Korellis Roofing, one of the largest roofing companies in Northwest Indiana and the greater Chicagoland area, has hired a new safety manager.

The 59-year-old employee-owned company at on 169th Street in Hammond brought Region native and military veteran Joel Barnes on to oversee safety.

Barnes, a 1st lieutenant who served 10 years in the military, held a similar role while serving as acting safety director at Camp Atterbury in south-central Indiana. The Portage resident ran the U.S. Army safety program under the post commander at the Indiana National Guard-run training post.

“Accidents can happen and the simplest things can go awry without the proper planning, so I always charge myself with keeping vigilant and looking after others,” Barnes said. “Safety – both personal and public – has always been of great importance to me, but my experience in the military and overseas have made that even more clear throughout the years.”

Roofing is the fourth deadliest professional in the United States with more than 100 fatalities nationally a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Korellis Roofing tries to exceed roofing industry standards with a comprehensive safety training program that includes daily job site hazard analysis, weekly toolbox talks, monthly safety meetings, jobsite audits, and an annual Safety Fest that's now in its 19th year.

“I am looking forward to working closely with a strong team,” Barnes said. “The coordination and teamwork I’ve already experienced in my short time here is very motivating and assuring.”

The company, which specializes in commercial and industrial roofing, collectively has more than 2,300 years of experience in the roofing business.

"You can tell of the importance and high regard this organization has toward the work to be done here," Barnes said.

The Mexican eatery is taking over the former Sanfretello's Pizza restaurant space at 9400 Indianapolis Boulevard after the longtime local pizzeria closed earlier this year. Renowned local artist Felix "Flex" Maldonado painted a massive mural inside celebrating Mexican history and culture, depicting figures like a the artist Frida Khalo, Selena Quintanilla, Cesar Chavez, Pancho Villa, Carlos Santana, a lucha libre wrestler and a Día de Muertos skeleton.

"It's a fantastic mural that shows different cultural icons," owner Louis Del Rio said. "It's big and can be readily seen, even from outside. It's a conversation starter."

His latest restaurant venture will feature contemporary Mexican cuisine as well as tapas, the Spanish small plates.

"It's modern Mexican with a twist," he said. "There's tapas and a lot of things that aren't readily available in this area. There are different seafoods and a variety of appetizers like a short rib tostada with pickled onion and arugula. There's cheese curds with chorizo, a nice variety of appetizers. There's carne asada, pork chops, a variety of things."

The restaurant will employ about 15 to 20 people to start. It can seat up to 230 diners at a time, including in a private party room and a bar that seats 30.

"We're going to margaritas and craft beer on tap like 18th Street, Windmill and Maplewood out of Chicago," he said. "We'll have sangria, all the standards and some upscale options."

A curated Spotify playlist will mix classics with contemporary music in the background. Live bands will occasionally perform at the sit-down restaurant, likely on weekends.

Emilio's plans to have a soft opening this week and a grand opening sometime the week after that. In addition to the dining room and bar, the sit-down restaurant will offer carry-out and catering.

The restaurant will offer an extensive vegan menu with items like meatless kabobs, meatless sandwiches, falafel, hummus, fava bean hummus and baba ghanoush. It also has traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare like kabobs, doner kabobs, chicken sumac, chicken shawarma, kofta sandwiches and racks of lamb chops.

Rania Elayyan is opening the family-owned restaurant located in the Market Place shopping center with Jewel-Osco.

The restaurant will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 12 until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Amici Grill and Pizzeria hopes to open its second location in Valparaiso as soon as February if all its kitchen equipment gets in on time.

The popular Italian restaurant on Ridge Road in Highland has been working over the past year to open its second location at 1409 Lincolnway, across the street from the Valparaiso University campus.

The restaurant serves thin-crust pizza, Italian pasta, calzones, salads, garlic knots, espresso drinks and desserts. The Valpo location will offer pizza by the slice to appeal to college students.

The 70-year-old restaurant chain, a favorite of rappers like Kanye, Chance the Rapper, Freddie Gibbs and Lupe Fiasco opened at 1095 E. Ridge Road in Griffith, in a space previously occupied by Gowdy's Fishery. It's located in the Ridge Plaza shopping center along with businesses like Pagoda Inn, Metro PCS, Beauty and Wig and H&R Block.

Harold's Chicken Shack is known for Southern-style cooked-to-order chicken and wings, often served with mild sauce. Dinner options include half or quarter chickens — either all white meat, all dark meat or both — that are served with French fries, coleslaw and white bread.

The business is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 12-9 p.m. Sunday.

Miller Mini Mart opened at 915 Shelby St. in Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood, near where the Miller Beach Market Place used to be. 

The convenience store for basic needs is located next to Beach Cafe, not far from Marquette Park and the Lake Michigan beaches.

