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NWI Business Ins and Outs: IHOP and Smoothie King opening in Schererville, Gelsosomo's Pizzeria shutters in Highland, new dance studio opens in Merrillville
NWI Business Ins and Outs

NWI Business Ins and Outs: IHOP and Smoothie King opening in Schererville, Gelsosomo's Pizzeria shutters in Highland, new dance studio opens in Merrillville

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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.

Pancakes are about to go global in Schererville.

IHOP, or the world-famous International House of Pancakes, plans to open on Feb. 10 on U.S. 41, town manager Robert Volkmann said.

Dimension Schererville Ventures bought a 1.27-acre site for the pancake restaurant near the Crossroads of America intersection. It's located in front of the Hampton Inn & Suites just a block south of U.S. 30.

“IHOP is a great complement to the Hampton Inn hotel,” said Aaron McDermott, president of Latitude Commercial, who represented the seller in the sale to IHOP. “Schererville can look forward to endless supplies of pancakes."

The diner chain is of course known for its traditional American breakfast fare, such as bacon, eggs and of course stacks of fluffy, maple syrup-drenched pancakes. It recently briefly rebranded as IHOB, or International House of Burgers, to promote its new burger menu.

Many — though not all — IHOPs are open for 24 hours, 7 days a week. The suburban Los Angeles-based chain also has locations in Hammond, Merrillville and Lansing.

Coming soon

Smoothie King, the Dallas-based smoothie chain, is bringing its fruit smoothies to Main Street Center in Schererville, Volkmann said.

The 27,608-square-foot strip mall at the intersection of Main Street and Indianapolis Boulevard also is home to Starbucks, Jersey Mike’s, Accelerated Health Systems, GNC and Oberweis Dairy.

Smoothie King, the sponsor of the Smoothie King Center where the National Basketball Association's New Orleans Pelicans play, also has locations locally in St. John, Merrillville and Mokena, Illinois.

The smoothie shop chain offers 27 different fitness blends like Coffee High Protein Vanilla, Keto Champ Berry, the Hulk Strawberry and Gladiator Vanilla. It has 18 different slim blends under 350 calories that purport to help people lose weight, like Greek Yogurt Peach Papaya and Lean1 Pineapple Mango, as well as 14 wellness blends like Blueberry Heaven and Vegan Mango Kale.


Gelsosomo's Pizzeria and Bullpen Luxury Bar and Grill served its last square of tavern-cut pizza, which has more of a claim to being the real Chicago-style pizza than the deep dish style that tourists seek out, after a seven-year run on the boulevard in Highland.

The sit-down pizzeria and sports bar at 9318 Indianapolis Boulevard is the second authentic Chicago pizzeria to close on Indianapolis Boulevard in Highland over the past year, following the closure of Sanfratello's last year.

The Highland location was the ninth in the popular Gelsosomo's chain, which has been serving square-cut pizza, specialty pizza, pasta and salads to Northwest Indiana and greater Chicagoland since 1979. The restaurant featured family-style dining and a highly modern sports bar with 19-inch HDTV screens, beer tappers with self-order touch screens at each booth in the bar, and a wide array of Chicago sports memorabilia and decor.

In addition to dine-in, the pizzeria, which opened in 2013, offered carryout and delivery.


A new dental office will soon replace The Highland Kiddie Shop, a longtime fixture of downtown Highland that sold clothes for babies, toddlers and infants.

The old Highland Kiddie Shop storefront was torn down last year, Highland Building Commissioner Ken Mika said. Dr. Kurt Pramuk has been building a new building at 2706 Highway Ave. that will soon be close to occupancy.

Highland Redevelopment Director Kathy DeGuilio-Fox said the new business will open Monday.

"I’m thrilled to say that Dr. Kurt Pramuk, DDS, purchased the property and built a new dental clinic," she said. "We worked with him and his architect last year to meet the design standards set for our town and the overlay district. It is a beautiful building and a wonderful fit for our downtown."


A Merrillville native returned home to achieve her dream of opening a dance studio.

Dancer Brianna Hairlson opened Bri’s Dance Place at 7890 Broadway next to Premier Dental Group just south of U.S. 30 in Merrillville after getting laid off from her information technology job while she was pregnant with her son.

The 3,800-square-foot dance studio, which opened in October, offers dances classes to children between the ages of 2 and 18 and to adults in its three dance rooms. Bri's Dance Place offers classes for pregnant women, new moms and people preparing for weddings, as well as cardio and hip hop classes.

The Merrillville native has been dancing since she was 7 years old. Hairlson studied at Howard University, where she majored in business and minored in dance. She has performed with the Indiana Ballet Theater and on television programs like "Windy City Live" and "Let's Make a Deal." She said she has taught dance to Sasha Obama in Washington, D.C., and ran a mobile dance consultancy before opening a brick-and-mortar studio of her own.

"I like how dancing really lets you express how you really feel," she said. "If you're angry or raw, you can put it out there. I can express myself even if it's not a positive situation. I lost my mom on Dec. 11 and I was able to dance at her funeral to honor her and express how I really feel through movement."

People sign up for the weekly dance classes there for self-expression, to lose weight, stay in shape or learn new techniques. 

"I will work them hard as dancers," she said. "The class is hard but fun and it doesn't feel like a workout." 

Children learn discipline, musicality, structure, socialization and following directions. Hairlson and her five instructors teach kids as young as 2 and offer all-boy's classes.

"Not everyone is going to go on to become a professional dancer," she said. "But they will learn the skills, and the training helps them mature into a good person who can follow instructions and give back. Dance is for everybody. It gives you discipline and helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle."

The dance studio earned a Youth Protection Advocates in Dance certification, which "marks its commitment to keeping kids be happy, healthy and safe in dance." It has the motto that it doesn't just teach dance, it teaches life. 

“We want to do more than just teach great dance at Bri’s Dance Place,” Hairlson said. “We want to help develop healthy, happy dancers with an environment that focuses on the well-being of kids. Of course, this also helps us contribute to a sustainable, safe future for dance overall.”

Bri's Dance Studio is looking at adding more and more adult classes like soul stepping, tap, and jazz in the future. Hairlson eventually aspires to open more locations across Northwest Indiana and have a youth performance team that travels across the country and performs in different venues such as during Chicago Bulls games.

The studio will work with Hairlson's sister Brittany Taylor's company I Tech Teach You, which teaches senior citizens how to use technology, by offering instruction to seniors on both tech and dance. It also will host special events, such as a book release party in March for Hairlson's forthcoming book "Dance Through The Storms: 22 Faith Filled Reflections to Maintain Your Joy."

Bri's Dance Studio is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, call 219-202-4036, visit or find the business on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.

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 or 219.933.3316.


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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.

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