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A new coffee shop has replaced the Blue Room Cafe, a coffee shop that closed in downtown Hammond after 10 years and that had been a popular hangout place in Highland before that.

Stella V.ie Cafe has moved into the glass storefront in the Indiana Building at 5246 Hohman Avenue. The coffee shop serves soups, salads, sandwiches and Dagger Mountain-roasted coffee during the week, and it's looking to grow its catering business.

"Our soups and sandwiches are well thought-out," owner and operator Virginette Fitzpatrick said. "It's unique and good comfort food. We don't have normal anything. We offer items that have wide appeal, but with a twist."

Fitzpatrick had been working on a business plan for a food trailer at The Hub of Innovation NWI Business Incubator right across the street when the opportunity emerged to open a new coffee shop. 

"It almost fell into my lap, not to say it was easy or to be ungrateful," she said. "But it came out of nowhere, and it was an opportunity that fit what I wanted to do."

Downtown Hammond also is home to Mare Eats Oats, a coffee shop and bakery, and the new EAT restaurant, which El Taco Real Restaurant owner Raymundo Garcia hopes to open soon.

The name Stella V.ie Cafe is a play on the French phrase "c'est la vie," meaning "such is life," with a reference to Fitzpatrick's old nickname "Stella" from the movie "How Stella Got Her Groove Back."

The menu includes lattes, espresso drinks, banana bread, biscuits and gravy, and a spinach bacon breakfast wrap. Top sellers are a Cuban sandwich with slow roasted pork shoulder, ham and Carolina Gold mustard sauce and a roast beef sandwich with provolone and arugula.

The small 16-seat cafe has inspirational word art on the wall and big glass windows where one can watch life flow by along Hohman Avenue. It's only open during weekdays, catering to a business crowd such as employees from Franciscan Health Hammond and all the law offices clustered around the downtown Hammond courthouses.

Take-out business is brisk with grab-and-go salads, and it's retained many of the regulars who used to frequent the Blue Room Cafe, Fitzpatrick said. She's working on marketing to nearby schools and businesses to build up a clientele and is looking for a kitchen where she can launch a catering service.

Stella V.ie is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.

For more information, call (219) 802-5009, or visit www.facebook.com/stellav.iecafe/.

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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.