It offers a selection of grocery essentials such as breakfast cereal, frozen pizzas, hot dogs, soup, soup stock and ground coffee from Starbucks, Caribou, and Lavazza. The Miller Mini Mart also has a limited assortment of produce like apples, avocados, bananas, cucumbers, oranges, onions, tomatoes, lemons, limes and lettuce.

House of Herbs, an established food vendor at the Miller Beach Farmers Market and Dirttys in Miller, plans to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant next year at 444 Lake St. in Gary's lakefront Miller neighborhood.

The space, next to D Performance Comedy Theater in Gary's lakefront Miller neighborhood, has a spacious and fenced-off outdoor patio. It was formerly home to the California Crab Shack seafood restaurant and, before that, the 444 Grill Caribbean jerk restaurant.

House of Herbs serves ribs, chicken dinners, pub burgers, pizza puffs, smothered oxtails, vegan soul food and vegan jerk tacos. It has the slogan "Think deep. Travel Far. Eat Good. Repeat."

Rapid Fired Pizza recently opened its first Calumet Region pizzeria across from the Southlake Mall at 8160 Mississippi St. in Merrillville.

Similar to MOD Pizza in Highland or Blaze Pizza in Chicago, the Ohio-based quick-serve craft pizza chain offers customizable pizzas that are made and cooked right in front of the customer "in just 180 seconds."

Customers can choose from an array of 35 ingredients, as well as multiple sauces, cheeses and dipping sauces, as well as a keto-friendly no dough option. There's also a selection of craft pizzas like pesto chicken, taco, Magic Mushroom, Wild Veggie, Hawaiian, Mac Daddy topped with mac and cheese, and White Out with white sauce, mozzarella, feta, grilled chicken, garlic and arugula.

Gary may very well be a Rust Belt city littered with thousands of vacant properties, but it's not so forlorn that you can't buy a $7 smoothie with kale, supergreens and ginger.  

Smart Smoothie is blending up smoothies, protein shakes and meal replacement shakes in downtown Gary. The smoothie shop is located in the Hudson-Campbell Sports & Fitness Center at 455 Massachusetts St. 

Nurse Kia Smith opened it to bring a healthier option to a community that has many fast food restaurants.

"A lot of athletes came from this area, but we don't know they're from this area until they're grown," she said. "So we want to actually have healthy items available for some of those young athletes that are here in this city and that come through this place to train. Why not have smart smoothies?"

The business sells "create your own" smoothies with bases like vanilla almond milk, pineapple juice and coconut water that can be customized with fruits and vegetables like spinach, mangoes, blueberries, lime and kale. One can add extras like ginger, turmeric, chia seeds and cayenne for a $1.

The menu also features smoothie concoctions like Berry Smart, Clever Carrot, Class Cucumber, Ginger Genius and Principles Pineapple.

"We incorporate some form of fruit or vegetable nutrition into every cup," she said. "We're trying to teach us to heal ourselves with diet and nutrition and give us the best opportunity to have optimal function."

"It's some quick lunches and things like that," Smith said. "We're looking to put good nutrition into the community."

Smart Smoothie hopes to serve food to downtown office workers at the nearby City Hall, the Gary City Court and the Centier Bank building, and will distribute menus to hope to encourage them to call ahead to order food for pickup.

"We're all-natural right now, but want to go completely organic," she said. "As a registered nurse, I just want to offer people healthy options and natural things so we don't have to run to the hospital all the time. You don't always have to take pills. I want natural remedies to some of the issues that we have going on like hypertension and diabetes. The amount of dialysis we have popping up in the community, we've got to do something to counteract it. If your blood pressure's high, maybe add some turmeric to your diet everyday. If you have issues with digestive regularity, let me incorporate more fiber. Just simple things, so you're not always running to the store to get more pills. The body will heal itself. We're made magnificently."

Smart Smoothie offers a guarantee that it will remake any beverage a customer doesn't like. Though mainly serving Hudson-Campbell gym patrons, it targets anyone interested in their health. 

"You're worth it," Smith said. "Give yourself the opportunities for your body to be the best-functioning one it can be. You're worth it. Give me the opportunity to give you some education and show you some love. You're worth it."

"I’ve been in business for 25 years and we just took the space next door and expanded," owner Lisa Shoemake said. "I carry a large selection of Native American jewelry along with Minnetoka moccasins, Pendleton wool products and many local artists."

The Native American-themed store sells a variety of sundries like incense, dream catchers, crystal pieces, mugs and skin care products. One can find artisan crafts and locally made goods like Lumberjax-brand flannel shirts and Liebe Candle Co. candles. It has home accents and authentic Southwestern items like silver and turquoise jewelry hand-made by about 15 to 20 local artists.

It moved into a space formerly occupied by Lansing Cleaners, which moved to the other side of the strip mall.

"We doubled our size," Shoemake said. "We've been able to add more merchandise. Our customers have loved it. Plus, we're directly on U.S. 41 when we were tucked away before. All this exposure is a nice thing. New people are finding us. They think we're a new store."

