopen, and 300 families turned out and filled bins to restock the inventory.
"I had the business phone transferred to my home thinking it would only be a short time until the building was reopened," Williams said. "Although it took us nearly a full year, that phone never stopped ringing — even in the middle of the night. We really felt we were letting the community and foster families that we serve down. But the outpouring of support from the 300-plus families who generously helped us restock our store in the first two days after reopening was beyond comprehension. That solidified how grateful we are to be part of such a tight-knit community."
Now the resale store has reopened at 201 E. Morthland Drive by the popular Viking Chili Bowl diner.
"The silver lining was finding this location," she said. "It's a better location that's more visible and it's right next to the Viking Chili Bowl, a good thriving business where the parking lot is always full."
The new store is 6,000-square-feet and includes an on-site storage room where they can keep overstock like Halloween costumes or winter coats until they're in season again. There's all new inventory, a new design and new technology, where customers looking to sell used kids' clothes enter their driver's license number and get an automatic text message when the cash offer is ready.
"It's been an incredible journey," she said. "We learned what to do and what not to do to come back after such a devastating fire."
Once upon a Child is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-531-9000, visit onceuponachildvalparaiso.com or find the business on Facebook and Instagram.
Verona Pizza VII, also forced to close because of Thornapple Plaza fire last June, reopened its doors at the end of July.
The pizzeria reopened at the same spot as before, at 1689 Morthland Dr. in Valparaiso.
"Big thanks to all of our customers, all who have donated, family and friends for your support in making this reopening happen," Verona Pizza posted on its Facebook page. "The entire Verona staff welcomes you back with open arms."
Verona Pizza VII, part of a local chain that also has locations in Hammond, Highland and Portage, offers pizza, pasta and sandwiches for dining in, delivery and carryout. The restaurant has an outdoor patio, live music and beer and wine.
For more information, call 219-707-5429 or visit www.veronapizza7.com.
Octave Grill, the popular hipstery Chesterton restaurant that specializes in gourmet Tallgrass Beef burgers and craft beer, has moved to a larger location at 137 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton, where people won't have to wait outside on the sidewalk to get in and can now get carryout.
Owners Sylvia and Casey Petro moved the restaurant a block north in a former real estate office across from Thomas Centennial Park, where they hope some diners will choose to picnic during the warmer months.
The new restaurant has about 15 more seats in the dining room and a bar with eight seats where diners can wait for a table. There's an additional beer tap to add to Octave's carefully curated craft beer options and more kitcken space that will allow the restaurant to accommodate takeout orders."
"The kitchen was really tiny," Sylvia Petro said. "It has the same feel as the old space. Our customers have always hoped we'd get bigger."
NWI Business Ins and Outs: El Salto, Octave Grill relocating
El Salto Mexican Restaurant and Cantina is the latest restaurant to open in Munster's new Centennial Village development on Calumet Avenue and 45th Street, which has been emerging as a major dining hub in west Lake County.
The locally opened Mexican restaurant chain, which has six locations across Northwest Indiana, moved its "authentic, delicious Mexican cuisine" about a mile-and-half south down Calumet Avenue. El Salto, known for traditional Mexican fare like tacos, flauta, enchiladas, tostadas and quesadillas, had been located at the historic brick Old Town Hall at Calumet Avenue and Ridge Road in Munster for 13 years.
"It was time for us to move to a new location," owner Robert Mendoza said. "It's a new place and we figured Centennial Village would be the place to be. It's a place where people are going to be going. It's going to be a hangout."
El Salto joins The Simple Greek, Kitara Surf & Turf & Sushi and the forthcoming Harvest Room in the new development, which also will eventually include residential units.
Its new restaurant at 9611 Calumet Ave. in Munster is about the same size as the previous location with about 150 to 160 seats. But El Salto added a patio with about 25 more seats outside, a private area that seats up to 30 and has a larger bar that seats about 15 to 18, and has 16 beers on tap instead of two.
"It has a big beautiful bar while the old place had a small tiny bar," Mendoza said. "It's very elegant. We plan to do a new drink menu with more margaritas, tequila drinks and martinis."
The bar also will be open late on weekends and sometimes host live music after hours.
"We might make a few changes on the menu," Mendoza said. "But it's the same place with the same food. We expect our loyal customers will follow us and to gain a few more new customers."
A grand opening is planned at 5 p.m. Aug. 10. There will be a mariachi band and food deals all day.
El Salto is closed on Monday and open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219.836.0600 or visit elsaltorestaurant.com
Octave Grill, the beloved burger restaurant in Chesterton, temporarily closed while relocating to a new space at 105 S. Calumet Road.
Named after early aviation pioneer Octave Chanute, who flew a glider that inspired the Wright Brothers on the Indiana Dunes, the eatery serves up creative, gourmet burgers made with Tallgrass Beef from newscaster Bill Kurtis, whose company supplies premium grass-fed beef.
The chef-driven burgers are topped with high-end ingredients. The Figgy Piggy burger, for instance, features fig jam, capriole organic goat cheese, bacon and greens. The Jerk Store, a nod to "Seinfeld," includes seared jerk-dredged chicken, giardiniera, Saxon smoked gouda, lemon aioli, greens, tomato and onion on a french roll.
There's a rotating burger of the month, craft beer and menu offerings like sweet potato tater tots, goat cheese fondue, blistered edamame and perch cakes.
For more information, visit www.octavegrill.com or find the Octave Grill on Facebook.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Tzatziki Greek Street Food, Coffee Cabin, ALDI open
A Greek restaurant in Hammond has gone from a sit-down eatery to a fast-casual place that specializes in the type of street food one could find in Athens.
The Stuffed Pepper at 7231 Indianapolis Blvd. is now Tzatziki Greek Street Food, a Chipotle-style restaurant where diners can customize pitas, salads and bowls with proteins like Greek-style gyros, Greek-American gyros, chicken gyros and salmon, and sauces like hummus, tirokafteri, htipiti and the namesake tzatziki cucumber sauce.
"We went from tableside service to fast-casual," manager Andrew Holevas said. "It's like when you walk into a Chipotle, it's all in the counter in front of you. We have the type of gyros you'd find on the street of Athens, with pork, pork bellies, not the ground beef and lamb they serve in the states."
Holevas said the restaurant was closed and reopened with the new concept to cut costs, since it wasn't bringing in enough traffic to support a sit-down operation.
Tzatziki Greek Street Food still serves many of the old Stuffed Pepper favorites, including kebobs, lemon rice soup, moussaka, pastitsio, dolmades and spanakopita.
"Everything is homemade, which is the big different between us and a chain restaurant," he said. "We have fresh-squeezed lemonade and fries that are hand-cut right in front of you and thrown into the deep fryer."
For more information, call 219-803-0273 or visit www.facebook.com/tzatzikigreek/.
Coffee Cabin, the woodsy gourmet drive-through coffee shop that's been caffeinating motorists on U.S. 30 in Schererville, is now going to give shoppers in Highland a jolt.
A Coffee Cabin has opened inside the Highland Meijer at 10138 Indianapolis Blvd..
Coffee Cabin offers an array of coffees, blended coffees, espresso drinks, teas, smoothies and fresh-baked pastries. It had plans to open as many as 15 Pacific Northwest-style drive-through coffee stands when the Schererville location first opened in 2015.
For more information, visit www.coffeecabin.com.
ALDI has reopened in Merrillville after extensive renovations.
The no-frills discount German chain that makes customers use quarters to liberate shopping carts overhauled its store at 10 W. 81st Ave. ALDI is in the middle of spending $1.9 billion on renovations to 1,300 stores nationwide, including more than 130 stores in Chicago and Northwest Indiana by 2020.
“Our remodeled store layout will simplify the shopping experience for customers, so they can get out the door with everything they need,” said David Zalunardo, Valparaiso division vice president for ALDI. “We’re excited to unveil these changes in a great market like Merrillville, where we already have passionate, loyal customers.”
The new layout features open ceilings, natural light and environmentally friendly building materials, according to the retailer. The new design puts more emphasis on fresh food, produce, dairy and baked goods.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Kali Beauty, cupcake shop, smartphone repair shop open
Kali Beauty aims to make the Region look its best after opening a new store in Schererville.
The family-owned retail chain, "where beauty gets done," is located at 1036 U.S. 41 next to Planet Fitness in Schererville. Founder and CEO Rasem Isa hopes eventually to make the retailer, which offers a wide array of cosmetic products for hair, skin and nails, a household name.
The 8,600-square-foot store, which opened last, features The Beauty Bar, a full-service Paul Mitchell Focus salon owned by Schererville native Danette Gorelick.
Kali Beauty also has locations in Hammond and Lansing and prides itself on customer service and "having a run, positive atmosphere."
"Kali Beauty caters to both women and men as well as ethnicities of all backgrounds, citing that each have unique needs," the company said in a press release. "Each Kali Beauty retail store hosts a private full-service salon, featuring hair, skin and brow services. Kali Beauty offers their customers with a catalog of over 6,000 beauty products. Kali Beauty has what you need to live beautifully."
A grand opening in Schererville is planned for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 4. The new store is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 844-742-2244 or visit kalibeauty.com.
Now you can satisfy your sweet tooth while shopping at a chic boutique in downtown Griffith.
Cute as a Cupcake! Cupcakery & Bake Shop in Merrillville has opened an express location inside the Bee & Me boutique at 100 S. Broad St. in Griffith.
The cupcakery offers 20 different types of cupcakes a day in the store at the corner of Broad and Main streets, as well as cupcake pops and "cutie cupcakes" served in mason jars so they can be more easily transported in a purse or shopping bag.
Michelle Wainwright founded the business in 2015 after she was laid off after 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry. She initially sold cupcakes at local farmers markets, then got a kiosk at the Southlake Mall before opening a standalone brick-and-mortar location at 2008 W. 81st Ave. in Merrillville and launching a food truck that travels to various Region festivals.
All the cupcakes are made from scratch, using recipes from Wainwright's 91-year-old grandmother. Top sellers include red velvet, turtle, strawberry eclair and Dutch caramel apple.
"Our customers like that they're always baked from scratch," she said. "We have 30 different flavors at the main store, including vegan and gluten-free options because we understand people here have different lifestyles and dietary needs."
The new express location in Griffith will have its own counter with pre-packaged cupcakes people could either sit and enjoy in seating next to a child's play area or take home. It also will offer bottled water and pop.
"We want to try a store within a store, like a Starbucks inside a Target," she said. "It's a collaboration between two women business owners bringing two businesses to the same location in Griffith, where we can both hopefully take advantage of the same customer."
Waitwright has been approached about franchising Cupcake! Cupcakery & Bake Shop and is looking to eventually expand.
"The economy is growing in Northwest Indiana, and demand is growing for cupcakes," she said.
Cute as a Cupcake's Griffith express store is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call 219-472-0858 or visit cuteasacupcake3.com.
uBreakiFix opened at 4357 Franklin St. in Michigan City, its third Northwest Indiana location after Portage and Schererville.
As the name implies, the growing tech repair company fixes smartphones, tablets, game consoles, drones and even hoverboards. Its technicians fix cracked screens, broken cameras, software glitches and other technical problems.
Owners Angelo and Alexandra Giannakopoulos plan four more locations across Northwest Indiana and the south suburbs.
“Michigan City is a wonderful area with a great trade community,” Angelo Giannakopoulos said. “We recognized a tremendous need for professional, reliable tech repair in Michigan City and beyond, and we look forward to filling that gap by becoming the go-to tech repair resource for local businesses and consumers.”
uBreakiFix has been growing fast since it was founded in 2009 and ranked 18th on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list.
“At uBreakiFix, our goal is to take the hassle of a broken device and create the most positive, convenient experience possible for our customers,” said Justin Wetherill, one of the founders. “We are a customer service company first, and a tech repair company second. As we expand into Michigan City, we look forward to becoming the trusted resource to keep consumers and businesses connected to the things and people who matter most.”
The Michigan City store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 219-221-6696 or visit ubreakifix.com/locations/MichiganCity.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Food Network-featured cupcake shop, Taco Bell, pho restaurant opening
Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery, which has been featured on the Food Network and The View, plans to bring a wide array of cupcakes and ice cream flavors to Schererville, and perhaps later to Crown Point.
Local Gloria Jean's franchisee Raed Naser, his wife Noor Musleh, his brother and their family plan to open a Smallcakes in early November next to the new Buona Beef in the Shoppes on the Boulevard strip mall on Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville.
The 1,500-square-foot cupcakery and ice cream parlor at 336 Indianapolis Boulevard will seat 12 customers and employ at least seven people, who will come in as early as 3 a.m. to bake 18 different flavors of cupcakes and hand-make 14 different kinds of ice cream.
"There are never the exact same flavors, except for signature flavors like red velvet, peanut butter cup, wedding cake, birthday cake and chocolate fudge," Raed Naser said. "The flavors are different every single day and we never sell leftovers — they're all donated to charity."
The franchise now has more than 200 locations worldwide, including one in Carmel and one in Orland Park. The Schererville location would be the second in Indiana. It will sell gourmet cupcakes for about $3.60 as well as "ice cream smashes" in which the cupcakes are served a la mode.
"Hopefully, sometime we'll be able to open another store in Crown Point," he said. "It has cupcakes and ice cream, so it's not a seasonal business. There's a dessert for everyone year round."
Those who Live Mas or Think Outside the Bun can soon make a "run for the border" near the Indiana/Illinois state border.
A new Taco Bell is under construction on U.S. 30 just east of the McDonald's restaurant at 915 Joliet St., not far from the Taco Bell that closed a few years ago at U.S. 30 and Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville.
