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.

Joseph S. Pete

Joseph S. Pete

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Ice cream returns to downtown Highland, Maria’s Buena Cocina finds new home, F45 gym coming to Valpo, Domino's coming to Portage, CBD shop opening in Hobart, Merrillville and Valparaiso.

The new F45 Training gym in Crown Point is shown. The chain signed a lease for new Valparaiso location.

For more than a half-century, kids, softball players, Little Leaguers in grass-stained uniforms and their parents crowded around the Highland Custard Shop in downtown Highland.

The longtime downtown landmark closed in the 1990s, but now the ice cream is back.

Emily and Dr. David Foreit, who has an office in downtown Highland, have opened The Counter Ice Cream & Italian Ice at 2936 Highway Ave. Their ice cream shop is in the building that once housed the Highland Custard Shop and was more recently home to Anthony's Cafe.

"Everything comes full circle," David Foreit said. 

Highland Redevelopment Director Kathy DeGuilio-Fox said it's also the same building that will house Maria’s Buena Cocina, which closed at its location by the now-razed Town Theatre in February.

"We’re excited that the first of two new restaurants planned for that space is open in time to help everyone cool down over the 4th of July holiday," she said.

Foreit and his wife both grew up in Chicago enjoying Italian ice stands, he on the South Side and she in Lincoln Park.

"We kind of looked at each other and said we want to buy that building," he said. "Selling Italian ice was a childhood dream of mine. We just want to make people smile."

They have been renovating the building since last summer. Maria's will occupy about 1,500 square feet of space, while The Counter will take up about 400 square feet — yes, it's a literal walk-up counter.

"It should be wonderful," he said. "The carnival, the park, the church and the school are right across the street. There are homes within walking distance. I'm seeing people out downtown with strollers. You don't have to drive to come here. You can just walk."

The Counter Ice Cream & Italian Ice sells authentic East Coast-style Italian Ice, soft-serve custard with 10% milk fat, and Dole Pineapple Whip that until recently was only available at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It sells cones, cups and floats, as well as cold brew coffee and bubbly seltzer water.

"You just need to try the Italian ice," he said. "It's wonderful and tart and sweet. It's so satisfying when it's hot out."

The Foreits have not yet decided whether the business will be seasonal but are considering keeping it open in the winter.

"My kids run the place, and I'm trying to teach them about business and people, and how to be social," he said. "I'm trying to get them off their phones. I also want to contribute to the redevelopment of downtown. I'm a physician right down the street with a focus on pain relief and I plan on being here for the duration."

The Counter Ice Cream & Italian Ice is open from 12 to 9 p.m. daily and may decide to open later on weekends.

For more information, find the business on Facebook or email thecounternwi@gmail.com.

Coming soon

Domino's Pizza, the nation's largest pizza chain, will open a new pizzeria in Portage.

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The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company signed a long-term lease at the new Dunkin Donuts building at 1895 Crisman Road. Domino's plans to start construction soon on the 1,400-square-foot space and open in the next four to five months.

Schererville-based Latitude Commercial’s Brett McDermott represented the landlord of the property in the lease. “We are excited to announce the addition of Domino’s to the center. The franchisee is a multi-unit operator and provides a nice synergy with the Dunkin. We now have one unit left in the center in which we are currently in negotiations with another tenant for.”

Coming soon

F45 Training, the high-intensity interval training gym that opened earlier this year at 870 N. Superior Dr. in Crown Point, will open a second Northwest Indiana location in Valparaiso.

The rapidly growing gym chain, where the F stands for functional training and 45 for the length of every synchronized group workout, signed a long-term lease at 2274 U.S. 30.

“This is a great opportunity in the outlot of the Strack & Van Til in Valparaiso,” said McDermott. Latitude Commercial represented F45 Training in the transaction. “We feel that the location is in a strong retail trade area that also has a large residential component to it. The Crown Point community has really embraced the first F45 that was opened and we anticipate the same with Valpo.”

Developed in Australia, F45 creates unique workouts every day out of database of 4,000 different exercises, so its members never repeat the same workout or plateau. Local franchisee Jason Cotton said he also has aspirations to bring the personal trainer-led classes to Schererville.

Coming soon

CBD American Shaman, a CBD oil and wellness products retailer, plans to open locations in Hobart, Merrillville and Valparaiso.

The small chain, which has locations in the Indianapolis area and across Wisconsin, plans to open stores at 1733 E. 37th Ave. in Hobart, 5145 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville and 1615 N. Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso. The company said it sells a CBD oil derived from hemp that is "100% organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and has no heavy metals or insecticides, and is batch tested using Ultra Performance Convergence Chromatography."

CBD retailers have been springing up left and right across Northwest Indiana, as people take it to treat inflammation, chronic pain, arthritis, seizures, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, PTSD, spasms, neurological disorders and other conditions.

“We’re excited to bring CBD American Shaman to the Valparaiso market,” McDermott said. “As people learn more about CBD oil and its benefits, the demand will continue to grow. Keep an eye out as this franchisee continues to open stores in the Northwest Indiana market.”

The company said its products help relieve stress, maintain focus and manage pain. It will join a crowded CBD market that includes pharmacies, wellness stores, coffee shops, juiceries, gas stations, and even a fireworks store.

“Brett McDermott was efficiently vigilant to finding our next perfect location,” CBD American Shaman's Rebecca Minas said. “We are beyond excited to become a part of the Valparaiso community’s natural health & well-being.”


Dollar General has opened another dollar store at 900 E. Main St. in Griffith.

“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 area customers will enjoy shopping at Dollar General’s new location.”

The Tennessee-based discount retailer typically employs six to 10 people at each store. It carries name brands in a number of areas, including food, apparel, houseware, cleaning supplies. the 9,026-square-foot Griffith location will carry home decor and party essentials.

If you've got tips about new stores or restaurants anywhere in the Region, or just wonder what's under construction somewhere, contact NWI Business Ins and Outs columnist Joseph S. Pete at joseph.pete@nwi.com or 219.933.3316.