"Our customers are our best advertising," she said. "They spread the word because people will see them wearing the jewelry and ask where they got it. Indian jewelry is spiritual, a special type of jewelry. We have a loyal customer base. I like to describe it as Cheers without the alcohol because we're all friends who have seen each other for years. It's a nice place for visitors to shop."

Little Bear Traders and Woolens ships all over the country and has been seeing a rise in its foot traffic with its more visible location along the highly trafficked Wicker Avenue.

"With the bakery and Sip and Stones, we're seeing a nice resurgence for this plaza," she said. "With St. John growing so fast, we see a lot of new people, always wanting something new. We have personal touches you don't find at the bigger stores."

Little Bear Traders and Woolens is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 9 p.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday.

The science fiction-themed doughnut shop and cafe is closed, the website down and the phone number disconnected. A sign posted on the door reads "closed until further notice. Sorry for inconvenience." Emerging from the local farmers market circuit, SciFi Donuts sold artisan cake donuts with names like The Spock, The Black Hole and the Rings in Saturn in an elaborately decorated environment with star charts and posters for movies like "Guardians of the Galaxy."

The pop culture paraphernalia-filled donut shop that opened in 2017 sat about 40 diners in a 900-square-foot space, hosting live music on a small stage and the annual Canis Major Outdoor Music Festival on the adjacent Erie Lackawanna Trail. In addition to its handcrafted donuts, it offered lunch and dinner menus.

The art gallery at 632 S. Lake Street on Miller's main drag sold paintings, sculptures and other works of "dope" art, often with a graffiti or urban aesthetic. The 500-square-foot storefront just south of the 18th Street Brewery was formerly home to the Summer Colony Living boutique.

It represented about 32 local and regional artists, exhibiting more than 100 different pieces priced as low as $25 so the art could be accessible to everyone, and also selling their work on an Instagram store. The gallery frequently hosted special events, including $100-and-under shows, catered brunches, open mic poetry nights, and even a block party.

The family-style pizzeria, which offered an unlimited pizza buffet for $5.99, has closed after an eight-year run at 1686 U.S. 41, just north of U.S. 30.

A company spokesperson confirmed the franchise had closed. "We are not aware of plans to reopen in Schererville at this time," the spokesperson said.

The Irving, Texas-based chain has more than 400 locations in more than 30 states. It serves an unlimited pizza buffet, pasta, wings and salads.

Cicis bills itself as a money-saving value option with unlimited helpings of an array of specialty pizzas like alfredo, mac and cheese, zesty ham and cheddar, and meat eater.

The 4,500-square-foot Schererville pizzeria offered both dine-in and carry-out in "a wholesome family atmosphere." The cheap dining option was located in the outdoor shopping center with Harbor Freight Tools, Dollar Tree, Etc. Thrift Store and other retailers and restaurants on the northwest side of the intersection of Indianapolis Boulevard and U.S. 30.

Sakura Bowl opens Sunday in the space of the former Lincoln's O Restaurant in downtown Highland, across from Growler's.

The owners of the Dragon Bowl Chinese restaurant in Munster expanded into Highland with a Japanese hibachi and sushi restaurant at 2813 Highland Ave.

Sushi is, of course, raw fish and rice with a garnish of pickled ginger and a hillock of as much wasabi as you can bear, while hibachi is seafood, meat and vegetables grilled on high heat on a metal plate. 

The new Asian restaurant replaces the Lincoln O's sandwich shop that carved up Italian subs and specialties like the U.S. Steel Special, Chester hoagie, Bunny Girl, Dagwood Cal City Special, Toledo sandwich and the Sibley Special for more than 55 years in downtown Highland before closing last year.

Sakura Bowl is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m Friday and Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

A new seafood restaurant opened Saturday in Gary's Miller neighborhood, purporting to have the "best crab in Gary."

Seafood King is a carryout joint at 8000 Melton Road. Customers are encouraged to call ahead at least 15 minutes to get their orders to go. Owner Roderick Threatt hopes to eventually offer delivery through Uber Eats and DoorDash.

"I started doing this on my own five years ago and I never had no complaints," he said. "I've been cooking seafood from home and everybody loved my food. I think seafood is a good food. I like the taste. A lot of people think it's a good food to eat. I think this is good for the community."

The restaurant serves up food like crab legs, shrimp, fried crab legs, lobster tails and waffles, and seafood boils with jerk, Cajun or garlic butter flavoring.

Now under construction, the ice cream parlor will be transformed from a standard Dairy Queen into a Dairy Queen Grill & Chill, a more conventional fast food restaurant that will offer hot food in addition to soft-serve ice cream, shakes, Blizzards and Dilly Bars.

The Grill & Chill concept also encompasses burgers, chicken tenders, Texas Toast and cheese curds. The restaurant's food menu previously only included cold deli sandwiches.