The California-based Tex-Mex chain known for its inexpensive approximation of Mexican food, which is especially popular with teenagers and people returning home from bars, is building a 2,053-square-foot eatery with a drive-through for $1.3 million. Dyer Building Clerk Maureen Decresenzo said the fast food restaurant will have a capacity of 40 seats and a patio that could seat another 12.
Pho Hoa + Jazen Tea will have a grand opening July 27 and 28 at 1101 N. Main St. in Crown Point.
The fast-casual Vietnamese street food restaurant will employ about 25 workers and seat 60 in its 5,000-square-foot eatery. For its grand opening it will offer buy-one-get-one-free pho soups and Jazen Tea fruit and milk teas, as well as give the first 1,000 customers coupons for free teas if they buy a regular pho soup in August.
The restaurant will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. through 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-323-3118 or visit www.phohoa.com.
Wally's Gyros at 7343 Indianapolis Boulevard in Hammond's Woodmar neighborhood is no more.
The gyros joint in south Hammond served a wide array of fast foods, including chicken wings, fried fish, burritos and Philly cheese steaks. It opened in 2015.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Tequila and Tacos opens in Miller, Region's first floating studio open in Schererville
A long-awaited Mexican restaurant is serving up tacos and pouring many varieties of tequila "less than five minutes from the beach" in Gary's lakefront Miller neighborhood.
The straightforwardly named Tequila and Tacos, where you get exactly what's advertised, opened at 642 S. Lake St., where the short-lived Brasserie coffee shop used to be. The Tequila and Tacos signage had been on the storefront for months and months before the restaurant finally threw open the doors to its tequila bar and taco kitchen.
Tequila and Tacos' menu includes a variety of tacos, including steak, shrimp, salmon, jerk, barbacoa and vegetarian, as well as appetizers like guacamole, empanadas and wings. It carries a number of high-end tequilas and other liquors, and whips up specialty cocktails like the Tequila Oasis, the Matador, the Mexican Moscow Mule, the Sidecar and the Kentucky Sunrise.
Tequila and Tacos is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, from 12 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-939-7136 or find it on Facebook.
Say what you will about Northwest Indiana, it no longer lacks a flotation and sensory deprivation studio.
St. John resident Gloria Morris opened a Float Sixty — the sort of amenity that's more commonly found in places like Chicago, Los Angeles or Nashville — at 322 Indianapolis Blvd. in Schererville in a professional complex across from Omni Health & Fitness back in March. Clients there chill out in shallow flotation tanks that are filled with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts that give them buoyancy.
Float spas have caught on as a wellness concept in bigger cities, as they calm people and give them the opportunity to relax in a technologically overloaded age by reducing outside sensory stimulation as much as possible. People can completely unplug for an hour as they gently bob in about a foot of water, with or without light and music, depending on whether they find total darkness to be relaxing.
The Float Sixty float and cryotherapy studio is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and reservations are strongly recommended.
For more information, call 844-356-2860 or visit www.floatsixty.com.
Rosati's, the Chicago-style pizzeria that opened its first location in Mount Prospect in 1964, continues to grow across the Region.
Rosati's recently opened a sit-down restaurant in Cedar Lake at 13125 Lake Shore Dr., right across from the lake. The sports pub offers dining in, take-out and delivery of pizzas, pastas, calzones, wings, sandwiches, salads and appetizers. Pizza options include thin crust, deep dish and gluten free.
The chain, which has been franchising since 1978, also recently opened a carryout and delivery-focused location at 332 Indianapolis Blvd. in Schererville.
Rosati's also operates restaurants in Dyer, Hobart, Crown Point and on U.S. 30 in Schererville.
The new Cedar Lake and Schererville restaurants are open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The Schererville location can be reached at 219-440-7943, and the Cedar Lake restaurant can be reached at 219-267-8700.
Dollar General reopened its store at at 2828 Central Ave. in Lake Station after extensive renovations that include an updated layout and design.
The Tennessee-based company, which offers prices as low as $1 on food, housewares, cleaning supplies, health products and other sundries, expanded its frozen and refrigerated grocery options in Lake Station.
“Through our ongoing commitment to provide a pleasant shopping experience to our customers, we are excited to welcome the community to see our recently remodeled located in Lake Station,” said Dan Nieser, Dollar General’s senior vice president of real estate and store development. “We hope our customers enjoy the fresh layout and design, as well as the new product assortment including produce and expanded food assortments.”
The store is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information, call 219-962-6173.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Kate Spade opens in Michigan City, The Cave and River Oaks Theaters razed
Kate Spade, the iconic fashion designer known for "It" handbags and fun, colorful, bright designs, tragically took her own life last month, but the retail giant she built is still growing nationwide.
A Kate Spade outlet store recently opened at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in downtown Michigan City. The 2,800-square-foot store in the outdoor mall at 601 Wabash St. sells discounted handbags, clothing, accessories, jewelry, perfume, shoes, swimwear, glasses, gifts, stationary and home decor designed by the late fashion icon who who went from being a magazine editor to the creator of a global designer brand that became nearly ubiquitous in New York City.
Kate Spade items, such as the bags Vogue editor Anna Wintour said were impossible to walk a block in Manhattan without seeing, are known for being urbane, sophisticated, chic and affordable.
Spade sold her company, which operates more than 175 Kate Spade New York shops internationally, for $2.4 billion to Tapestry Inc. last year, before starting a new brand, Frances Valentine.
The Kate Spade store at 1660 Lighthouse Pl in Michigan City, is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219.878.0879.
Dollar General relocated its Highland store on 45th Street from a strip mall to a newly constructed standalone building at 3325 45th St.
The Tennessee-based bargain retailer, where many, but not all, items are priced for $1, redesigned the Highland store so seasonal products are featured at the center of the stores, coolers are located up front, and departments are more easily recognized because of more visible signage.
“Dollar General is committed to delivering a pleasant shopping experience that includes a convenient location, a wide assortment of merchandise and great prices on quality products,” said Dan Nieser, Dollar General’s senior vice president of real estate and store development. “We hope our Highland customers will continue to enjoy shopping at Dollar General’s new location.”
The discount store sells an array of housewares, seasonal items, cleaning supplies, cloths and health and beauty products, as well as a limited selection of grocery items such as fruit juice, canned sardines, coffee and microwave dinners.
The Dollar General at 3325 45th St is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, call 219.934.0748.
The demolition of the River Oaks Theaters in Calumet City, which started in mid-June, is completely done.
Nothing remains of the vintage movie theaters that date back to the 1960s, where many Region residents saw landmark movies like "Star Wars" and "Jaws." They had been closed since 2006, and were deemed no longer viable.
Owner Namdar Realty Group/Mason Asset Management, which bought the River Oaks Center last year, has no immediate plans for redeveloping the site outside the mall, which has struggled from the loss of anchors in recent years.
The Cave, a long-closed restaurant and lounge at Grant Street and Ridge Road in Gary, is no more.
The city demolished the building, which was badly damaged in a fire last year. Business suffered at the long-shuttered grill and pub in the 1990s because of road construction projects in the West Glen Park neighborhood, according to Times archives.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Dragobobs, Shipwreck Bar and Grill and Kui Grill opening, Exotic Thai has closed
Dragobobs, which claims to make "the best shish kabobs and cevaps in Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland," has set up shop in Cedar Lake, at a prime spot for grilling right across from the lake.
From the 1980s on, the Croatian family-owned business operated out of the Baltimore Food Store in Chicago's Hegewisch neighborhood before selling the neighborhood market more than a decade ago.
"The name Dragobob came from the combination of my dad’s name Drago and the word shish kabobs shortened over the course of several years by our own customers," owner Dennis Protega said. "Instead of asking for Drago’s shish kabobs they begin asking for Drago’s kebabs and then they started saying Drago’s bobs and hence the name was born."
In recent years, Dragobobs has sold its marinated pork skewers at many Region summer festivals, Welch's Stop & Shop and Doreen's Pizza in Dyer and Jill Maries Market Coffee And Gelato in Crown Point. It's also supplied cevapi to Serbian churches across the Region.
"We prefer to work with the smaller mom-and-pop places to maintain the integrity and quality of our product," Protega said. "We want to make sure they're done the real way with the right marinades and the right cuts of meat. We have a secret recipe of spices and blends both Mediterranean and Asian. We put 12-13 different marinades, special and dry rubs on it. When you bite into it, you have a party in your mouth. It's flavors and combinations you've never tasted before."
Dragobobs opened a production facility and meat market at 7502 Lakeshore Drive in Cedar Lake, the first storefront it will have had in nearly 14 years. Protega plans to grill meat outside for customers once or twice a month, the dates of which will be announced on Dragobobs's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
"We've got a permanent lakeview because they're building a park across the street," he said.
In addition to its namesake kabobs and cevaps, Dragobobs sells a number of sausages, including Italian sausage and a Polish garlic sausage.
Dragobobs will be open from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Eventually it will be open from Wednesday through Sunday.
For more information, call 773-340-9866 or visit dragobobs.net.
The Shipwreck Bar & Grill seafood restaurant opens Monday at the site of the former Romano's and Soprano's at 840 S. Broad St. in Griffith.
The beach-themed 180-seat eatery with a large outdoor patio was inspired by the vacations owner Alexandra Hobby and her parents Joe and Cindy Drish would take to south Florida.
Chef Gale Wismiller's menu includes grouper, Creole red snapper, blackened Mahi Mahi, crab cakes, Nashville fried chicken, pizzas, sandwiches and salads. Appetizers include candied bacon, fried pimento cheese, and "pig bread" with Voodoo sauce, house-made pulled pork, provolone, red onion and goat cheese.
Shipwreck aims to have a chill environment with live music, fire pits, a Tiki ring-toss game and festive beach drinks like Hurricanes, Mai Tais, daiquiris, and margaritas.
For more information, call 219-513-8342 or visit www.shipwreckonbroad.com.
Exotic Thai at 9628 Indianapolis Blvd. in Highland, formerly Peking House, has served its last plate of Pad Thai.
The Asian restaurant at Indianapolis and 45th Street was known for its serene environment, relaxing waterfall and many entree options that could be made vegan. But it was often visibly empty or had only a few diners. Online reviewers praised the portions, value and dishes like chicken satay and curry shrimp fried rice, but many complained the food was bland or that the chicken was dry.
The building has been under renovation, and Highland building inspector Ken Mika said a new restaurant was coming in.
"I believe it will be called the Kui Grill," he said.
The owners were not immediately available for comment. Kui means "short ribs" in Korean, suggesting the spot on Highland's main commercial drag that went from being a Chinese restaurant to a Thai restaurant will likely become a Korean restaurant.
Blaze Car Wash has opened at at 4128 S. Franklin St. in Michigan City, next to Baymont Inn and Suites.
The state-of-the-art automated car wash is open 24 hours a day, with three monthly subscription plans. If the inside of your car also could use a cleaning, Blaze also offers free vacuums and free mat cleaning machines.
For more information, visit blazeCarWash.com or call 219-809-9118.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Gloria Jean's coming to C.P.; new Griffith gyros joint replaces one that allegedly put cocaine in cheese stick order
A Gloria Jean's coffee shop will caffeinate Crown Point early next year, and a new franchisee is looking to open as many as seven locations in Northwest Indiana and another 20 across greater Chicagoland.
Raed Naser signed a franchise agreement in December for the coffee shop chain, known for flavored coffees such as Blueberry Sunrise and Pistachio Nut Coffee, Chiller frozen coffee drinks, and espresso drinks with flavored syrups. The largely mall-based chain, which was founded in Chicago in 1979, has been looking to grow with standalone or strip mall locations with drive-throughs since it was acquired by Australia-based Retail Food Group.
Naser, his wife Noor Musleh, his brother and their family plan to open their first Northwest Indiana location at the end of a strip mall at 200 E. 109th Ave. at the corner of Broadway and 109th Avenue in Crown Point.
"Crown Point is growing," he said. "It's a good opportunity, and close to Interstate 65."
He then plans to open six more locations across the Region.
"We're looking at markets like Valparaiso, Schererville, Munster, Highland, Merrillville and St. John," he said. "Customers like having options. Gloria Jean's has more than 900 locations now, and the new owner is pushing the pedal to open more stores. Consumers like the flavored coffee, with the flavor coming from the beans and not syrup. It's good quality coffee."
Currently, the only Gloria Jean's coffee shop in Northwest Indiana is in the Southlake Mall in Hobart. Naser said all the new locations would have drive-throughs.
Griffith Gyros at 105 N. Broad St. closed after its owner was charged in 2016 with punching an employee, knocking him to the floor, and threatening to shoot him in front of customers, police said.
It was replaced with Broad Street Gyros, which made international news last year after police arrested the owner after a customer allegedly found a bag of cocaine instead of the more traditional marinara sauce in a take-home order of cheese sticks, a story that was covered by news outlets as far away as England and New Zealand.
Broad Street Gyros is, of course, no more after allegedly serving a side of cocaine with its mozzarella sticks, since the Griffith Town Council quickly acted to revoke its business license, but a new gyros restaurant has opened in the spot in downtown Griffith.
Muncheez and More now serves gyros, Italian beef, burgers, Philly cheese steaks, fried chicken, tacos, burritos, bosco sticks, fried mushrooms and steak nachos. It's mainly a take-out restaurant, but also has 20-25 seats for dining in.
Muncheez and More is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 2 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, call 219-301-7162.
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is now selling "good stuff cheap" in LaPorte.
