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Jodi's Italian Ice expands, looks to add pizza

Jodi's Italian Ice Factory Manager Jesse Tillman serves an Italian Ice to customer Nia Peterson at the shop in Hammond. He recently opened an outpost of the chain in Miami.

A popular local chain of Italian Ice parlors has expanded to Miami, and is looking at opening a Chicago location.

Jodi's Italian Ice Factory, which serves Philadelphia-style "water ice" or "Italian lemonade," first opened on Calumet Avenue in Hammond and has since launched a food truck and expanded to Whiting, Schererville and the U.S. Steel Yard in downtown Gary.

Now it is looking at adding food at its Schererville location, including cold sandwiches and quick-serve pizza, in addition to its expansion out of state.

Jesse Tillman, the son of founders Jodi and Brian Tillman, opened the chain's latest outpost in Miami, where business is strongest during the winter months because of all the tourist travel. That is a time when business falls off in Northwest Indiana.

Any Northwest Indiana residents who stop in the Miami location at 1220 Normandy Ave. can get a free medium ice, Tillman said.

The local locations in Hammond, Whiting and Schererville are closing for the winter and will reopen in the spring, as the chain focuses on establishing its Miami outpost. The Tillmans announced Thursday they were making the business seasonal and closing for the winter.

The restaurant chain had been looking to add about 10 locations around the region, but is now mainly focused on a Chicago store, possibly in Bridgeport, to cater to customers who drive down to Hammond.

Jodi's also is planning to expand beyond its trademark sorbet-like frozen dessert that's made with real fruit and candy. The Schererville location used to be Mundo's Pizza, and the Tillmans want to take advantage of the old pizza oven to offer something similar to Pieology's "custom artisan-style" pies. People would choose their ingredients, and Jodi's would cook the pizza in an open-flame oven in about five minutes.

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Business Reporter

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