The automotive repair facility has been in business for 12 years, moving from Schererville to Merrillville a decade ago. Owner Jason Smith, a former auto repair technician at a dealership, bought an existing business in Schererville in 2007 and moved it to Merrillville two years later to double the space.

The company employs five workers at its 3,000-square-foot location in Merrillville. It plans to open a second site at 1233 U.S. 41 across from the Menards in Schererville on Jan. 6.

The new automotive repair shop in the former GB Transmissions and Auto Services will employ another five workers in a 4,500-square-foot space.

"My family lives in Schererville and we always wanted to get back into Schererville," he said. "This opened up for us and we wanted to do business in the town we live in. Even in Merrillville, we pull a lot from Schererville. Northwest Indiana is its own little island where people love mom and pop shops."

M&M Car Care Center hopes to expand further across Northwest Indiana, in markets like Crown Point and St. John. Customer service has helped drive the company's success, Smith said.

"To be honest, it's how we treat the customer," he said. "We feel we're in the customer service business, not the repair business. Anywhere you go, you can get the same parts from the same vendors. We feel what differentiates us is the customer experience. How you treat the customers makes you grow faster than just how you fix the cars. We value our customers."

"We have an extremely trained staff and a clean facility," he said. "We like to think we compete with dealerships."

For more information, call 219-769-2475, visit  www.mmcarcare.com or find the business on Facebook and Instagram.

Smartway Furniture opened a big-box store in a former Country Fresh Market grocery store in East Chicago.

The Calumet City-based discount furniture store opened a 35,000-square-foot store at 2121 E. Columbus Drive in East Chicago.

Smartway obtained a jewelry license and plans to sell jewelry in the future at its East Chicago location, which employs around a dozen workers. The store specializes in brand name furniture at discount prices. It carries many brand-name products made in America like Ashley Furniture.

"There's a free TV with a purchase of $1,500," he said. "We meet or beat any price. We have a guarantee of anything you purchase for one year. We have excellent customer service. We offer layaway and financing and take credit cards and debit cards. we make it very convenient."

"We try to make it very reasonable," he said. "We'll deliver anywhere. We don't care so long as you'll pay for it. We'll deliver to Indianapolis."

"I'd like to hire more people and save people a lot of money," Alshaikh said. "We're not motivated by money, we'd just like to expand our business."

The business is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

A new fast-casual restaurant that specializes in sub sandwiches has come to the Marina District in north Hammond, by the Chicago border.

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop opened its first Northwest Indiana location at 902 Roby Drive, at the site of the former Roby Speedway which is now an outdoor shopping center anchored by a Walmart superstore near the Illinois state line.

The 43-year-old Delaware-based chain makes hand-crafted sandwiches like Philly cheesesteaks and the Capastrami, a spin on the Reuben that includes Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and homemade cole slaw with hot pastrami instead of corned beef. It makes meat balls in-house and slow-roasts whole all-natural turkeys and hand-pulls them every morning for sandwiches like the Thanksgiving-themed Bobbie, which is made with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo.

Local entrepreneurs Daniel Hoffman, Michael VanderWoude and Barbara VanderWoude opened the new franchise of the chain that has more than 100 locations in 16 states. They plan to open two more locations in Northwest Indiana over the next three years. They've been best friends for more than 25 years.

"The power trio comes from a combined background in finance, commercial real estate and business ownership," Capriotti’s said in a news release. "When Barbara came to the U.S. from Poland more than 25 years ago, she dreamed of opening a physical therapy practice. With her husband, it grew to multiple branches throughout Northwest Indiana prior to selling it.

"Michael tried Capriotti’s for the first time 10 years ago at a conference in Las Vegas and it was love at first bite. Now, looking for an opportunity to bring their unique skill sets and a superior product together, the trio knew Capriotti’s would be a perfect fit."

The Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop employs 35 workers. It has a drive-through for pickup that's ordered ahead and delivers through third-party delivery services that include Grub Hub, Postmates and ezCater.

The restaurant offers on app, online ordering and catering of party trays of both cold subs and a hot homemade meatball bar.

“As Northwest Indiana natives, we have been doing business in Hammond since 1999 and have seen first-hand that the emerging city is poised for economic success,” Michael VanderWoude said. “We were immediately attracted to Capriotti’s and its commitment to offering high-quality, hand-made subs made with ingredients made in-house every day, making it a perfect fit for our community. We look forward to serving the supportive Hammond community and turning Capriotti’s into a community staple.”

The business is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

The taproom at 109 S. 3rd St. in Chesterton envisioned "creating a space that’s traditional but unique, experimental but approachable, fun but rich in experience and outreach." The taproom has 16 taps, with four to eight from carefully curated breweries.

Its flagship beers come from Mashcraft Brewing of Greenwood, a south suburb of Indianapolis, because co-owner Joe Juarez is related by marriage to Mashcraft founder and head brewer Andrew Castner. 

219 Taproom serves local and regional craft beer, as well as food, craft ciders, wines and spirits. It will offer board games, card games, trivia nights and live music with full bands, as well as "a baseball game or a big event on the radio every now and then."