The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based discount retailer opened Wednesday at 69 1/2 Pine Lake Ave. in the Pine Lake Shopping Center next to Kroger.
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, which has more than 270 locations nationwide, specializes in closeout merchandise, irregular items, discontinued products, liquidated goods, and overstock inventory that changes daily. It's the kind of place where one might snap up random finds like a robotic vaccum, a drone, a waffle maker, a cookware set, patio furniture, rugs or a Himalayan salt lamp.
The LaPorte store is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, call (219) 380-5761.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Angelo's Prime shutters all locations, Crown Point and Hammond ALDIs reopen
Angelo's, an institution for decades in the south suburbs that recently expanded to the Tri-Town, abruptly shuttered all its locations.
An eviction noticed was posted outside Angelo's Prime at 1542 U.S. 41 in Schererville, a lunch restaurant sport and specialty grocery store that sold truffle butter, prosciutto, wild caught fish, imported olive oils, house-made pastas, freeze-dried steaks from Meats by Linz, and homemade Italian meatballs with a three-meat blend of veal, pork and beef.
The phone number is disconnected, as are the numbers to the now-closed Angelo's Fresh Markets in Flossmoor and Tinley Park.
The owners could not be reached for comment, but Angelo's Prime manager Brian Brundage told The Times earlier this year that the Italian restaurant and boutique grocery had been struggling since the neighboring Ashley Homestore closed, which killed off 80 percent of the foot traffic.
He said the landlord refused to make concessions, charging the same amount for rent even though there was no longer an anchor tenant to draw customers to the shopping center.
"It's tough for us as a family-owned business when the anchor tenant moves out of the plaza," he said. "Their name was on the marquee."
Angelo's opened in Schererville last year. Its 30-seat restaurant, which catered mainly to a lunch crowd and closed by 7 p.m., served a meatball sandwich, a steak sandwich, pizza, a Wagyu burger on a brioche bun and "Death Penalty" garlic butter fries topped with bacon and melted cheese.
Pioneer Tap in Hammond's Hessville neighborhood shuttered, apparently some time ago.
One of many old school taverns along Kennedy Avenue in downtown Hessville, Pioneer Tap was known for its raucous karaoke and as "the only country music bar in Hammond." It frequently hosted live music, had a big dance floor and sold MGD bottles for just $2.
The McColly Bennet Commercial real estate firm is trying to sell the building at 6826 Kennedy Avenue.
For more information, call agent Peter Cappas at 219.545.9296.
German discount grocer ALDI has reopened stores at 845 N. Superior Drive in Crown Point and at 6518 Columbia Ave. in Hammond after extensive renovations.
ALDI, known for cheap, off-brand products and requiring customers to use a quarter to liberate shopping carts from the corral, is investing $1.6 billion to modernize 1,300 U.S. stores by 2020 as it makes a bid for more middle-class customers.
The chain plans to invested $180 million in more than 130 stores in Northwest Indiana and the greater Chicago area by 2020.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Pho Hoa + Jazen Tea coming to Crown Point, uBreakiFix opening two more Region locations
Fans of Vietnamese street food will soon have another place to slurp the savory noodle soup pho when a California-based chain opens soon just north of downtown Crown Point.
Pho Hoa + Jazen Tea hopes to open at 1101 N. Main St. in Crown Point by July 1 if gets all the necessary approvals from the city by then, Marketing & Sales Manager Thi Nguyen said.
The 35-year old restaurant operates more than 60 franchises worldwide, including in Canada, Indonesia, Korea, Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan, and claims to be the largest Vietnamese fast-casual chain in the world. The Crown Point location will be its first eatery in the state of Indiana.
"It's a very healthy conscious menu with pho soups, soup broths, spring rolls, egg rolls and rice plates with salmon, chicken and our signature lemon grass pork chop," Nguyen said.
It's a dual brand with a fast-casual restaurant on one side and a Starbucks-like tea shop on the other, she said. Jazen Tea specializes in freshly brewed jasmine tea drinks made with fresh fruit, such as the Berry Blossom strawberry raspberry tea with strawberry fruit bits; a green tea with strawberry, mango and pineapple bits; a Honey Delight honey jasmine green tea with chia seeds, strawberry fruit bits; aloe vera; and a mango mojito with minty lime mango peach tea with mango fruit bits.
Pho Hoa's menu includes many variations on pho, a broth- and herb-based soup that can be ordered with steak, brisket, or meatballs. It also has vegetarian options, rice plates and vermicelli bowls with proteins like prawns and pork that is locally sourced whenever possible.
"When it comes to food and drinks, people are looking for healthier options to dine," Nguyen said. "We're health-conscious and make our food with local ingredients. It's very healthy but also very flavorful."
Pho Hoa has been growing across the country.
"The owner was a Vietnamese refugee," she said. "Anybody can come here and live the American dream. There was an influx of refugees who came over, made an income, worked hard, and built their own wealth. The owner realized the American dream."
uBreakiFix, a chain of tech repair stores, has opened in Highland and plans to open another store in Michigan City soon.
uBreakiFix Schererville at 2305 Main St. Unit B2 in Highland, across from the Highland Grove Shopping Center right on the Schererville border, will fix smartphones, gaming consoles and other assorted gadgets and gizmos that people drop or that just suddenly stopped working one day.
The electronics repair company also opened a store in Portage earlier this year and is working to open a store at 4357 Franklin St. in Michigan City where people will be able to have cracked screens, broken charge ports or tablets dropped into the toilet fixed.
The Highland store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 219-595-0037 or visit www.ubreakifix.com.
Family Dollar has reopened its newly renovated dollar store at 2626 Central Ave. in Lake Station.
“Family Dollar is proud to be a part of the Lake Station community and we’re excited to welcome existing and new customers to our newly renovated store,” Family Dollar spokesperson Heather Briganti said. “In addition to providing everyday low prices and a broad assortment of merchandise, we have expanded our selection of food, beauty and essentials, household products, and seasonal items. Our renovated store should provide even greater value and convenience to our shoppers.”
The discount chain sells many, but not all, items for $1.
The Lake Station Family Dollar is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, call 219-962-5498.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Lincoln Flats brings unique food to downtown Valpo and revives Strongbow turkey schnitzel
German immigrant Ernest Buck moved to Valparaiso in 1926, couldn't find any jobs in his bricklayer trade and opened a shoe store to fill a void he saw in town.
The native of Bavaria originally worked as a shoemaker by the Valparaiso University campus, but moved downtown after getting bought out by a Gary mobster who wanted to open a pizzeria there.
The family ran Buck's Shoe Repair in the Lincoln Flats building at 1 Napoleon St. from 1926 until 2009.
Ernest Buck's grandson Steve Buck, an optometrist, restored and renovated the historic building, which he's converted into a new restaurant that provides "innovative cuisine, impeccable service and top-notch wines, beers and spirits in a relaxed environment."
"There's a lot of history," he said.
Buck opened the new restaurant Lincoln Flats with his friend Russ Adams, formerly of Strongbow Inn. They've brought back Strongbow's popular turkey schnitzel using the original recipe, but adding a bed of spätzle to give it a more German twist.
The menu focuses on traditional American cuisine with twists, such as fish and chips with bluegill fillets and a spin on St. Elmo shrimp cocktail with avocado and wasabi.
"I've always been interested in wine and craft beer, and wanted to have a location that was casual and would have some unique food," Buck said. "It's not white tablecloth. It's casual. We've tried to keep entrees between $9 and $20 to create a good value. Our portion sizes are a little larger, and we would love to see people share."
Lincoln Flats has a wine list with $25 to $300 bottles and 16 craft beers on tap, including from 18th Street, New Oberpfalz and One Trick Pony. It also serves extensive spirits, including Hoosier bourbons such as Tanner’s Creek Bourbon and Old No. 55, made from Indiana sweet corn mash.
"We want to have fun with craft cocktails. They're kind of whimsical," Buck said. "We have a gimlet called the Gimmy Hendricks, an Endless Summer named after the old surfer movie with vodka that's light and refreshing. Many have rock and roll themes. We take our food and wine seriously but not ourselves. We're not a pretentious restaurant. We don't do fine dining, we do great dining."
The restaurant seats 72 people and will have an outdoor patio that will start out with about 32 seats so as not to strain the kitchen, but which could be expanded in the future.
Lincoln Flats is near Valparaiso's downtown Central Park Plaza and has a liquor license that allows carryout, so Buck is looking at offering boxed lunches with half bottles of wine for picnics like those at Ravinia north of Chicago.
"Nobody else is doing it, and it would make us unique," he said. "We also have this 21-foot-long, 50-inch-wide piece of black walnut for the bar that is magnificent. It's a gorgeous piece of expoxied wood and this honeycomb was just left in there. You can look into the fissure and see dead bees to remind you it was a living organism."
Valparaiso residents have embraced the restaurant since it opened near the end of January.
"If you're looking for a casual environment with a great wine selection and innovative food, this is the place," Buck said.
Lincoln Flats is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call (219) 510-5046, visit www.lincolnflatsvalpo.com or find Lincoln Flats on Facebook.
Minion's Express, a "Despicable Me"-themed restaurant at 4705 Indianapolis Blvd. in East Chicago, met the same fate as a supervillain's minions in so many Hollywood films.
The hibachi grill that also served Asian food, fried chicken and fish in a strip mall in downtown East Chicago has permanently closed after opening in 2016.
It served smoothies in lightbulb-shaped glasses one reviewer described as "so stinking cute" and had bright digital menus and a clean modern ambiance.
New U-Haul dealerships have opened in Chesterton, Hebron and Harvey.
U-Haul Truck Share 24/7 is renting out U-Haul trucks, towing equipment and moving supplies at MAK Repairs at 513 W. Pratt St. in Hebron, Adam’s Towing & Repair at 1704 Old Porter Road in Chesterton, and Jones Auto at 267 E. 150th St. in Harvey.
Anyone moving can access the trucks at those locations at any time day or night with just a smartphone.
For more information, visit uhaul.com.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Kitaro brings sushi and steaks to Munster, Aster + Gray offers artisan goods in Valpo
Recently opened Kitaro Surf & Turf & Sushi aims to bring a downtown Chicago-like dining experience to the new Centennial Village development in Munster.
The upscale restaurant, lavishly decorated with chandeliers, marble floors, plush booths, elegant table setting and bamboo, serves sushi, steak, lobster, seafood and Asian fusion cuisine such as "Japanese Tapas," including tuna goat cheese and crab-stuffed jalapeno.
"We are trying to marry two different concepts," said Carrie Kitaro, who co-owns the eater with her husband John Kitaro. "We have sushi, sashimi and maki rolls, and marry it to a steakhouse where you can get aged steak, filet mignon, ribeye or Japanese seared steak."
They ran Kitaro in LeMont, Illinois for 10 years. They sold it as they prepared to open the new Munster location because they didn't want the stress of running two eateries. They long had eyed a Northwest Indiana location because of a perceived lack of high-end Asian restaurants here.
"We finally found the perfect area," she said. "It's a great location, and there's no other restaurant like this around. It's like a trip to downtown Chicago with the finest sushi and steak. Both the wife and the husband can find something to enjoy. It has downtown style, it's modern and pretty."
The 4,000-square-foot restaurant at 9625 Calumet Ave. Suite A employs about 45 workers and has 140 seats, including at a bar and private dining room that can accommodate parties of up to 50. A seasonal patio will seat another 40.
Diners can watch sushi chefs work the knife at the sushi bar or see the woodfire grill blaze in the open kitchen.
"The interior is very modern and white collar," Carrie Kitaro said. "It's very modern and clean."
The menu features many shareable items and a traditional selection of sushi and sashimi, along with specialty rolls like The Knucklehead with lobster, king crab, avocado, cucumber, spicy mayo and sweet soy, or the Bacon Bomb with shrimp tempura, bacon, avocado, blue cheese, tempura crunch, spicy mayo, sweet soy and a hint of sriracha. Both the Blackhawks and Bears have maki rolls named after them.
The many seafood items include a poke bowl, New England-style lobster roll, Chilean sea bass, pan-seared red grouper, Norwegian salmon, Alaskan King Crab legs as well as "turf" like bone-in pork chops and rack of lamb.
John Kitaro, the chef, has more than 30 years of experience, including in downtown Chicago, New York and Minnesota.
"I am very passionate about the cooking," he said. "I love cooking and love people."
Kitaro is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Gabrielle Pazour started selling her upcycled, repurposed and refinished furniture at local artisan markets, such as the Fetching Market and Hunt & Gather.
Her business took off so much she opened the brick and mortar boutique Aster + Gray in downtown Valparaiso in August. Its newly renovated home at 20 Indiana Ave. on the courthouse square includes reclaimed wood from historic barns in Porter County.
The shop sells goods handcrafted by more than 80 local artisans, including Regionwear, Mother Wilma's Marshmallow Factory, Nomad.Breadth, The SpOiled Housewife, BUN's Soapbox and many more.
"We focus on merchandise that's handcrafted by artisans and locally made," Pazour said. "There's a wonderful, very supportive artisan culture. These are people who love what they do."
Aster + Gray sells curated home decor, housewares, soap, bath items, skin care essentials, candles, gourmet food, coffee, tea, jewelry, stationary, apparel and crafts. It has a pet products, such as handcrafted collars and dog treats.
"We're always getting new merchandise in," she said.
Aster + Gray is open from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. After Memorial Day, it plans to have extended hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
For more information, call 219-510-1114, visit www.asterandgray.com or find Aster + Gray on Facebook or Instagram.
