Local business is the lifeblood of every city or town, regardless of size.
A 2012 study by Civic Economics, a company that analyzes the impact of buying local, found that local businesses are known to have a “multiplier effect” on their communities: For every dollar spent at a local business an average of 68 cents stays in the community, which helps generate an even greater economic value by its ripple effect. The Tri-Town area of Schererville, Dyer, and St. John embody that.
Schererville: At the Crossroads
Town Manager Robert Volkmann believes that purposeful planning has kept Schererville businesses growing at a time when many brick-and-mortar stores have closed nationally.
“Our town government works closely with planners, designers, and businesses who want to be part of our community,” Volkmann said. “We feel we have a firm handle on what our residents want, and that helps both sides decide what retail and commercial is a good fit.”
Shops on Main has blossomed under the town’s comprehensive plan, as well as the watchful eye of town government. Recent additions such as Talbot’s and Nordstrom Rack anchor the center, while smaller shops such as Home Goods, Kirkland’s, and Back to Bed attract consumers who want known quality in their community.
“We have a strong school system (a 7 out of 10 rating in the most recent GreatSchools’ ranking) that attracts young families to Schererville,” Volkmann said. “Our low crime rate (ranked ‘Low’ by City-Data) helps mature homeowners feel comfortable and safe.”
Retail and commercial businesses have filled the open spaces in the town. The governing hand ensures a healthy mix of service-related and retail shops, with a blend of niche restaurants that appeal to a wide variety of age groups.
All is done through careful planning, according to Volkmann.
“We try to bring in businesses that are less dependent on online shopping,” he said. “We hope our thought process keeps Schererville flourishing.”
Natural, organic, and giving
Located on the high-traffic corridor of U.S. Hwy. 41, Whole Foods has brought an alternative to grocery shopping through its emphasis on natural and organic foods and giving back to the community.
“Schererville is a warm, vibrant community that we are thrilled to be a part of since opening our doors in 2015,” said Allison Phelps, Public Relations specialist for the grocer. “It was the kindness and belief in high-quality, natural and organic foods that brought us to Schererville, and we are very proud of the community gathering place it has become in the last two years.”
Whole Foods Market Schererville has partnered with organizations such as Happy Tails Rescue Inc., Junior Achievement, Habitat for Humanity, Dunes Learning Center, and the Down Syndrome Association of Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland. Through the grocer’s Community Support Days and the generosity of customers, it has been able to donate more than $22,800 directly to nonprofits in Northwest Indiana and Schererville specifically.
“We are also highly involved with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, providing daily donations, board representation, and supporting fundraising initiatives,” Phelps added. “We also participate in many local events and fundraisers such as Relay of Life of South Lake County, Town of Highland Pumpkin Plod, March of Dimes Dine with the Chef’s Gala and many others.”
Dyer: Striving Higher
The town of Dyer advertises itself as a progressive community that maintains a vision of the future while building upon a strong foundation of past accomplishments.
Some of those include:
• Listed as one of the “100 Best Places to Live” by CNN and Money Magazine (2005)
• Ranked No. 15 in the state as “Best Place for Young Families” by Nerd Wallet (2015)
• Ranked as the 9th safest city in the state by SafeWise (2015)
Mary Tanis is a member of the Town Council and President of Economic Development Commission. She believes a focus on family shops, businesses, and restaurants keeps Dyer attractive to residents of all ages.
“Our commission keeps family at the forefront of our development decisions,” she said. “We work hard to balance the types of commercial, retail, and service shops that we approve for our residents. Dyer has always been a family town, and we strive to keep it that way.”
Town Administrator Tom DeGiulio echoed those sentiments.
“We have a very diverse culture and population,” he said. “Being close to the Illinois border has helped us attract businesses that lure people across the state line to our town.”
U.S. Hwy. 30 is the high-traffic link between the two states, and businesses have filled the corridor with a mix of restaurants, anchor stores, and niche shops that highlight the uniqueness of the town.
Local business contributes to the family emphasis through fundraisers, sponsorships, and benefits.
“We keep that small town feel,” Tanis said. “Family is our highest priority.”
Little Italy, a chef-owned restaurant that features authentic Italian cuisine served family style, heaps praise on the town much like it heaps pasta on its plates.
“The town has been incredible to work with,” said co-owner Theresa Easterday. “When we first decided to secure the building and create our dream, they made it possible to open the doors in only two months,” she said.
Little Italy expanded to include a special occasion room, and once again the various government entities – zoning, planning, redevelopment – made the process painless.
“Being close to Illinois was one of our initial draws,” Easterday said. “The ease of working with town officials validated our decision.”
White Rhino Bar & Grill opened in 2008 and has felt welcome ever since.
“So many people in the community get involved in not only our events, but also the town festivals, children's sports, fundraisers, and parades,” said co-owner Ryan Glowacki. “It’s great to be part of such an active community that cares and constantly builds for the future.”
White Rhino is an open concept restaurant that provides a great atmosphere for lunch, dinner, cocktails, and even DJ and Dancing. The non-smoking establishment also can hosts private events in the balcony.
St. John: Open for business
Three years ago, a team of business owners and town officials put together an opportunity analysis for St. John. The result was a thorough study that documented the businesses the town had, what was lacking, what residents wanted, and where the demographics detailed optimal building spaces.
A brochure titled “Open for Business” was sent to every realty firm in Northwest Indiana and Chicago’s south suburbs.
Nick Georgiou, President of the Economic Development Commission, said that the analysis has paid off tenfold.
“Our pre-work helped us to identify the primary commercial avenues and the best places to expand residential neighborhoods,” Georgiou said. “Homeowners want easy access to local shops, but they want them just far enough away to maintain a quiet residential community.”
Town Manager Steve Kil stressed that the local government works with potential developers to provide ample commercial space as well as residential.
“Our analysis resulted in a significant growth rate for both commercial and residential,” he said. “We work hard to balance both in order to provide a smooth flow from one to the other.”
St. John is in the planning stages of a 200,000-square-foot retail plaza on 24 acres that used to be a lumber yard on U.S. 41 north of 97th Street. The end result will be a mix of niche shops and restaurants that help make the town a destination. WHERE IS THIS?
“When we see an opportunity, we try to take advantage of the moment,” Georgiou said. “It’s all about creating an environment that makes people want to be there.”
Dr. Biljana Uzelac is a pediatrician who lives and practices in St. John. She has found her choices for home and business very satisfying.
“I have lived in St. John since 2010,” she said. “I love the people and the community, and the feeling of family. When I decided to open my business, I already knew where I wanted to be.”
Dr. Uzelac opened Green Pediatrics in Lake Central Plaza last August. She said the town was easy to work with and very helpful.
“I am currently renting space from the developer,” she said. “He has already expanded the original building, and I am looking to expand my practice right in this location. The town is very helpful, and they take the time to walk you through the process of opening your business.”
Green Pediatrics specializes in integrative medicine, combining homeopathic practices with traditional medicine.
“The people in St. John are very welcoming,” she said. “It’s a great place to raise a family and build a practice.”
North of 97th St. on US Hwy 41