The business is open from 4-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

The Crown Point Family Fun Center announced on Facebook that it is permanently closing after shutting down for the season in late October.

The Mardi Gras-themed entertainment center at 1301 Merrillville Road featured go-karts, mini golf, batting cages, soccer cages and an arcade, with games like Skee Ball and Deal or No Deal. It had two 18-hole mini golf courses, a driving range and a replica riverboat.

The 8-acre family attraction also rented out a 55-foot-tall air dome that could be configured for soccer, baseball, softball or golf.

It had a restaurant that served items like pizza, chicken nuggets and pitchers of pop. The Crown Point Family Fun Center was a popular place for birthday parties and other celebrations involving kids.

Eyewear on the Square saw a business opportunity in the Courthouse Shops in the Old Lake Courthouse at 1 Court House Square in downtown Crown Point.

Optician Chris Gaston opened the eyeglass store, which offers products like titanium frames that snap back into shape when bent and prices them for people who don’t have insurance.

The business is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce had a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday for Charlesworth Financial Services at 2000 Comeford Road in Valparaiso.

Certified Public Accountant Juli Charlesworth offers accounting, tax and investment advisory services there. She helps clients plan for their financial future, whether with "retirement planning, education planning, tax planning, accounting services, investment management, cash flow and debt management, family risk management, business planning and special situations planning."

The firm offers a variety of investment vehicles that include IRAs, mural funds, education savings plans, 529 plans, annuities, and insurance for life, disability and long-term care.

Dollar General, the Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based discount retailer that sells many items for $1, has opened new stores in Gary and Crete.

The dollar store chain, which already has multiple locations across the Calumet Region, recently opened new stores at 801 S. Lake St. in Gary and 1030 Main St. in Crete. 

“Dollar General is committed to delivering a pleasant shopping experience that includes a convenient location, a wide assortment of merchandise and great prices on quality products,” said Dan Nieser, Dollar General’s senior vice president of real estate and store development. “We hope our area customers will enjoy shopping at Dollar General’s new location.”

Dollar General sells both private label and national brands of many items, including food, seasonal items, cleaning supplies, apparel, health and beauty products and housewares. They also carry home decor and party preparation items.

The new deli at 3360 S. Sheffield Ave. in Dyer serves up a number of Italian specialties, including imported cheeses, olives, olive oils, homemade Italian sausage and groceries.

The restaurant menu includes paninis, salads, pepper and egg sandwiches, hot sandwiches like meatball subs and Italian beef, and subs on Turano European-style bread with oil and vinegar and hot or mild giardiniera. The Wise Guy sub, for instance, features soppressata, mortadella, prosciutto and provolone cheese, while the Tuna Genovese dresses tuna in olive oil, arugala and balsamic viniagrette.

Tony's Italian Deli offers catering and sandwich trays. There also are desserts so you can take the cannoli and also the tiramisu.

The business is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 219-515-2012, email tonyitaliandeli@gmail.com or find the business on Facebook.

Marilyn's Bakery and Cafe, a Region institution in Hobart, has cooked up a second location at 9159 Wicker Ave. in St John.

The family-run bakery, known for its sustainable, local and homemade foods, has sold acclaimed cakes, pastries, pies and cupcakes at its original location on Ridge Road in Hobart since 1986. It sources its food from local family-run farms in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Marilyn's signature cakes include Mandarin orange, marble fudge and Chocolate Lover's. It bakes classic cakes like German chocolate, carrot, banana torte, lemon torte and strawberry supreme. It also offers pies and monthly cake specials like spice cake, chocolate mocha and other flavors that rotate seasonally.

Marilyn's St. John location will start offering lunch next year, serving a variety of gourmet sandwiches, soups, salads and quiche, as well as lunchboxes with sandwiches, sides and desserts.

It offers vegan and vegetarian options and in-season food that's locally sourced, such as turkey it roasts and shaves itself.

The business is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Athletico Physical Therapy, which touts that it's "better for every body," recently stretched into St. John.

Founded by therapist Mark Kaufman, who opened his own clinic in 1991 after rehabbing student athletes at Francis W. Parker High School and Chicago Lions Rugby, Athletico has gone on to open more than 500 neighborhood locations in 12 states, employing more than 4,500 employees, including clinicians and athletic trainers.

Athletico Physical Therapy helps everyone from high school kids to seniors recover from pains, strains and assorted injuries. The chain of physical therapy clinics also offers "athletic training, occupational therapy, specialty programs and fitness services to high schools, colleges and professional sports teams" and evaluations of "workers’ compensation issues, like work conditioning, job-site analysis and ergonomic assessments."

"We are an outpatient physical therapy clinic who will help people recover from hip surgery, knee surgery, back or neck issues," facility manager Zorn Coleman said. "I specialize in vestibular issues like balance and dizziness. We do concussion and post-concussion rehabs, neurological rehab."