Rosati's has opened its second Schererville location at 332 Indianapolis Blvd. at the new Shoppes on the Boulevard development, next to McAlister's Deli and Buona Beef.
The carryout- and delivery-focused restaurant has pizza, salads, Italian beef, Italian sausage, and appetizers.
It's open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call 219-440-7943.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Griffith lands new seafood restaurant, boutique, and an events space in the old downtown bank building
One boutique departed downtown Griffith, and another moved right in.
Bee & Me has taken over the former Renovar space at 100 S. Broad St. on the corner of Main and Broad streets in downtown Griffith.
The five-year-old boutique had been tucked away in an industrial park on the southeast side of town in Our Textile Hive, an industrial laundry, uniform, and creative design company founded by Breanne Stover. The Dominican University graduate and lifelong Indiana resident bought the Great Lakes Naval Academy's laundry facility, moved it to Griffith, and handles industrial laundry for contractors at the steel mills and a growing number of clients.
"The boutique was just in a tiny room in the laundry business," she said. "It's nice to be in downtown Griffith now. There's a lot more visibility and traffic."
The boutique, which takes its name after Stover's nickname, sells Magnolia home decor and clothes for women, men and children, including flame-resistant clothing for steel mills, school uniforms and spirit wear.
"We travel all over and look for different popular styles," she said. "Our clothing is comfortable and reasonable."
Bee & Me has a kids' play area to keep children entertained while their parents shop, and plans to bring in a Cute as a Cupcake express shop similar to a Starbucks in a Target.
"The cupcakes will be in little cake boxes and will be packaged to go home," Stover said. "There will also be drinks. We want it to be a hangout place for families. We'll have the kid's area and things like yoga."
Bee & Me, which employs about 10 workers, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Stover is further expanding her growing business empire by buying the former Griffith State Bank across the street at the southeast corner of Main and Broad streets in downtown Griffith, which she's transforming into an event space that will be called The Bankquet.
The stately Colonial Revival-style building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will host weddings, company functions and other events.
"I always loved that building and saw it was for sale," she said. "My husband works in historic restoration."
They plan to add a glass conservatory onto the building for baby showers and cocktail hours. They plans to work with local caterers once the events venue is up and running later this year."
The historic brick and limestone-trimmed bank building at 101 E. Main St. was built in 1920 with a temple-like appearance, a terrazzo floor, pedimented entry, Doric columns, a barrel-vaulted ceiling, a raised stone portico in the center bay and friezes with engravings of money bags and quills and ledgers.
The original inhabitant, the Griffith State Bank, closed briefly during the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and then was shuttered for good in 1933 when it became insolvent during the depth of the Great Depression.
It became the Samuel B. Woods Branch of the Griffith Public Library, and served in that role until 1967. Most recently, it was home to a sign shop.
Renovations are underway, and Stove hopes to have The Bankquet open later this year.
For more information, visit www.ourtextilehive.com.
The Shipwreck Bar & Grill is sailing into Griffith.
Alexandra Hobby and her parents Joe and Cindy Drish are opening the beach-themed seafood restaurant at the site of the former Romano's and Soprano's at 840 S. Broad St. in Griffith.
"Our inspiration comes from 25 years of spending vacations as a family in Clearwater Beach, Florida," Hobby said. "Our menu consists of all of our family favorites seafood items from Florida as well as sandwiches, specialty pizzas, Nashville Hot chicken, steaks, and salads."
They're working to transform the building into a beach vacation-themed oasis with murals of dolphins, sea turtles and other aquatic creatures. Shipwreck Bar & Grill will seat 180 diners and another 80 in a 2,000-square-foot patio with bags, fire pits, and a Tiki ring toss game. The bar and grill will often host solo acoustic acts on a music stage to add to the relaxed vibe.
"We will also have live entertainment for our guests to enjoy," Hobby said. "We are so excited to offer our guests a relaxing and enjoyable experience while serving up some delicious meals. The vision for this restaurant came from a family and we truly want our guests to feel that."
The patio will likely be open from April to September or October, and diners will be encouraged to eat there. It will have a selection of 20 craft beers on tap and put a focus on "fun drinks" like Hurricanes, Mai Tais, daiquiris, and margaritas.
"This corner needed to be brought back to life," Hobby said. "We want people to feel like they're on a little vacation in Northwest Indiana. We don't want people to just come to enjoy a good meal. We want them to relax and enjoy some live music because we're selling that experience."
Chef Gale Wismiller, who most recently worked for a catering company in Chicago, is crafting a seafood menu that includes the grouper that's popular in Florida, red snapper, mahi mahi fish tacos, blackened halibut, salmon and fish by the pound." Everything will be made from scratch in the kitchen.
"We're really excited to be part of Griffith. It's been built up so much over the last few years," Hobby said.
Shipwreck Bar & Grill is currently looking to hire around 50 workers.
For more information, call 219-513-8342.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Romano's and Tequila Restaurante returning, Casa Vieja and Family Video bowing out
Romano’s, the Region legend known as "The Home of the Hoagie," will soon make its triumphant return at a new location in Griffith.
The 70-year-old institution, which specializes in pizza, pasta and its celebrated Ham Hoagie, closed last year after the owner of its longtime home at Broad Street and 61st Avenue in Griffith sold the building.
Romano's, which originally opened in Highland in 1948, has relocated to 1927 45th St. in the Griffland Plaza shopping center. Owner Myke Romano said he hopes to open as soon as May 15, but more work remains to be done.
The restaurant's Ham Hoagie — Polish ham and secret pizza cheeses stuffed into a Vienna bun — was honored as an icon of Region cuisine in The Times' 50 Dishes of the South Shore.
Tequila Restaurante, a Mexican restaurant that once had locations in Crown Point, Dyer and Las Vegas, vowed it would return when its lease at 110 S. Main St. on the Courthouse Square in downtown Crown Point ended to make room for the tony new Provecho Latin Provisions and its high-end tapas plates.
Though such promises sometimes prove empty, Tequila is in fact coming back for another rodeo.
The restaurant posted on Facebook it would bring back the menu at Pheasant Valley Golf Course at 3838 W. 141st Ave. in Crown Point. The new location will seat 150 and another 20 at the bar, and have ample parking.
"Opening date will be posted soon," Tequila Restaurante posted on Facebook. "Can't wait to cheers with all our loyal customers."
Tequila Restaurante was known for its margaritas, guacamole made table side and unorthodox items like Mexican crab cakes, cilantro-rita and Mexican-style lake perch bathed in a jalapeno/cilantro butter, which one online reviewer claimed was the best lake perch in the Region since Phil Smidt's closed.
Casa Vieja Mexican Grille, which moved into the space at 275 Joliet St. in Dyer that Tequila Restaurante vacated back in 2016, has apparently closed.
The eatery hasn't been open for business for days, the shades are drawn, and no one answers the phone. The Facebook page hasn't been updated since February. An employee at the neighboring Bin 27 restaurant said the sit-down grill and cantina was closed, but the owners could not be reached for comment.
Casa Vieja was well-reviewed online, ranking as the 15th most highly regarded restaurant in Dyer on Trip Advisor. It had a wide array of seafood entrees and was praised for its queso dip. A sample menu item was "Pedro's Dinner," a hefty meat-apalooza that pours its house specialty cheese sauce atop chicken, steak, shrimp, chorizo, bacon, bell pepper, tomatoes, grilled onions and pico de gallo.
In a streaming age when people can watch movies on-demand or on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Cracked without ever getting up from the coach, it may have been some time since you last set foot in a video store.
So it shouldn't be that surprising that the Family Video at 1208 E. 45th Ave. in Griffith is closing. It's the one by the big yellow Griffith water tower and the Griffith/Black Oak branch of the Lake County Public Library.
Anyone who will miss the Glenview-based chain, which carries an array of DVDs and video games for rental and sale, can travel 2 miles west to the Highland store on 45th Street, which will remain open.
No explanation was given as to why it's called Family Video and has an adult movie section.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Xfinity Store coming to Valpo, Highland to get upscale salon complex, St. John a boutique
Valparaiso residents will soon be able to venture to Xfinity and beyond, or at least have someone to complain to when their internet router keeps cutting out.
Comcast will open an Xfinity Store at 2710 LaPorte Ave. in Valparaiso in mid-to late May.
Customers can learn about or sign up for Xfinity services, including internet, cable, mobile and home security. The store will have iPads and other mobile devises to let people test out Xfinity apps that, for instance, let people watch up to 200 channels and stream as many as 40,000 on-demand programs anywhere.
“The stores are awesome places to visit and learn more about Xfinity products and services from the trained store staff,” said John Crowley, Comcast’s Greater Chicago Region senior vice president. “Visitors are welcome to come in and experience our products and services like they would at home.”
Current Comcast customers can go there to pay their monthly bills, or pick up and return equipment.
“We’re pleased that Valparaiso is getting a new Xfinity Store,” Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas said. “Located within Valparaiso’s centrally located, dynamic retail scene, the new store will be able to serve thousands and thousands of existing Xfinity customers and attract new ones not just from Valparaiso, but from the surrounding communities as well."
The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
My Salon Suite plans to open a 5,500-square-foot upscale beauty complex at 2715 Main St. in Highland later this year, where hair stylists and other salon professionals will be able to rent 29 salon suites.
“When we started looking at different franchising concepts, we knew we wanted something that would fit with our lifestyle, personalities, skills and interests — we found all of this with My Salon Suite,” franchisee Robert Gerick said. “We love that My Salon Suite allows us to operate our own business, have a flexible work-life balance and work directly with talented beauty professionals from our area. We’re looking forward to introducing the Highland community to the suite life.”
The fast-growing company, which was founded in 2010, now has about 50 salon complexes across North American, and aims to have 100 nationally by the end of this year.
“We empower beauty professionals to become salon entrepreneurs with their own suites, while providing them with all of the resources they need to success,” Gerick said. “Plus, for our members’ clients, we offer an environment to escape from the stresses of the day in a quiet, private setting where they are treated to an upscale salon experience like no other.”
Each suite features a full-length style station, styling chair, shampoo sink and color station, and the building will have "a state-of-the-art security system, luxurious bathrooms and an elegant lobby."
For more information call 219-649-1677 or visit www.mysalonsuite.com/highland-on-main.
2 Old Goats Market opened last fall at 9726 Industrial Drive in St. John.
"The neat little hidden treasure" sells repurposed antiques, vintage items, women's boutique clothing, man cave essentials and local artisan goodies, including from Mother Wilma’s, Smudge’s Organics, Simplify, The Gourmet Goddess, Into the Pines Jewelry and Wooden Jacket. It sells Dixie Belle Chalk Paint and teaches painting classes.
"We opened our store in the industrial part of St. John near 95ate5 Brew Pub in September," owner Abbey Sylvester said. "The name was our biggest obstacle. My mom and I were going back and forth on what to call it. One day we were reminiscing about my grandpa that passed away last January and how he grew up on a farm with goats. On Father’s Day they bought him two goats, he named them Frick and Frack. Looking in the thesaurus, another word for an antique is an old goat, and the light went off. We wanted to remember my grandpa by giving him a place in our new adventure and 2 Old Goats Market just fit."
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For more information, call 219-351-5457.
Meijer's eagerly awaited 195,000-square-foot supercenter in the Porter's Vale shopping center at Ind. 49 and Ind. 2 in Valparaiso, doesn't open until May 24, but you can already pump gas outside.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer opened the gas station on an outlot outside the superstore at 405 Porters Vale Blvd. Thursday. It will be open 24 hours a day offering, gas, diesel, propane, grab-and-go snacks, lottery tickets, cigarettes, phone cards and gift cards.
The growing retail chain now has 235 locations across the Midwest, including in Highland, Merrillville and Michigan City.
Aunt Sally's, which fervent loyalists have described as the "best breakfast diner" and a place the Blues Brothers might have hung out at, closes at the end of the business day Sunday after 71 years.
The pancake house at 1215 Burnham Ave. in Calumet City served many lunch items like sandwiches, and of course breakfast all day. It had unique specials like a pizza omelette, a "conquistador taco" omelette and a Hawaiian omelette topped with pineapples and maraschino cherries.
The food was cheap, the booths were comfy, the coffee kept coming and ample sides like hash browns and pancakes left few hungry when they went up to the counter to pay the check.
It was usually always packed on weekends, and the crowds have only grown since the closure was announced on Facebook.
Owner Dennis Sidkey said he would consider opening another restaurant in the future, possibly in Indiana.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Relish brings hot dogs back to downtown Griffith, Bohemian Joe's to close in Lansing
Boz left a hot dog-shaped hole in downtown Griffith's heart when it closed in 2013 after 27 years, when its owners decided it was time to finally retire.
But encased meats have made their triumphant return to Broad Street. Relish has opened at 223 N. Broad St., offering traditional favorites like Chicago dogs, chili-cheese dogs and ballpark dogs with mustard and grilled onions, as well as more modern twists like a vegan Chicago dog and a barbecue bacon jam dog made with jalapenos picked in-house.
"I honestly though we needed another hot dog place when Boz was gone," said Carly Haugh, who owns the hot dog joint along with her mother, Patti Haugh, who also owns Lady's Gourmet Popcorn downtown. "We went with Relish because it's a popular hot dog topping and when somebody really enjoys something. It's a good play on words."
Relish uses all-beef Nathan's hot dogs, Polish sausages made at Mi Tierra in town and vegan dogs made in the Space Revival kitchen just down the street.
"We live in an awesome town where it's like a big family," she said. "We want to support other businesses here."
