SCHERERVILLE — Shops on Main, one of the Region's hottest retail hubs over the last few years, has proven to be resilient in turbulent times for brick-and-mortar stores.
When anchor store Gordman's closed, the 254,107-square-foot outdoor shopping center at Main Street and Indianapolis Boulevard lured Dick's Sporting Goods from the Highland Grove Shopping Center across the street.
Now Shops on Main has managed to replace Meatheads and Firehouse Subs, which both closed last year.
Nothing Bundt Cake is slated to open at 69 U.S. 41 Suite 350 on Feb. 8, owner Valerie Warnell announced online. The 1,813-square-foot bakery, part of a chain, makes bundt cake in flavors like red velvet, chocolate chip, vanilla, lemon, confetti and pecan praline.
And Porto's Peri Peri recently started serving its spicy flame-grilled Portuguese chicken at 69-A U.S. 41 Suite 300 next to Caraba's.
The Villa Park, Illinois-based restaurant chain expanded to Schererville because it had been drawing customers from Northwest Indiana, CEO Syed Pasha said.
"We met a lot of customers who were coming from Hammond, Crown Point and Dyer," he said. "Since they loved our food so much and they drove an hour to have it, we started looking in and around that area."
Porto's Peri Peri has been growing quickly, opening 10 locations over the past year. It now has fast-casual restaurants in Illinois, Indiana and Texas, with the bulk of its eateries in the Chicago area.
The burgeoning chain is working to open 26 restaurants around the country in California, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. It's working to open in Fishers and South Bend in Indiana, and is also interested in an eventual location in Valparaiso.
"We offer healthy food," Pasha said. "We take eggs from the hatchery and have full control of the food supply chain. Our chickens are on a vegetarian diet with no antibiotics or growth hormones. The meat is never frozen. It's marinated for 24 hours in a secret marinade and it isn't cooked until the customer places and order and pays. Every piece is custom-cooked for the customer at the level of spiciness you can handle."
Peri Peri has been a hot food trend, with many of the spicy chicken restaurants opening in Chicago. "Peri" means "hot" in Swahili, referring to the African Bird's Eye chili pepper that Portuguese colonists brought back from East Africa.
"The pepper is the starring ingredient of all our sauces," Pasha said. "But it's not just chili paste. It got refined with spices when it was brought to Portugal, which is why we say the cuisine is Portuguese or Portuguese-inspired."
Porto's Peri Peri steams and then grills its chicken, served in portions ranging from one-fourth of a chicken to a whole chicken. The 2,338-square-foot restaurant, which has a modern industrial look, also serves couscous salad, quinoa salad, falafel, hummus, rice, steamed vegetables, paneer and flame-grilled corn on the cob.
"We focus on healthy food that's bursting with flavor," he said. "It's fresh, healthy and tasty. We tried to bring all three aspects with a beautiful ambiance and superior customer service."
The restaurant, which employs seven workers, offers vegetarian options and wanted to locate close to other restaurants and the Schererville Whole Foods.
"That was one of our strategies," he said. "The demographics we are trying to reach are attracted by that Whole Foods — people who are into health and high-quality food."
Porto's Peri Peri is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and from noon until 10 p.m. Sunday.