Athletico accepts all major insurance plans. Coleman said the clinic can get most patients in on the same day or at least within 48 hours.

"It's a growing market with all the homes being built," he said. "We're happy to be part of the Lake Central community. We're passionate about helping people. We've got a lot of equipment, good facilities, and a big space. It's a good location."

Athletico is just the first business to come to the new 6,000-square-foot Acadia strip mall at 10081 Wicker Ave., across from Alsip Home and Nursery.

Developer Sophia Panagakis said she plans to expand the retail center to 19,000 square feet after leasing out the remaining space to one or two more businesses.

She also owns the Jameson Plaza, home to the Olive Cafe. She used to run that diner as well, but sold it to new owners.

Other businesses in the Jameson Plaza strip mall include DK Barbell, Bella Vita Salon, Rite-Way Driving School and Essential Nutrition.

Panagakis, who also owns Landmark Real Estate in Munster and commercial real estate in Frankfort, said he's long seen the growth potential in the Tri-Town.

"Twenty years ago I was doing commercial property research and saw all the growth was coming south," she said. "I invested in 40 acres in St. John and I was right."

She's looking for as many as 14 businesses to eventually occupy Arcadia, which 45,000 vehicles pass daily and which will soon benefit from a new traffic light at Wicker Avenue and 101st Street. Panagakis hopes to lease Arcadia, named after the state of Arcadia in the Peloponnese region of Greece, out to retail shops, offices and medical firms.

Fans of Taco Trader in Dyer and the legendary Mexican Inn at East 95th Street and South Ewing Avenue on Chicago’s southeast side may want to stop by The Taco Dive in Whiting.

The recently opened Mexican eatery at 1452 119th St. has brought back the old family recipes for crispy beef and soft cheese tacos that built the Mexican Inn’s reputation as a South Side landmark near Calumet Park and the Calumet River, not far from the state line.

Mario Cornejo Sr. started the Mexican Inn in 1961 and ran it until he died in 2010, two years before it closed.

“It was written up in the Sun-Times,” Taco Dive owner David Jimenez said. “It was widely known for delicious food.”

Jiminez, a Whiting resident, ran Taco Trader on U.S. 30 in Dyer between 2013 and 2016 but ultimately decided it wasn’t a good fit, though it was often bustling. He ended up running pop-up restaurants in Whiting in the Indy Perk Cafe and the American Legion, the latter of which was featured in a Chicago magazine article.

He ended up taking over the former CJ Cafe space in downtown Whiting. It was extensively renovated to have a seaside look reminiscent of Key West or Margaritaville, in order to appeal to people who came to Whiting to visit Whihala Beach.

“We’re steps away from the lake,” he said. “You can continue your beach visit here. We’re tastefully tacky just like Whiting. We’re loud but our food is louder.”

In addition to traditional Mexican fare, The Taco Dive makes Mexican versions of American comfort food, including the Sloppy Jose on a telera roll and a Sonoran hot dog on a bolilo roll with beans, crema and queso fresco.

The 1,300-square-foot restaurant, which seats around 40 people, also is known for the original crispy beef taco the Mexican Inn first made in 1961. The fried taco features fresh iceberg lettuce, Roma tomatoes, crumbled cheese, specially seasoned beef, and fresh tortillas made by hand the old fashioned way in Pilsen.

“There’s a special procedure,” Jiminez said. “It’s a labor of love. These aren’t pre-made shells like Ortega or some supermarket brand. They’re real tortillas pinned by hand with three toothpicks.”

The restaurant plays music from country musicians like Toby Keith and heavy metal artists like Sammy Hagar. On the weekends it plays 1980s music videos and also sports games.

The Taco Dive also caters to parties of any size, including at the BP Whiting Refinery and U.S. Steel mills. The eatery itself can be booked out after hours for a food, beverage and movies package.

Jiminez located the business in his hometown of Whiting partly because he was encouraged by all the new development.

“Mayor Joe (Stahura) is making it into more of a destination than a border town,” he said. “We’re trying to be more like a New Buffalo where you can come for a waterfront meal. Whiting has the Whoa Zone, the Mascot Hall of Fame and Whihala Park. Our food is loud and so are the people. We’re a fun place where people can let loose.”

In its first month, the restaurant has drawn people from as far as Arizona, St. Louis and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Former customers of Taco Trader and the Mexican Inn have returned for old favorites like the soft cheese taco, a "95th and Ewing thing" in which corn tortillas are smothered in cheese sauce and filled with more cheese and one's choice of meat or beans.

“People take one bite of my food and they start crying,” he said. “It takes them to a better place. Their dad worked at the mill and stopped by the Mexican Inn after work on Friday to bring back a bag of tacos for dinner. My uncle’s restaurant is why I have a big responsibility to do it right. I’m carrying on his legacy.”