One of the most popular hot dogs so far is a grilled cheese dog made with American and cheddar cheeses and green onion on a garlic butter bun that's toasted on the flat-top grill.
"The reception has been really great, especially from the vegan population," she said. "It's been years since there was a vegan Chicago dog."
Relish is a small restaurant with a handful of seats that focuses on to-go orders. It also makes soups from scratch, and posts its soup offerings daily on its Facebook page at facebook.com/BroadStreetDogs/.
Relish is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, find it on Facebook or call 219-293-6838.
Bohemian Joe's, which replaced Popolano's at 17940 Torrence Ave. in Lansing, is shuttering after a two-year run.
The restaurant served American fare such as blackened ribeye, honey lemon tilapia, a 14-ounce bone-in pork chop, burgers, salad entrees, pickle chips, beer nuggets pizzas and classic sandwiches like the Manhattan and Reuben in a slick-looking, newly renovated space. It got rave reviews, getting four stars out of five on both Yelp and Trip Advisor.
It will close on April 28 because the owners sold the building, which will be converted into an as-yet-unidentified new restaurant.
"It’s with mixed feelings that we are announcing that Bohemian Joe's has been sold," the owners posted on Facebook. "This really has been quite a journey for our family. Along the way we have put together an incredible staff and entertained wonderful people from which we take with us lifelong friends and memories. We have learned so much and have made our share of mistakes along the way. We apologize to anyone we disappointed for it was never for lack of trying or caring. I hope that we leave you with more positive memories than negative."
Joe’s Barber Shop has come to Winfield to cut hair, trim beards and shave off facial hair.
Owner Joe Barsic, who's taught barbering for 15 years, opened the barber shop at 10923 Miami St. "to bring the very best in traditional barbering to my community." It's deliberately old school.
"I offer haircuts — shear cuts, clipper cuts, razor cuts — hot lather straight razor shaves and shoe shines in a turn-of-the-century shoe shine chair that my father passed down to me before he died," he said.
There's a lot of family tradition in the barber shop.
"My wife Breanon is also a barber and will be joining the business with me," Barsic said. "I guess this shop is my way of honoring my fathers’ 50-plus years in barbering by offering the best service possible in an area that is devoid of barber shops."
Joe's Barber Shop is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, call 219-779-9744 or visit facebook.com/pg/joesbarbershopwinfield.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: St. John home decor store, The Simple Greek restaurant opening
A corporate refugee who wanted to strike out on her own started Sweet Home Indiana Home Decor and Gifts, which opens on April 28 at 8251 Wicker Ave. in St. John.
Lora Avecillas and her husband, John Matuska, decided to open the 1,200-square-foot home decor and gift shop in Lake Central Plaza across from Lake Central High School out of a love for visiting quaint shops and hunting for treasures while traveling.
Sweet Home Indiana carries many products in the country farmhouse, vintage, industrial and garden styles. It stocks jewelry, candles, stationery, clocks, handcrafted items, accent furniture and stuff for man caves, such as beer-infused soap. The shop has gifts for many occasions, including baby showers, weddings and holidays.
“I was in the corporate world for so long, and I just saw the opportunity for a home decor store in St. John with so many homes going up,” she said. “I was tired of working 14-hour days and thought about what my passion was. I like traveling and visiting cute little shops, and there was nothing like that here.”
She was inspired by stores like The Found Cottage outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the popular reality show "Fixer Upper," which recently ended its run.
“Joanna Gaines is the reason we have a store,” she said.
Avecillas hopes eventually to expand the shop, hire more employees beyond family and get into online sales. For now, the focus is on providing as pleasant a shopping experience as possible.
“We’re very down-to-earth,” she said. “We want to make sure people have an experience. There’s a nice atmosphere. We want people to come stay awhile. We’ll have coffee, drinks, water, lemonade and cookies. We’ll have music, candles and a nice smell."
She thinks such a store will thrive in St. John, where the population has grown by more than 12 percent since 2000 and has gotten an influx of new residents who have decamped from Illinois.
“St. John is a wonderful place,” he said. “We came out here, built out here and we loved it.”
Sweet Home Indiana is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
For more information, find it on Facebook or call 219-627-3061.
The Simple Greek, a fast-casual Greek restaurant that lets customers customize pita or bowl orders, will open its long-awaited Munster location in the new Centennial Village shopping center Monday.
“It’s been an enormous amount of work and planning, however, being this close to launching this restaurant, we find that we’re most excited to finally have a great team of people ready to serve a great community of people,” owner Adam Robertson said.
The restaurant at 9611 Calumet Ave. in Munster offers gyros, chicken gyros, chicken or steak that can be topped with hummus, tzatziki, olive oil, feta and your choice of fresh vegetables. It also has traditional dessert options like baklava.
The Simple Greek will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
Call 219-922-4976 or visit thesimplegreek.com/location/munster-in.
U-Haul added two more Calumet Region dealerships in Gary and Chicago Heights.
Gary Discount Motors at 1429 W. 11th Ave. in Gary and Country Squire Foods at 113 W. Joe Orr Road in Chicago Heights opened dealerships that rent out U-Haul trucks and trailers.
They will let movers borrow U-Haul trucks and towing equipment, and purchase moving supplies and boxes. People with smartphones can use the service around the clock, picking up or returning a truck at any hour day or night.
The Gary dealership is open for normal business hours from 10 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. through 1 p.m. Saturday. The Chicago Heights location is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Ryan's Irish Pub closes, coffees shops and permanent makeup studio opening
Throw an Irish wake for Ryan's Irish Pub in downtown Michigan City, which recently closed.
The owners posted on Facebook that they had sold the establishment, which had been open for 23 years.
No further details were available, and the pub's phone number was disconnected. Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer said a developer hopes to redevelop the entire property to make way for new commercial businesses and residential units.
The dark and smoky bar at the north end of Michigan City's Uptown Arts District was known for its fish and chips, burgers and other pub fare. It drew crowds for its open mic nights and to its outdoor patio in the summer, where diners and drinkers could feel a gentle lake breeze, and was, of course, a popular destination after the lakefront city's St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Uptown Cafe, the longtime coffee shop on Lincolnway near the Valparaiso University campus, opened the drive-through at its eagerly awaited Crown Point satellite location for a trial run last week.
At first, customers could only get drinks at the coffee shop at 10641 Broadway in Crown Point. The beloved local coffee shop sells several varieties of coffee, espresso drinks, handcrafted sodas and specialty drinks, such as a Matcha Libre matcha tea latte and an espresso drink that tastes like a cinnamon roll.
The Valparaiso cafe also serves a menu of light bites such as avocado toast, lox, hummus and caprese, but the Crown Point location is still ramping up operations.
New owners have acquired the former Marquette Perk building at 900 N. Shelby St. in Gary's lakefront Miller neighborhood, and hope to lease it to someone who will operate it as a coffee shop/bakery.
Zygmunt Dyracz and Lela Headd Dyrkacz, who own the acclaimed Chopin Theatre in Chicago's trendy Wicker Park neighborhood, want to see the 1,400-square-foot building a few blocks from the beach become a community gathering place again. They moved from Chicago to Miller in search of some quiet after having kids.
"It's in the heart of Miller Beach two blocks from the beach," he said. "It used to be a place for people to mingle and talk to each other. We'd like it to be a community gathering place for people to meet and connect."
Most recently, the property hosted Ben's Bodacious Barbecue and Deli and the Wonderland Stained Glass studio, until the married couple that owned the businesses died in a murder-suicide last year.
The Dyrkaczs hope it could again be a breakfast spot for Chicago commuters and locals, and a place for evening dining and entertainment, possibly a piano bar or cabaret. They also would love to see any new business that opens there incorporate a small grocery section that would carry necessities like fresh baked bread, milk, eggs and wines for neighborhood residents.
Anyone who's interested in the property should call 773-396-2875 or 773-814-5352.
Kristine Johnson, a licensed cosmetologist with 20 years experience and the owner of Eyelashes Extensions by Kristine, a home-based studio in Griffith, launched Micropigmentation by K 2.0, which offers permanent cosmetic procedures that essentially tattoo makeup on lips or eyebrows.
"Why would you want permanent makeup?" she said. "Well, how much time would you save every morning if you didn't fiddle with makeup? What if you are visually impaired, would it be easier for you each day? Shaky hands? Work out and sweat a lot? No problem, permanent makeup stays perfectly in place. There are many reasons why it could make your day better and easier."
The business at 402 Miller St. is open by appointment only. Services include permanent eyebrows, eyeliner, microshading and tattoo lightening.
"I'm very passionate about what I do and I would love to share this passion with the community," she said. "I pride myself on education and ongoing training."
For more information, call 219-743-9077.
Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Several new stores open at Southlake Mall
Shops on Main in Schererville is newer and more buzzed-about.
You can find better deals at Lighthouse Premium Outlets in Michigan City. The proposed 80- to 100-store outlet mall a developer wants to build near Interstate 65 in Crown Point likely would peel some traffic away.
Enclosed malls everywhere are not exactly at their height of popularity and cultural relevance, especially as department stores are folding across the country.
But Southlake Mall in Hobart remains the king of shopping in Northwest Indiana. The super-regional mall at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street, the second largest in the state of Indiana, continues to attract new tenants.
Mr. Kay's recently opened a shoe store in Southlake Mall, its second location. The footwear retailer has been located in River Oaks Center in Calumet City since 2007, and specializes in shoes, socks and accessories for larger customers. It's known for a "large stock of hard-to-find sizes," including for formal occasions.
Southlake Mall already has many shoe stores, including Aldo, DTLR, Finish Line, Foot Locker, Journeys, Journeys Kidz, Kids Foot Locker, Payless ShoeSource, Skechers, Tradehome Shoes, and Vans, though many focus mainly on athletic sneakers.
On the lower level of the Southlake Mall near Sears, Fashion 5 opened a women's clothing store that caters to younger customers. The retailer sells shirts, tops, blouses, cardigans, jackets, knit sweaters and fleece jackets in various styles, including casual, sporty and on-trend.
The growing chain says it lets customers "express themselves." It has a few other Chicago area locations, including in the Woodfield Mall and Chicagoland Premium Outlets.
Kumar’s Jewelers also opened a new jewelry store in the mall. The locally owned business sells engagement rings, pearls, watches and jewelry make with silver, stainless steel, tungsten, titanium and contemporary metals.
The store offers financing and layaway, as well as engravings, jewelry and watch repairs, battery replacements and custom orders such as charms and dog tags.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Buona, Dunkin Donuts and Roberto's Packman Pizzeria open, while Galactic Greg's survives owner's passing
Buona is opening its first Italian Beef restaurant outside of Illinois at 24 U.S. 41 in Schererville March 27, when it will be giving out Italian Beef sandwiches to anyone who's in line before 10 a.m.
The fast-growing chain sells beef sandwiches dry, dipped, baptized or the "Buona Way," with an extra spoonful of gravy, at more than 20 restaurants across Chicagoland. Its locations include concession stands at Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field and at the outdoor beer garden for Big Ten graduates recently transplanted to Chicago on the North Side, where they play the song "Go, Cubs, Go," expressing confidence that "the Cubs are gonna win today" after the game is already over, for whatever reason.
“This move is the first wave of spreading some Buona Beef love outside of Illinois,” owner Joe Buonavolanto Jr. said. “We’re excited to share Chicago’s original Italian beef sandwich with the residents of Schererville – made exactly like it was in 1930s Chicago, spiced just right and free of additives and preservatives.”
The restaurant in Schererville's new Shoppes on the Boulevard will serve a wide-ranging menu that includes hot dogs, pizzas, salads, gravy-dipped Italian bread, and pepper and egg sandwiches on Fridays during Lent. The chain, a competitor of Zel's, Pop's and Enzo's, potentially could meet some resistance in the union stronghold of Northwest Indiana after a few of the family owners were caught in viral videos spraying a garden hose at and cursing at union picketers who were protesting that a Buona restaurant was being built without union labor.
For more information call 219-515-6469 or visit buona.com.
It's finally time to make the doughnuts in south Munster, not far from the Dyer border.
Dunkin' Donuts opened its second Munster location at 10415 Calumet Ave. The modern-looking 28-seat eatery has a drive-through and carries a wide array of fresh baked doughnuts, bagels, breakfast sandwiches and coffee drinks, including those with Girl Scout Cookie flavors like Thin Mint and Coconut Caramel.
The coffee shop/doughnut joint is in a newly built strip mall that has another 4,600 square feet of space available for rent.
The popular Packman Pizzeria, first opened in 2014, was about to close in LaPorte after owners Don and Angie Kaczmarek died in a tragic car accident.
But the owners of Roberto's Pizzeria at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in Michigan City acquired the 48-seat restaurant at 612 Lincolnway and reopened it as Roberto's Packman Pizzeria, closing their mall location to consolidate the two pizzerias into one.
"The kids were running it but they want to close the door and our lease was up," said Sean Montgomery, who co-owns the pizza restaurant with Robert Becker. "They have loyal customers, 4,000 Facebook followers and deliver within 15 miles. It's the only place in LaPorte that serves deep-dish and Chicago-style pizza with the dough on top."
The restaurant also serves salads, chicken wings, oven-baked fries and subs, out of which the Italian beef and Philly Steak are the two most popular. It delivers as far away as Westville, Walkerton, New Carlisle and Michigan City.
Roberto's Packman Pizzeria is open from noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit www.robertospackmanpizzeria.com or call 219-380-5387.
"Galactic" Greg Karras, the owner of the popular Galactic Greg's and Cosmic Trading Post comic book shop at 1407 Lincolnway in Valparaiso, died of cancer at the age of 51, but his namesake store will remain open.
