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NWI Business Ins and Outs

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Openings include Safari Beach Tan, Johnny Rockets, Restaurant Tarascos and Wild Wood's: A Gathering Place; closings include Suttle Bistro and Altar Artifacts

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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.

Then-East Chicago Fire Department Paramedic Randy Anderson opened Safari Beach on 45th Avenue in Munster in the early 1980s and it quickly became a destination for those seeking a more bronze hue.

The tanning salon took off so much he was able to quit his job and work full-time as a business owner.

"It started as a side project and blew up from there," Anderson said.

His tanning business expanded to also include salons in Merrillville and Chicago. But in 2003, he sold them all to L.A. Tan, a chain that quickly spread around the Region.

Anderson opened a new Safari Beach Tan in Valparaiso in 2004 with standup booths he developed.

"It's a quicker way to tan and much cleaner," he said. "You don't have to touch anything, and it takes six to 10 minutes instead of 20 or 30 lying down. It's easier to keep cleaner."

The concept proved popular and he expanded to Portage in 2004. Now he's expanding the chain further, taking over Beach Tan Express salons his sister ran in Dyer and Crown Point and rebranding them.

Safari Beach Tan opened after extensive renovations at 901 Joliet St. in the same shopping mall as Jewel-Osco in Dyer and at 10763 Broadway across from Strack & Van Til in Crown Point. Anderson is planning another location, potentially in Michigan City.

"A lot of tanning salons have gone out of business," he said. "The business has changed. When I started it was a lot of high school girls looking to get ready for prom. Now we also have a lot of older customers looking to get vitamin D, take care of psoriasis, or because they have seasonal affective disorder. Now the dermatologists are our competition."

Both of the new tanning salons are about 1,500 square feet with about 14 tanning booths. They also offer spray tans.

Safari Beach Tan is now gearing up for the traditional busy season in March, April and May, when people get tan for high school dances or to get ready for beach season in the summer. But the customer base has been getting more diverse.

"The older generation comes in just to feel better," he said. "Especially now with seasonal depression, some people just come in for a little mini-vacation, to get out of the house during COVID and winter. It's a nice 10-minute mini-vacation that makes people feel better."

For more information, visit safaribeachtan.som or call 219-322-3228 for the Dyer location or 662-4100 for Crown Point.

Coming soon

Wild Wood's: A Gathering Place will open this spring in the former Like New Home Furnishings space in downtown Hobart.

The special events and party venue can accommodate up to 100 guests for events like bridal showers, baby showers, business functions, birthday parties, weddings, holiday get-togethers, retirement celebrations and funeral luncheons. It offers special discounts for military send-offs or welcome-home parties.

Wild Wood's: A Gathering Place offers a number of different customizable decor packages such as backdrops, garlands and balloon centerpieces from Balloon Boutique in downtown Valparaiso.

The venue also partners with a number of chefs, food trucks, and restaurants like Red Cup Cafe in downtown Chesterton to offer customizable menus for any budget or theme. Vendors can serve full brunch, lunch, or dinner menus, or lighter fare like charcuterie boards or finger sandwiches for tea party-themed showers.

For more information, visit, email or call 219-940-1122.


Only in the Region, where the Fourth of July is roughly celebrated from the beginning of May to the end of September, would a college be turned into a fireworks store.

Johnny Rockets transformed the former Kaplan College at 7833 Indianapolis Blvd. in Hammond into a fireworks store in a missed opportunity for Krazy Kaplan's, which just would have had to add a word to the sign. The superstore just off Interstate 80/94 carries a wide selection of fireworks, including aerials, mortars, missiles, rockets, Roman candles, parachutes, tubes, wheels, jumping jacks, poppers, firecrackers and finale racks.

Black Cat Fireworks recently named Johnny Rockets one of the 10 Best Chicago Fireworks Stores and Stands, along with other Region staples like Krazy Kaplan's, Uncle Sam's Fireworks, Dynamite Fireworks and Good Times Fireworks.

Johnny Rockets, whose business centers around holidays like the Fourth of July, Diwali and New Year's Eve, also runs an e-commerce site where people can order fireworks online and pick them up at the store.

For more information, visit or call 219-923-5410.


Restaurant Tarascos opened at 6257 Hohman Ave., just south of downtown Hammond. The restaurant offers Mexican cuisine at affordable prices. It has dine-in, delivery and carryout.

Restaurant Tarascos offers a number of breakfast options, including Huevos a la Mexicanos, Huevos Con Chorizo, and Molletes Rancheros. The dinner menu includes fajitas, steak, tacos, pollo, and other Mexican favorites with sides of refried beans and Mexican rice.

Restaurant Tarascos has lunch specials during the week and menudo soup on the weekends.

For more information, call 219-852-0282 or visit


Citgo has opened at 6318 Calumet Ave. in Hammond.

The gas station includes a convenience store that sells pop, bottled water, snacks, smokes, lottery tickets and so on

It's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more information, call 219-932-9010.


Dollar General recently opened a new store at 1301 Broadway in Gary, just across from a Family Dollar.

The Tennessee-based dollar store chain sells food, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, paper products, over-the-counter medicines and other household essentials. With more than 17,000 stores in 46 states, the growing retailer claims to have locations within five miles of 75% of the U.S. population.

The new Gary store will employ around six to 10 workers. For more information, visit


Suttle Bistro, a laid-back neighborhood eatery at 6039 Miller Ave. in Gary's lakefront Miller enclave, has closed after a short run in the space previously occupied by The Fab 4 Restaurant and Yellow Submarine Lounge.

Opened in 2019, the restaurant and bar offered burgers, chicken and waffles, and sandwiches like Italian beef and meatball marinara melt. It was a lively late-night spot with live music and hand-stirred martinis.


Altar Artifacts had the bad luck of opening in November 2019, just a few months before the coronavirus pandemic swept the world.

The home store at 825 Franklin St. was nestled next to a boutique in the historic Uptown Arts District in downtown Michigan City. Opened by a designer from Three Oaks, Michigan, it offered a selection of new and vintage designs before it shuttered during the pandemic last year.

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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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