The Taco Dive is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Busy Bees Pottery and Arts Studio is giving people a new creative outlet to express themselves at Southlake Mall in Hobart.

Owner Nakia Sprouse, who also co-owns Kennedy Avenue Chiropractic and Integrated Body and Medicine in Hammond, brought the first location of the Ohio-based franchise, mostly located on the East Coast, to Northwest Indiana.

“We are a pottery and arts studio,” Sprouse said. “We do canvas painting, glass fusing, glass painting and board painting. We have a party room for ladies nights out, when the kids are out of school or special classes.”

The studio has a kiln to blow glass, the only artistic creation that requires customers to visit more than once. The space can be rented out for special events, such as fundraisers and Girl Scout meetings.

“I just really wanted to open a business that the whole family can enjoy,” he said. “This has something for everyone. It’s a place to come and be creative. Anybody can be creative.”

Busy Bees accepts appointments but anyone can walk in and sign up to create art, which can take anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours. There are more than 300 different designs they can use while painting, and they can make practical items like coffee mugs, bowls and vases in the pottery studio.

The business closes slightly earlier than the mall itself does since people need time to finish their artworks.

Busy Bees is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Theo’s Dining Group opened its long-awaited Avgo breakfast and lunch restaurant at 9321 Wicker Ave. in St. John Saturday.

Owner Peter Klideris, whose parents own Ted’s Family Restaurant in Calumet City, also owns Theo’s Steaks and Seafood in Highland, Prime Steakhouse and Umi Sushi and Lounge in Crown Point, and Chop House on Wicker at 10808 Wicker Ave. in St. John.

Avgo, which has the slogan “enjoy what’s good,” offers “top-notch” locally sourced products like sausage made in Michigan, locally roasted Smalltown Coffee, cage-free eggs, and bacon smoked in-house.

Catering to the brunch crowd, it will offer Bloody Marys, mimosas, and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Aurelio’s Pizza at 416 Ridge Road in Munster suffered a fire more than a year ago, in early November of 2018.

The classic Region pizzeria, known for its thin-crust, thick-crust and stuffed pizzas, was originally supposed to be renovated and reopened within five months. But the restaurant has been fenced off with little construction work visible until recently, when work crews returned.

Munster Town Manager Dustin Anderson said Aurelio’s Pizza had all the permits it needed and the hold-up had been related to insurance issues.

The local chain, which also serves pasta, Italian beef sandwiches, salads and appetizers, has been in Munster for at least 25 years. Aurelio’s also has locations in Cedar Lake, Chicago Heights, Frankfort, Griffith, Hammond, Homewood, LaPorte, Lowell, Portage, Schererville, South Holland, Valparaiso and Chicago.

The craft beer taproom at 313 Ridge Road in Munster features a self-serve tap system in which people can pour their own craft beer, wine, hard seltzers and mixed drinks. Similar establishments have cropped up across the Region in recent years, including Brewfest in Highland, Valpo Pour House in Valparaiso, and Tap House in Michigan City.

313 Taproom occupies a two-story house by Bombers BBQ. It features state-of-the-art screens that showcase what’s on tap and an outdoor patio.

“It’s always good to see new investment in the town of Munster,” Town Manager Dustin Anderson said.

Planet Fitness, the national gym chain known for its low prices, "judgment-free zones" and annual New Year's Eve promotions at Times Square in New York City, is coming to Highland.

The fast-growing fitness chain that offers free pizza and free bagels once a month already has gyms in Hammond, Schererville, Merrillville, Hobart, Crown Point and Michigan City.

Planet Fitness is renovating the space at 3315 45th St. in Highland, Building Commissioner Ken Mika said.

The gym chain is taking over space in the strip mall on 45th Street that has been home over the years to businesses like Zorba's Restaurant, Fat's Billiards, Highland Produce Depot, Thrift Store, Chela's Cocina, Women's Core Fitness Center, Dollar General, ABC Cellular and Highland Card and Comic Shop.

As has been noted previously in this column, gourmet popcorn places have been popping up across Northwest Indiana the way froyo places and cupcake joints have in the past.

LeBarron and Nina Burton recently opened Popcorn World at 2560 Garfield St. inside the County Market Plaza in Gary, between the supermarket and the Shark's Fish and Chicken. The chain is known for hand-coated popcorn flavors like banana pudding, birthday cake, blackberry cream cheese cobbler, coconut cream pie, dark chocolate pomegranate, spiked egg nog, baked potato, dill pickle and peanut butter jelly.

Popcorn World has the slogan "doing the world a flavor," selling tins of popcorn of up to two gallons. It brags that it's "the world's largest gourmet popcorn shop" with 250 different flavors.

In other Region popcorn news, Epic Popcorn in the Jewel-Osco plaza on U.S. 30 in Dyer is expanding to Crown Point.

The popcorn chain will have a grand opening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 102 S. Main St. in Crown Point. 

There will be face painting, balloon twisting, crafts, games, raffles, prizes, free popcorn tastings and special discounts throughout the day.