"Greg was all those things to us because of his kind heart," Galactic Greg's posted on Facebook. "He gave many of us a place to hang out, a place to meet others with similar interests long before the internet, and sometimes just an ear to listen to our problems. He introduced us to heroes, which I believe is the same as introducing someone to hope. ... Galactic Greg’s will continue. We hope to make him proud as we continue to serve you the way he did."
Karras opened the "pop culture superstore" in Valpo where people have gone for comics, role-playing games, vinyl records and more for more than 25 years. His passing was met with an outpouring of mourning from loyal customers.
"I’ve been getting my subscription comics from Greg ever since I was in elementary school. Even when I moved away for college, Greg continued boxing up my favorite comics and sending them to me every month — he has always been a source of joy and friendship in my life," longtime customer David Higgins posted on Galactic Greg's Facebook page. "I teach college classes on Graphic Novels now, and Greg helped shape the person who I am today. He actually supported my very first comics-related research project: When I was at Winfield Elementary School, he loaned me a stack of 1950s comics from his own personal collection so that I could compare them with my own comics (from the 80s) to determine whether comics were becoming more 'corrupt or violent' as a science fair project.
"I was a wide-eyed kid, and Greg saw my enthusiasm and wanted to support it. That’s the kind of person he was — he loved people, he encouraged joy and wonder in everyone around him, and he had a huge heart. He was a real-life superhero who made the world a better place in countless ways."
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Cereal bar coming to Southlake Mall, tea room opens, Starbucks closes
Oooh Wee Candy and Cereal Bar serves up dozens of cereals and old school candy by the piece at the food court in River Oaks Center in Calumet City, and plans to open a location in the Southlake Mall in Hobart on April 20.
The fast-growing concept also has a location on Chicago's South Side and is also expanding to Waukegan. There's no booze but there is an actual bar that people can belly up to to eat all their favorite childhood cereal such as King Vitamin, Waffle Crisp and Franken Berry while watching television. Ice cold milk is poured from martini shakers.
People can satisfy their sweet tooth with 75 different types of cereal, 25 different toppings like fruit, honey and mini Oreo cookies, and 10 different types of milk, including almond, coconut, cashew and chocolate milk.
Owner Mark Walker saw a cereal bar in Dubai, and decided he wanted to open one here.
Any cereal you can imagine, hot or cold, is stocked on the shelves, and customers get to mix two if they feel like blending Coco Puffs with Lucky Charms or have a hankering with Captain Crunch with Apple Jacks. Customers can dine in or get it to go, with separate containers for cereal and milk.
They also can order cereal "cocktails" named after celebrities like the Nicki Minaj with Trix, Fruity Pebbles, Pop Rocks and strawberry milk.
Oooh Wee Candy and Cereal Bar also has more than 250 “old school” candies, including gummy bears, gummy worms and many nostalgic and hard-to-find items. It's sold by the piece, not the pound, to make it more affordable for kids.
Kids also can pose for selfies with life-sized cutouts of Deadpool, Batman, Harley Quinn and other pop culture characters. Still, many of the customers are grown-ups.
"Our customer base is mostly adults who come in saying they remember that cereal from their childhood and can't believe they still make it," Walker said. "It's nostalgic. People come for the good memories."
2 Chicks, a high-end consignment shop, has opened at 2817 Jewett Ave. in downtown Highland.
“We sell a lot of eclectic items, including name brands,” said longtime Cargill employee Terri Yovkovich, who runs the store with her mom Shirley Bell. “There’s a lot for the younger generation, a lot of cool clothing, shoes, jewelry and vintage. It’s a lot of shabby chic style. We’ve got decor and fun and cool stuff.”
The 2,000-square-foot consignment shop also is home to Tiffany’s Tea Room at 2 Chicks, which serves a formal tea every afternoon Monday through Saturday and by appointment for showers on Sunday. Tea is ported in from the neighboring Sip 2 Coffeehouse, along with a three-tier stand with five finger sandwiches, five pastries, scones, cheese, crackers and apricot jam.
The tea room, an extension of the original Tiffany’s Tea Room in Crown Point, can accommodate parties of up to 30 and is geared toward luring female shoppers into the store.
“The women come in and they shop,” Yovkovich said.
2 Chicks sells items on consignment but also buys its own inventory, such as from an estate after a death in the family. Merchandise rotates frequently.
“I might eventually open another one,” Yovkovich said. “I’m originally from Calumet City but now live in Griffith. I might someday open one somewhere back in Cal City or near where I live in Griffith.
For more information, call 219-301-5588 or find 2 Chicks on Facebook.
To reserve a formal tea appointment, call 219-306-0980.
Starbucks just closed one of its first coffee shops to open in Northwest Indiana, 2381 E. 80th Ave. in Hobart just north of the Southlake Mall.
The Starbucks was in a strip mall with an Ulta and a since-closed American Bagel Company. It dated back to the 1990s and was a product of a different age, lacking a drive-through that is now standard at Starbucks.
The Seattle-based coffee giant, which has lately been pushing white espresso on its notoriously loyal customer base, opened a new location not far down U.S. 30 in Merrillville last year after being forced to shutter its extremely popular coffee shop inside the Radisson at Star Plaza, which was torn down to make way for a redevelopment product.
Those jonesing for a Frappuccino or a cold brew don’t have to travel far to get their fix — Starbucks still has two other location by the Southlake Mall, one on Mississippi Street and another inside Target.
Highland Board Shop is now HBS now that it’s no longer in Highland.
The skateboarding store, which promises “West Coast Vibes and Steezy Rides,” shuttered its location at 8808 Kennedy Ave. in downtown Highland. The 3-year-old business moved to 132 N. Broad St. in downtown Griffith.
The shop sells skateboarding gear, apparel and accessories. It encourages its customers, who skew younger, to “shred the gnar.”
HBS is open from 12 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Annex also vacated the same two-story building in downtown Highland that it shared with Highland Board Shop.
The funky boutique, which stocks many locally sourced and trendy items, has relocated to 8638 4th St. in Highland. It celebrated its grand reopening Friday.
The Annex carries artisan items from creators like WoodenJacket, Mythos, P. Goodys, Kinfolk Herbs, The Old Gray Goose, Smudge’s Organics, Lucia Handcrafted, Altered57 and Little Lotus Elixirs. It's filled with a carefully curated selection of fashion, crafts, gifts and essential oils.
For more information, call 219-765-8267 or find Shop The Annex on Facebook.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Provecho Latin Provisions, KISS-themed restaurants, Ollie's Bargain Outlet opening
Anticipation has been mounting for Provecho Latin Provisions since Tequila Restaurante closed on the courthouse square in downtown Crown Point last year.
New owner and chef Chris Pappas, whose family owns several restaurants in Crown Point, has been transforming the prime space at 110 S. Main St. into an upscale Latin restaurant with tastes of Spain and South America. The wait is over.
"GRAND OPENING!" Provecho Latin Provisions posted on social media. "Months of dreaming, planning, hard work, and collaboration have come together to bring you Provecho Latin Provisions. Our grand opening will take place Tuesday, March 13th!"
The restaurant will serve traditional tapas dishes like grilled octopus and baked goat cheese in tomato sauce, as well as dishes like corn poblano soup and "Cuban-inspired empanadas with ribeye, green plantain, oaxaca cheese and roasted poblano." Many ingredients will be sourced from local providers such as Five Hands Farm in Lowell.
Provecho Latin Provisions takes its name from the Spanish phrase buen provecho, which roughly translates to bon appetite. It will serve cocktails made with seasonal fresh fruits that are cold-pressed daily, as well as house-made orgeat, falernum, allspice and cinnamon syrups.
Reservations are recommended.
For more information, call 219-663-0050 or visit www.provechocp.com.
Schererville-based Latitude Commercial Real Estate is bringing a restaurant chain owned by KISS frontmen Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley to the south suburbs.
Rock & Brews, which combines comfort food, a wide selection of craft beers and a "family-friendly rock 'n' roll experience," plans to open at the corner of LaGrange Road and 143rd Street in the Orland Park Crossing Lifestyle Center in Orland Park, and at the corner of Cicero Avenue and 111th Street in the Stony Creek Promenade in Oak Lawn.
The Rock & Brews menu includes "creative spins" on burgers, wings, pizza, salads, as well as an extensive tap list that is "always rotating to feature the latest and greatest in craft brew."
“We are very excited to see the concept start their roots in these two locations and see the brand expand throughout Chicago in the future," Latitute Commercial Real Estate President Aaron McDermott said. "We are currently exploring locations for an additional three to four sites within the next two years.”
Poppy & Pleets Boutique opened at 9735 Fran Lin Parkway in Munster. The store sells trendy women's clothes, shoes, handbags, jewelry and accessories that are also affordably priced in a chic space with a quote by Coco Chanel: "The best color in the world is the one that looks good on you."
Now Poppy & Pleets owner Meghan Edens plans to open a second location at 7958 U.S. 41 in St. John. A soft opening will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 25.
The boutique carries brands such as Kut From the Kloth and M. Rena.
For more information, visit poppyandpleets.com.
An Ollie's Bargain Outlet will bring one of its "semi-lovely" stores to LaPorte, where it will sell "good stuff cheap" with a 30-day "no hard time" return guarantee.
The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based retailer sells closeout merchandise, irregular items, discontinued products, liquidated goods, and overstock inventory of everything from flooring to food, sporting goods to housewares for "up to 70 percent less than the fancy stores." On a given day, it might carry assorted miscellany like K-Cups, graphic novels, paperback novels, Yankee Candles and Himalayan salt lamps.
Its LaPorte store will be located by Kroger supermarket in the Pine Lake Shopping Center.
The 36-year-old company, which has more than 270 locations and more than 5,000 employees across the country, offers customers a treasure hunt amid ever-changing merchandise with "witty, humorous in-store signage." The brand's marketing prominently features the bucktoothed, leather-skinned, white-haired, wide-lapelled Ollie character.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Dairy Belle and Theo's expanding, while Jansens closes
Dairy Belle, a walk-up ice cream stand in Hammond since 1950, has been called the best ice cream in the Region.
Two years ago, it spread its beloved cones, shakes, malts and ice cream treats south to a former Dairy Queen at 2034 Austin Ave. in Schererville. Now Dairy Belle is bringing its sweet treats, including the googly-eyed Monster and Poodle ice cream cones, to Cedar Lake.
The ice cream restaurant, which serves a wide array of sundaes, flurries and waffle cones, announced on Facebook it purchased Sundaes on the Lake, a similarly old school walk-up ice cream stand at 13134 Lake Shore Drive on the shore of Cedar Lake.
A staple of childhood for generations of Region residents, Dairy Belle is so popular it sells T-shirts.
"Prepare to be fat and proud. I've never known anyone to try Dairy Belle and not become a repeat user," one Yelp reviewer wrote. "The ice cream here is to die for. The shakes and malts are equivalent to what I imagine to be nectar of the gods."
The longstanding Dick's Restaurant and Bar recently closed at 10808 Wicker Ave. on the south edge of St. John.
The nostalgic supper club-like eatery specialized in steaks and seafood including lake perch, walleye, gulf shrimp, frog legs and wild-caught Alaskan salmon.
But it's been purchased by Theo's Steaks & Seafood, the urbane, sophisticated chophouse at 9144 Indianapolis Blvd. in Highland that's known for steaks, seafood and cocktails in an elegant setting. Theo's plans to keep the Dick's name for now, but is freshening up the place and the menu.
"We are excited about adding Dick’s to our restaurant family," Theo's owner Peter Klideris said. "Our family is thrilled to bring our love of food and serving our community to the people of St. John. We plan to keep the name for right now, but will be updating the menu to feature a variety of steaks and seafood."
Theo's also is extensively renovating the restaurant, which had drawn complaints for its dated decor. One online reviewer had complained last year it looked "like an old folks' home ... in the 1970s."
"We are working around the clock to enhance the building cosmetically to give it more of a modern feel," Klideris said. "The restaurant will also include a beautiful private room that will accommodate up to 120 guests. Perfect for any occasion. Stay tuned for more exciting plans!"
Two more diners are coming to Broadway in Merrillville.
The long-abandoned Broadway Cafe at 7454 Broadway is being reborn as Cafe Stelios.
Xioties Properties, which owned the family-style Delta Restaurant a fifth of a mile north, hopes to open in June a 137-seat restaurant in the 4,300-square-foot building, after an extensive renovation of the vintage Broadway Cafe, which had a 1950s look.
Broadway Cafe was shuttered so long that burglars looted all the remaining shelves and appliances in 2010. The new Cafe Stelios would be open from 6 a.m. to midnight.
And new owners plan to reopen the former Delta diner at 7600 Broadway as the Breakfast Society, a pancake house open for breakfast and lunch that would seat 94 diners.
Jansens Fruit Market has provided fresh, hand-picked seasonal fruits and vegetables to Hobart since at least 1954.
But the longstanding produce stand and garden center at 8190 E. Ridge Road has closed after more than six decades.
"It was a very, very hard decision and with a heavy heart and lot of tears I must tell you that we have closed our store permanently," owner Jack Feurgye posted on Jansens' Facebook page. "Most of you were not just customers, you were friends and always will be friends. It has been a pleasure helping and talking to you. I hope to see all of you at some point. I want to wish everyone health and happiness in the future."
