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.

A new Mexican fusion restaurant is being planned to take over the former Volstead space at 225 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton and its owner is looking to make a big splash.

Las Mamacitas Tacos, Tamales and Tequila will feature lobster and octopus tacos, more than 60 different tequilas, and "the biggest margarita in Northwest Indiana."

"It will be 60 ounces and is enough for two people," said restaurant owner Monica Susoreny, who's also a public relations professional and the organizer of the NWI Food Truck Fest. "You don't want to order it without a designated driver."

Susoreny originally had planned to open a Los Mamacitas food truck serving tamales, including cheese steak and buffalo chicken ones. But then she found out one of her clients, the acclaimed unconventional fine dining spot Volstead, was closing and decided to take the space over.

"I was in the industry before I got into marketing," she said. "And my husband's been in the restaurant industry for 25 years."

Susoreny hired chef Michelle Gomez, who's worked at the Ritz Carlton in South Beach and most recently at a Marriott in Hawaii. She has done private catering events for celebrities like the rapper Jay Z and reality television star Jonathan Cheban. Gomez is planning a culinary training trip to Mexico where she will cook with families in Mexican homes.

"It's going to be out-of-the-box and unique but authentic Mexican dishes," Susoreny said. "People I talk to while networking light up and get excited when I explain it because at first they think it's just another Mexican restaurant concept."

Las Mamacitas will offer flights of different high-end tequila varietals, as well as flights of both tamales and tacos. The restaurant will initially employ about 25 people and seat 125 diners, including in an outdoor patio.

"The whole experience is the food," she said. "From the moment you step into the door, we want to create a fun and unique experience, whether it's a business dinner, you're going out with your family or it's a date night."

Renovations are underway to give the building a rustic but trendy look, with a fireplace and string lighting in the bar area. Susoreny hopes to have it open by April and to do a formal grand opening on Cinco de Mayo.

"We're really excited to be able to bring something like this to Chesterton," Susoreny said.


The Biggby Coffee chain from East Lansing, Michigan, is planning to open a new coffee shop on April 30 at 3091 Village Point in Chesterton.

Biggby recently opened its first Region location at 3401 Franklin St. in Michigan City.

"Our Biggby offers the convenience of a drive-thru, as well as a cool new space to study with friends or meet with clients,” said owner/operator Matt Lemmer, who opened the Michigan City store with co-owner Tara Walston.

“When we chose this old beat-up garage, we fell in love with the vision of what could be,” Walston said. “While most retailers are building new construction out by the highway, we wanted to be in the heartbeat of the community while helping revitalize and repurpose a great business district. Why let a building sit empty when we can breathe new life into an area that our customers live in and drive by every day?” 

Founded in 1995 in the college town that's home to Michigan State University, the chain now has more than 275 cafes open in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Florida, Texas and New Jersey. Positioning itself as a more accessible alternative to Starbucks, Biggby offers a "less pretentious and fun approach to the standard gourmet cafe paradigm" and "connoisseur-worthy drinks with pronounceable names like Teddy Bear and Caramel Marvel."

Biggby sells a wide variety of coffees, freezes, tea lattes, and espresso-based drinks as well as a light food menu.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/biggbymichigancity.


Brick Street Burrito plans to bring San Diego-style burritos to Valparaiso.

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What are San Diego-style burritos, you ask?

"It's a special burrito from California with carne asada, sour cream, french fries and cheddar," said Brian Susoreny of Costas Restaurant Group. "The founder, Evan Costas, went out to college on the West Coast and wanted to bring it back here."

Costas Restaurant Group plans to open the quick-serve restaurant in the former Valpo Vienna hot dog stand, which recently closed.

The new restaurant at 3 Napoleon St. in downtown will seat up to 20 inside and focus on a carryout business, with a choice of about eight to 10 different burritos. The 1,000-square-foot eatery will employ about 10-15 people and offer assembly line ordering in the manner of Chipotle.

"It's focusing on San Diego-style burritos while staying true to Northwest Indiana," Susoreny said. "This will be our first location. We're testing it out in Valpo."

The goal is to have Brick Street Burritos, so named because it's on a brick section of Lincolnway, by March or April.


Cozy Barn Signs recently opened a do-it-yourself sign crafting studio at 104 E. Joliet St. in downtown Schererville.

Owner Michelle Cowan opened the business where people can buy, stain and paint customizable signs they can place on their porch, in their kitchen or anywhere around the house. Her sister had opened a similar studio in the Denver area in Colorado.

"We design everything special for what they want to make," Cowan said. "Then they make it step-by-step. People like to personalize signs with their names, wedding dates and anniversaries."

Groups of up to 24 people take the three-hour class by appointment in the 1,200-square-foot studio.

"It's fun," Cowan said. "Even if you're not crafty, you can do it by yourself, or with friends or family. Everything is provided and it's introductory so you don't need any skills. We have a lot of repeat customers because everyone who comes had a good time."

A portion of the proceeds are donated to the sanctuary Erin's Farm in Hobart, a rescue for farm animals, including horses, llamas, pigs, goats and chickens.

"Everything is done by reservations," she said. "We typically have open classes on weekends and are also open for private parties and groups. People come to make wedding boards, to make gifts for their grandchildren that are more special and personalized, or because they like the farmhouse trend you see from people like Joanna Gaines."

A retail area offers candles, soaps and other odds and ends.

For more information, call 219-629-0005, visit www.cozybarn.com, or find the business on Facebook or Twitter.

Closing for renovations

Sports & Collecti-Balls at 2895 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville will close for a short time for remodeling.

The sports collectible store offers a wide variety of products made in the United States that represent teams in MLB, the NFL, NHL, NBA and colleges and some local high schools. A shrine to sports fandom, it carries authenticated autographed items, picture frames, license plates, garden flags, Sportula stainless steel grilling tools, Stadium Views wall art and sundry other memorabilia.

The shop has been in business for four years and has been featured on the Around Town segment on "WGN Morning News."

Owner Bob Wahlman said he hopes to have it reopen as soon as next week.

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.