Unlike many produce stands in the area, Jansens Fruit Market was open year-round, offering pumpkins, decorative Indian corn, Christmas trees, wreathes and gift baskets during the less fruitful fall and winter seasons. It had a greenhouse filled with perennials, hanging baskets and tropical flowering plants.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Royale with Cheese brings hipster burgers to Michigan City
In one of the more famous, oft-quoted lines of dialogue in "Pulp Fiction," an exchange that helped cement Quentin Tarantino as a virtuoso screenwriter and cinematic auteur, the hitmen Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield talked about Vincent's recent trip to Paris.
"And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?" asked Vincent, played by John Travolta.
"They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with cheese?" asked Jules, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
"No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn't know what a Quarter Pounder is."
"Then what do they call it?"
"They call it a Royale with cheese."
Royale with Cheese is the name of a hip new burger restaurant at 827 Franklin St. in downtown Michigan City that references the classic movie on its Facebook page. It's decorated with modern art, chalkboard menus, Edison lighting, exposed ducts and a deconstructed motorcycle that's hung up on the wall. There's a pop machine pouring Jones Soda, which is made in Seattle with pure cane sugar, the slogan "because big soda sucks," and features idiosyncratic flavors like Green Apple, Blue Bubble Gum, Fufu Berry, Strawberry Lime and Bacon.
The restaurant serves big beefy burgers with weekly specials — dubbed Bob's Burgers after the cult TV show — like the "Jack-O-Lentil" with goat cheese, baby spinach and lentils; "Hit me with your Best Shallot," with shallots, arugula and goat cheese; the "Sweaty Palms Burger" with Parmesan, spicy hearts of palm and artichoke Tapenade; and the "If Looks Could Kale Burger" with Gruyere cheese, rosemary tomato orzo and, of course, kale.
The menu includes salads, sandwiches, elote it calls "street corn," bourbon-battered onion rings and "ghetto fries" with nacho cheese, beef, sour cream and jalapenos. Burgers include a chorizo-blend Mexican Burger with chipotle mayo, a Caprese Burger and a Pina Burger with pineapple. The namesake Royale Burger is an In and Out-style burger.
The place has a sense of humor — the menu description of fresh cut fries, for instance, is "you know what these are."
Royale with Cheese, nestled in the heart of Michigan City's Uptown Arts District, also is working to set up a coffee bar.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. through 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. through 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call 219-243-7106.
The Mama Pearl's BBQ Restaurant, Banquets and Catering in downtown Gary closed in December after a run of several years.
The barbecue and soul food restaurant shared the building at 411 E. 5th Ave. across from U.S. Steel Yard with the ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen culinary incubator and cultural events space.
Named after the late Pearl Mason, who died last year at the age of 105, the southern-themed eatery was known for its ribs, rib tips, catfish nuggets, shrimp, chicken, sweet potatoes, cornbread, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and pinto beans. It's one of the latest of a string of restaurants meant to capitalize on the Gary SouthShore Railcats traffic that have closed in downtown Gary, including Bennigan's, Dustie's Southern Style Buffet and the Stadium Buffet and Grill.
The Zuchez Restaurant and Bar at 211 N. Broad St. closed after a short stint as an eatery and nightclub in downtown Griffith.
The phone number is disconnected, the Facebook page and website have been taken down, and the building has been closed, though signs posted on the doors and windows looking for employees indicate the owners or new owners may be looking to reopen the space with a new Las Vegas concept.
The owners, who could not be reached for comment, had hoped the 260-person establishment would "bring date night back to the Region" when they opened last fall. Zuchez had live bands and weekend dance nights with country, salsa, merengue and house music.
In addition to being a nightclub, Zuchez offered everything from breakfast to dinner.
Online reviews were generally harsh, with customers complaining about prices, quality and service on websites like Yelp.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Buona, Hooters, tech repair shop all opening
Buona plans to open its "Original Italian Beef" restaurant on March 27 at 24 U.S. 41 in Schererville and will open Feb. 28 at 19801 Crawford Ave. in Flossmoor.
The fast-growing local chain will give a free Italian beef sandwich to anyone waiting in line at the 130-seat Flossmoor location before 10 a.m. on opening day, as well as 1,500 prizes that include free Italian beef for a year. The festivities include an Italian beef-eating contest for high school athletes, who are generally not known for their bird-like appetites.
“We’re thrilled to join the Flossmoor community,” second-generation owner Joe Buonavolanto Jr. said. “We think its residents will enjoy our family’s flavorful Italian beef. We make it 'old school,' spiced just right and free of additives and preservatives.”
Buona, the official Italian beef of both the White Sox and Chicago's other baseball team, started as a "beef stand" in Berwyn in 1981 and remains family owned. The menu includes many Chicago staples like Italian beef, Italian sausage, beef and sausage combos, Chicago dogs, and pepper and egg sandwiches. It also has some Italian fare like mostaccioli, lemon chicken and pizza.
The Flossmoor restaurant will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and can be reached at 708-991-7300.
Hooters opened Saturday at 1665 Oldstead Drive in the AmeriPlex at the Port business park in Portage. It’s by the Longhorn Steakhouse in the business park just northeast of the Ind. 249 exit on Interstate 94.
The sit-down restaurant and bar, which also has locations in Schererville and Merrillville, is known for its female servers wearing skimpy outfits, its chicken wings and showing pay-per-view fights.
It caters to a principally male demographic. The new 5,600-square-foot eatery will join El Salto, Starbucks, DQ Grill and Chill, Taco Bell, Subway, Islamorada Fish Co. at Bass Pro Shops and other restaurants at the business park in Portage.
Hooters would pose direct competition to the nearby Quaker Steak & Lube, which also has a menu that focuses on Buffalo wings.
The tech repair franchise UBreakiFix has opened at 5940 U.S. 6 Portage, in the Portage Commons.
Owners Angelo and Alexandra Giannakopoulos hope to open six more locations across Northwest Indiana and the south Chicago area.
“UBreakiFix specializes in the repair of smartphones and computers but offers repairs on anything with a power button,” the company said in a news release. “The brand has more than 350 stores across the U.S. and Canada, a partnership with Google, and founder Justin Wetherill was named among Forbes' 30 Under 30 in Consumer Tech last year.”
The Portage store off U.S. 6 is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information, call 219-762-0100.
Route 2 Brews owner Christopher Fast told The Times in 2014 when he and his wife, Gwendolyn Fast, opened their craft brewery and taproom, "I figure Lowell is ready for something like this."
But less than four years after Route 2 Brews opened, the Fasts are closing the 3,000-square-foot steampunk-themed taproom at 141 Harding Drive in Lowell.
"Thank you for all the support over the last three years," they posted on Facebook. "Our taproom doors are closed. All open gift certificates will be honored. Please message the brewery for a gift certificate resolution."
Route 2 had distributed its beers in bottles at a growing number of retailers in Northwest Indiana, including Lowell Liquors, Holiday Liquors in Cedar Lake, Kennan Liquors in St. John and Dyer, Lake Liquors in Cedar Lake, Liquor Stop in Highland, and Liq Go in Crown Point.
The Fasts told customers on Facebook their beer would still be available at liquor stores, but it was unclear whether they would continue production. They have removed most of the information about the brewery and its beers from their website.
Route 2 Brews had often come under fire for labels and beer names many described as sexist, objectifying to women, in bad taste, and off-putting to female customers. Critics said the labels promoted sexual harassment and were "awful."
Route 2 Brews is only the second craft brewery after Twisted K-8 in downtown LaPorte to close in Northwest Indiana after the explosion in new breweries between 2013-2016. Before craft brewing became nearly ubiquitous and took over many taps at local bars in the last few years, Valparaiso's Aberdeen Brewing Co., Michigan City's Duneland Brewhouse, and Hobart's Brickworks Brewing Co. all opened and closed.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Meijer, McAlister’s Deli, Anytime Fitness opening
McAlister’s Deli, a chain deli with a southern twist, opened its long-awaited Schererville restaurant Friday.
It’s the third Northwest Indiana location for McAlister’s Deli, which plans to open two more eateries in the area. The new fast-casual restaurant, in the vein of Panera Bread and Noodles and Co., is at 318 Indianapolis Boulevard in the new Shoppes on the Boulevard development.
“We believe McAlister’s handcrafted sandwiches, family-friendly atmosphere, and genuine hospitality will be a welcome addition to Schererville,” NWI Deli Inc. franchisee John Malesh said. “We look forward to opening our doors and becoming a part of Schererville and surrounding communities including Highland, Griffith, Munster, Dyer and St. John.”
McAlister’s, which also has restaurants in Merrillville and Valparaiso, serves up traditional deli fare like pastrami sandwiches, New Orleans-style muffalettas, giant spuds, salads and sweet iced tea. An example is the Big Nasty, a half-pound of Angus beef smothered in gravy and cheddar-jack cheese.
The 29-year-old establishment, which sets up in suburban locations, also offers takeout and catering.
The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, call 219-440-7681.
Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Meijer, which has 235 stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Indiana, is close to completing its new 190,000-square-foot superstore with a full grocery line in the Porter’s Vale Shopping Center in Valparaiso.
The store just east of Ind. 49 will employ 350 workers and be open 24/7. It will include a gas station and curbside pickup.
A company spokesman said it would be open by late spring or early summer.
Locally, Meijer also has locations in Portage, Merrillville, Michigan City and Highland.
Brothers Feras Musleh and Mohammade Musleh, with the help of their father Naser Musleh as an investor partner, are opening a Anytime Fitness gym in a brand new plaza next to CVS at the corner of Calumet Avenue and Main Street in Munster. An additional 2,700 square feet in the strip mall will be available for lease to retailers, restaurants or medical facilities.
The new gym at 821 Main St. will employ five, along with three more part-time class instructors. It will be open 24/7 and offer tanning, hydromassage, red light therapy, and live and virtual classes.
“Also, we will offer our new training program that will consist of one-on-one and group training sessions,” owner Mohammade Musleh said. “Clients will have access to our heart rate monitor system to track their calories as well as heart rate during sessions.”
Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore thrift store marked its second anniversary in Merrillville.
The thrift store relies on donations of lightly used items like clothes, home decor and furniture, reusing and recycling what would otherwise be pitched.
“I love to see how customers recycle items,” ReStore District Manager Kim DeRisi said. “The photos they show me are beautiful. I think people feel good when they get creative and recycle.”
The Griffith and Merrillville stores have diverted 1.5 million pounds of waste from the landfill and generate funds for Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, which builds houses that are sold to low-income families interest-free.
“ReStores are an environmentally and socially responsible way to keep good, reusable, materials out of the waste stream while providing funding for Habitat's community improvement work. It's a vital funding stream to help build Habitat homes,” DeRisi said. “ReStores mean we can help more families in need of safe, affordable housing get a home.”
With funding from Restore, the local Habitat for Humanity chapter hopes to put 10 more Northwest Indiana families in homes this year.
“It’s been a team effort cleaning it up, organizing and giving it a fresh look. We've made many changes over the years to make it better,” DeRisi said. “We have a wonderful, friendly staff and a place that I am proud of. We are open to the public and hope people come in to see what we have to offer.”
For more information, call 219-972-3000 or visit nwirestore.org.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Starbucks, Pita Pit, Beef Jerky Outlet coming
Joseph S. Pete
Starbucks and a Beef Jerky Outlet are coming to Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in downtown Michigan City this spring.
Starbucks will sell its fancy, highly sugared or puckeringly bitter coffee drinks in a 1,580-square-foot space off the main parking lot near the 7th Street and Wabash Street entrance of the outdoor outlet mall. It plans to open in early April.
Beef Jerky Outlet will sell more than 100 varieties of jerky, including Cajun, elk, kangaroo, moonshine and venison in a 1,440-square-foot space near the 7th Street and Wabash Street entrance beginning in March.
Visitors to Beef Jerky Outlet, a Tennessee-based chain named to Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500, also will be able to buy other select foodstuffs such as sauces, spices, rubs, jams, jellies, cheeses, nut candies and peanut butters.
“We are delighted to share the news of two new store openings for our shoppers to look forward to,” Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets General Manager Chris Juricic said. “Both Starbucks Coffee and Beef Jerky Outlet will afford our shoppers the opportunity to enjoy some delicious treats from quality brands while shopping our center.”
Pita Pit plans to open its first Northwest Indiana location soon at 10611 Broadway in Crown Point.
The Canadian chain, a more Mediterranean version of Subway that has locations in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood and downtown Indianapolis, sells its customized wraps with fresh meats and veggies in a 2,000-square-foot restaurant that will seat 40 people and another dozen on an outdoor patio.
Franchise owners Matt and Mari Davis is opening the Crown Point Pita Pit, which will offer a double drive-thru, catering services and the rollout of the brand’s new menu.
"What we've noticed is that some people want to go through the line and customize their order, while others want something that's pre-built," Vice President of Development Bill Wilfong said. "So to make everyone happy, we have a whole new menu of chef-inspired menu items, so you might get a pita with buffalo chicken, romaine and cheddar cheese and don't have to choose every last item. It's about 50/50 with what customers prefer and we want to satisfy everyone."
The quick-service restaurant, which typically does a brisk lunch business, will employ 20 workers when it opens in mid-March. The franchise owners are looking to open three more Pita Pits across Northwest Indiana over the next few years.
"It's a local family, and they're super-excited," he said.
The Dairy Queen Grill and Chill at 730 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville has closed.
The ice cream restaurant just off U.S. 30 that served Dilly Bars and Blizzards near the former Star Plaza Theatre and Radisson at Star Plaza is shuttered and the phone line is disconnected. A Dairy Queen customer representative said she could not comment on why it closed.
"Often, the franchise operator of a location may want to sell their DQ location and may be unable to find a prospective franchise operator that is willing and able to take over that location," a "fan relations specialist" said. "As such, they may have to close their doors for good."
Mastersque has opened a new barbecue joint at 2486 W. 81st Street in Merrillville.
The barbecue restaurant on U.S. 30 delivers to anywhere in Merrillville and serves an array of meats, including brisket, rib tips, pulled pork, turkey link, fish and jerk ribs. Sides include greens, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad and mac and cheese.
Customers have complimented the restaurant's smoke flavoring, mild sauce and barbecue sauce in online reviews.
For more information, visit mastersque.com or call 219-525-5401.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Grocery store and gyros stand close in Valpo
Joseph S. Pete
If you don't want to grow up and just want to be a Toys "R" Us kid, you'll have to do it in Hobart, home to the last remaining Toys "R" Us toy store in Northwest Indiana.
The New Jersey-based chain, which is closing more than 180 stores nationwide as part of a restructuring after filing for bankruptcy, shuttered its location at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in Michigan City earlier this week.
The struggling toy and electronics retailer, which has been hobbled by e-commerce and mounting debt, said it was shuttering stores across the country that failed to meet its performance standards.
The only Toys "R" Us left in the Region is at 2020 E. Lincoln Highway in the Merrillville Plaza across from the Southlake Mall.
Petey's City Grill ended a 17-year run serving gyros on U.S. 30 in Valparaiso in December.
The gyros restaurant at 255 Morthland Drive, which delivered and had a drive-through, had the slogans "We're not just another Pretty Pita" and "You're all friends and family here."
In addition to "Petey's Famous Gyros," the restaurant served Chicago-syle dogs, Italian beef, patty melts, pork tenderloin and an "Avocado Grill" with items like an avocado bacon grilled cheese.
Founded in 2001, Petey's had a more modern look than most Region gyros joints and unique menu items like a Mac & Cheese burger, a grilled veggie pita, a pretzel bacon cheese dog, and My Big Fat Greek Burger.
"It is with a heavy heart, we are announcing after 17 years of serving the community, Petey's City Grill will be closing its doors for good," the owners said on Facebook. "To our dismay, the new owners of the strip mall have decided to replace us with a bigger box brand store. And we have been asked to relocate. However after, great thought, a personal decision to retire from the restaurant industry was concluded. It has been our pleasure, but more importantly our privilege to serve the NWI area for over 17 years."
The Wholesome Cupboard, a Valparaiso specialty grocery store in a strip mall just down U.S. 30 from Petey's City Grill, also shuttered at the end of 2017.
"Valpo's Affordable Specialty Market" at 201-9 Morthland Drive carried locally produced food, imported cheeses, artisanal pop, vitamins, Himalayan salt products, essential oils and more. A registered nurse opened it in 2015 for people with special dietary restrictions, such as if they can't eat gluten or must watch their salt intake.
The Wholesome Cupboard carried an array of vegan, vegetarian, organic, non-GMO, low-carbohydrate and other healthy foods. Its expansive ethnic section include Italian, Thai, Asian, Indian, German, Irish, English, Serbian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern foods.
Planet Fitness, the gym chain known for its cheap prices, non-judgmental attitude and free pizza once a month, opened at 520 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville.
The gym is the anchor in the new strip mall that replaced the popular Catch 22 restaurant on U.S. 30 in Merrillville, which will reopen in a smaller space at that site. The growing chain has other Region locations in Crown Point, Schererville, Hobart and Hammond.
Marketing to the casual "everyman" instead of bodybuilders and fitness fanatics, it entices customers by charging just $10 a month for memberships and offering freebies like free bagels.
The Merrillville gym is open from 12 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Dunkin' Donuts opened a new coffee/donut shop at 328 W. 37th Ave. in New Chicago.
The Massachusetts-based chain, one of the largest fast-food franchises in the world by sheer number of locations, has 18 other restaurants in Lake County alone. It replaced a former Pizza Hut restaurant in New Chicago, where it's open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
The location has a drive-through, on-the-go mobile ordering and Dunkin' Donut K-Cup Pods and ground coffee available for retail sale.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Harvest Room, Porkchop BBQ come to Region
Joseph S. Pete
The farm-to-table Harvest Room restaurant, which has earned accolades from local critics like the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Vettel, plans to open another location in Munster.
The Palos Heights restaurant is known for its locally sourced produce, cage-free eggs, made-from-scratch cuisine and hand-crafted cocktails. A sample omelet is the “Super Fun Guy,” which includes balsamic caramelized onions, butternut squash, mushrooms and goat cheese. The “Mount Biscuit Skillet” features smoked brisket hash and a spicy sriracha swirl.
Harvest Room hopes to open a breakfast-and-lunch eatery in building D of the new Centennial Village in late spring. It will feature about 80 percent of the menu and include some new items.
Harvest Room's owners Christ and Carri Sirigas said they saw Munster as “an untapped community of people that are knowledgeable, responsible and truly care about what they eat.”
“We make it our mission to make sure every fine diner has a unique experience and leaves with a sense of pride that they can tell their friends and family,” they said. "As far as other locations, we focus first to make sure we are doing our best for Munster and we will see where that takes us."
For more information, visit harvestroomrestaurant.com.
Porkchop BBQ, a Chicago-based chain, finally opened its long-awaited Southlake Mall location. It joins other mall dining options like Cooper’s Hawk Winery, Schoop's Hamburgers and Sbarro.
The barbecue joint promises “an urban interpretation of a Southern backwoods experience” that serves items like pulled pork sliders, fried ribs, smoked chicken, shrimp po’ boys and elote.
“It is an unapologetically unpretentious neighborhood party spot serving gourmet Southern comfort food and BBQ, and featuring an innovative ‘lowbrow’ bar program with some of the world’s top whiskeys,” Porkchop said on its website.
OrangeTheory Fitness, a heart rate-monitored group workout that purports to be based on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption science, has opened at 852 N. Superior Drive in Crown Point and at 835 Joliet Street in Dyer.
The gym chain claims its hour-long workouts burn up to 1,000 calories an hour and to continue to burn calories for 36 hours afterwards through “afterburn” that stimulates the metabolism. The Florida-based high-intensity, high-interval training gym now has more than 600 locations across the United States.
Charter Fitness has shuttered its Schererville gym at 1642 U.S. 41 at the intersection of U.S. 30 and Indianapolis Boulevard.
The low-cost fitness center chain lets members work out for as little as $10 a month, but Yelp reviewers complained about a dearth of exercise equipment and broken weight machines. It has dozens of locations in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, including on Broadway in Merrillville.
The Urban League of Northwest Indiana is looking to find someone to rent space in its headquarters at 3101 Broadway by the Indiana University Northwest campus in Gary.
“We are looking for people who are primarily engaged in the areas of education, health or business but are open to other considerations,” President and Chief Executive Officer Vanessa Allen-McCloud. “The space would be available from Monday through Thursday during the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A desk, chair, computer, access to phone service, conference room, copier and fax options are all included in the monthly rental fee of $700.”
Anyone who's interested can call 219-887-9621.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: ChicagoLand Popcorn, The Simple Greek opening
Joseph S. Pete
ChicagoLand Popcorn first popped up on U.S. 30 across from the popular Albanese Candy Co. in Hobart in 2013, and now the gourmet popcorn place has planted a kernel in St. John.
The specialty popcorn shop, which carries more than 250 flavors like Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper, Pistachio and Pralines & Cream, opened its second location at 8329 Wicker Ave. in the Lake Central Plaza across from the sprawling Lake Central High School in St. John. A ribbon-cutting will take place at 2 p.m. Monday, and there will be popcorn.
"We are excited to add another location that is more convenient for our customers that live in and near St. John,” ChicagoLand Popcorn President Dwayne Walker said. "We're excited to bring our flavors, event services, corporate gifts, and our established brand of customer service to this key geographic area of our expansion strategy.”
The Simple Greek, the Chipotle of Greek food, plans to open a fast-casual restaurant at 9609 Calumet Ave. in Munster's new Centennial Village by April, franchise owner Adam Roberton said.
The exact timing will depend on when construction is complete in the mixed-use development, which will include condos, restaurants and a hotel.
"Like many living in Northwest Indiana, I am very excited to see our community embracing new and exciting restaurants, shopping and other concepts that complement many of the Region's staples," Robertson said. "Seeing a growing desire for a variety of healthier cuisine options in Northwest Indiana, I thought The Simple Greek and its modern Greek/Mediterranean, fast casual concept would be a nice addition to our community."
Similar to a Qdoba or Chipotle, all the orders are customized. Customers pick out a pita or a rice bowl that can be topped with gyro, chicken gyro, steak, veggies, feta cheese, spices, hummus, imported olive oil and other toppings.
"I can’t wait for everyone to taste the Greek Fries," Roberton said. "This delectable dish takes fresh-cut fries and adds feta cheese, imported vinegar, oregano and other spices for an amazing culinary experience everyone needs to try! We will also have traditional Greek desserts like Baklava, Rizogalo, Baklava Cheesecake and an array of other traditional Greek fare."
Chicken wing restaurant Quaker Steak & Lube, which has a sit-down restaurant at the AmeriPlex at the Port business park in Portage, has opened its second Northwest Indiana location in a Travel Centers of America truck stop in Gary.
The new Quaker Steak & Lube Express will be located in the TA travel center at 2510 Burr St., just off the Burr Street exit of I-80/94 in Gary. The quick-serve restaurant will offer bone-in wings, boneless wings, breaded boneless wings, bottled wing sauces and and some non-wing options like burgers and salads.
It will be able to seat more than 110 diners and will have six televisions showing sports. Customers can order online or call ahead, as it will prioritize fast service for truckers in a hurry.
“We are excited to bring this new walk-up concept of The Lube to professional drivers, motorists and the Gary community,” Quaker Steak & Lube Vice President Bruce Lane said.
Renovar, the unique home decor and furniture store in downtown Griffith, is closing after two years. The store at the heavily trafficked and highly visible corner of Broad and Main Streets sold items like Farmhouse paint, catering to those interested in DIY home projects.
"Friends, these past two years at Renovar have been really good to us, thanks in part to wonderful customers like you," owners Jenny Ann and Armando Del Real posted on Facebook. "We have met many talented people and have made new friends along the way. But now it is time to work on other aspects of our lives. Our family's health and happiness are at the top of our priority list. For us, running a retail store location is no longer practical at this time. We will be closing Renovar at the end of January. We will continue to do what we love, but distributed in other ways. Meaning that our brick and mortar may be closing for the time being, but we aren't gone forever! We are still available for custom orders and will be working out details on other things in the next few weeks."
Renovar is currently having a liquidation sale to get ride of its remaining dressers, tables, chairs, candles, soap, handbags and other inventory.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: New oncology office, gym coming to Northwest Indiana
Joseph S. Pete
Dr. Mohamad Kassar, a board-certified hematologist and medical oncologist who practices in Munster, is building a new oncology center at 1001 Calumet Ave. in Dyer.
Dyer Planning Director Bryan Lane said the doctor was constructing a two-story building under 30,000 square feet on a 5-acre site on Calumet Avenue, which has become one of the hottest corridors for new development in the town. There are long-term plans to build a second building for medical offices on the site, but no timetable for the future addition.
Kassar, who co-directs the Cancer Center at Community Hospital in Dyer and was the principal investigator for more than 15 National Cancer Institute-funded clinical trials, expects to complete construction of the building that's now going up by the spring, Lane said.
Anytime Fitness, the fast-growing 24-hour gym chain, started construction on a new $2 million gym in Cedar Lake as part of a rapid expansion across Northwest Indiana.
Franchisees Atta Musleh, Muhanad Musleh, Moe Musleh, Yasmin Musleh and Ammr Musleh hired the Crown Point-based commercial contractor Integrated Construction Solutions to build out the new 7,200-square-foot gym over the next four to five months. It will be at 9708 Lincoln Plaza just off W. 133rd Avenue about a mile east of U.S. 41.
"We own several clubs around the Region: Dyer, Winfield, Lowell, and Schererville, and are very excited to be expanding into Cedar Lake," owner Moe Musleh said. "The location will be in front of the Strack & Van Till."
The Musleh family plans to build as many as nine new Anytime Fitness gyms over the next several years.
The Cedar Lake location is expected to open in the spring, and will employ about 12 workers.
Anytime Fitness, which keeps regular hours but which members can unlock to use at any time day or night, has more than 3,330 gyms nationally, including in Hobart, Merrillville, Highland, Portage, Winfield, Crown Point, Valparaiso, Schererville, St. John, Dyer, Hebron, Lowell, Michigan City, LaPorte, DeMotte and South Holland. Another Anytime Fitness gym is currently under construction in Munster.
Meatheads, a Five Guys-like "better burger" restaurant that cooks to order with all-natural ingredients, closed its Schererville location after a four-year run. The Bloomington, Illinois-based chain, which served gourmet burgers, canola oil-fried French fries, shakes, salads and New England-style hot dogs, shuttered its location at 69 U.S. Highway 41 Ste. 300 in Schererville.
"It is with great sadness that we share the closing of the Schererville Meatheads," a sign posted on the door said. "We thank our loyal customers, neighbors and friends for your support over the years."
The neighboring Firehouse Subs in a strip mall outside the Shops on Main outdoor shopping center in Schererville also recently closed. Both opened in 2013, when the much-awaited lifestyle center did.
Any fans of Meatheads burgers, which feature Angus beef and premium toppings such as cucumber wasabi sauce and avocado, still can visit the Munster location at 9140 Calumet Ave #101.