The chain said it's a "gourmet-inspired brand with a variety of chef-inspired ingredients to create unique popcorn flavors." Flavors include pumpkin spice, fab and fruity, chili lime, birthday cake, buttery fingers, cheddar bacon, chocolate wafer, coffee liquor, jalapeno bacon, jalapeno cheddar, grape, parmesan garlic, pina colada, rainbow mix, sour kiss, watermelon and whoa momma.

California-based Vampire Penguin is looking to offer its shaved snow and shaved ice in the Region, which a local franchisee touts as a "light, fluffy, creamy, gluten-free, dairy-free healthier alternative to ice cream."

Crown Point High School graduate Thao Ho, who's known by the nickname "Chevy" since her name sounds like the Chevy Tahoe, plans to bring the franchise to Crown Point as soon as next spring. She lived in California, returned to Indiana, and decided to go into business for herself after working for Amtrak for 11 years. She is still in her 30s and thought the time was right to start a venture of her own.

"It has one-fourth fewer calories than frozen ice cream but will still indulge your sweet tooth," she said. "You can get great taste without feeling guilty."

She's now seeking a brick-and-mortar counter location to sell fluffy ice on Main Street, where she hopes to attract a lot of foot traffic. She hopes it will take off because it's a highly Instagrammable product and the business will host community fundraisers for schools and other groups.

"Our long term goals are to bring smiles and create memories where people don't feel guilty," Ho said. "Crown Point is growing and this is a family friendly business where people can hang out, play board games and engage in wholesome family friendly activities."

The restaurant offers shaved snow in flavors like strawberry, mango, green tea, honeydew, thai tea, chocolate and vanillia. It can be topped with various syrups, fruit like strawberries, watermelon, lychee, jackfruit and pineapple, and with toppings like Oreos, marshmallows, coconut jelly, strawberry boba, mango boba and rainbow sprinkles.

ProElite Window Cleaning opened at 9711 Valparaiso Drive in Munster across from Franciscan Health Munster and eventually hopes to expand to Valparaiso and Michigan City.

It's a commercial and residential window cleaning business that also does gutter cleaning and power washing.

Brian Minard and Bob Goad opened the business a year-and-a-half ago in Florida and opened their second location in Northwest Indiana, from where they both hail. Minard is from Gary and Goad from St. John.

"We have integrity, years of experience and a really good team," Minard said. "We keep to our schedule. You keep your car clean so why wouldn't you keep your home or business clean? The windows are the first thing people notice when they walk into your restaurant." 

The business is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Sage Truck Repairs at 8350 Whitcomb St. and SM United at 606 W. 81st Ave. are now offering U-Haul products and services like rental trucks that can be rented 24/7 on smartphones.

The popcorn shop at 439 Ridge Road offers about 20 different flavors, including a dill pickle, bacon cheddar, the traditional Chicago mix of caramel and cheese, and a Munster mix that blends cheese, caramel and butter. There's also a buttery white cheddar they created by accident that proved popular.

Recently retired Hammond schools administrator Michael Carey and his wife Sharon Carey opened the new shop in Munster to fulfill her lifelong dream. She used to sell popcorn on her back porch as a kid so she could stay out longer with her friends.

"Since she was a little girl, this was always a dream for her," he said. "She really introduced me to popcorn ... We did a lot of work to get this building cleaned up and start selling popcorn here."

I Am Popcorn sells popcorn, candy bars, cashews, other nuts and soft drinks. The 2,200-square-foot retail business still has about 30 to 34 chairs leftover from its barbecue restaurant days, so the Careys are looking to rent the space out for private parties. They may also host events after regular business hours, such as girls' night outs and bowl game watch parties.

The shop is principally takeout, but people are invited to stop in and stay awhile if they purchase a tin of popcorn.

"We plan to rotate flavors and phase out those that aren't selling well," he said. "We're going to start offering Christmas tins just in time of the holidays."

The owners are interested in adding products like hot dogs to encourage more people to dine in, since they already have the seating. They plan to launch a food truck to visit food festivals, offer catering to weddings and parties and potentially open more locations in the future.

They have more than 60 recipes for popcorn and focus on traditional flavors but have some like jalapeño cheddar and mac and cheese. Carey is looking into steak-flavored popcorn, more chocolate flavors, and a cinnamon bun flavor.

"It's just a popular food right now," Carey said. "People want a snack that's healthier than sweets and candy. Caramel corn might have a lot of sugar but other varieties are healthier. It's gluten-free, there's no MSG, it's generally healthier."

I Am Popcorn is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

We're Popp'in, a national gourmet popcorn and lemonade franchise, opened at 6715 Kennedy Ave in Hammond and in 80th Place Plaza in Merrillville.

The Merrillville popcorn shop is 1,668 square feet at 64 W. 80th Place, tucked in a multitenant strip mall built in 1977 at the northwest corner of Broadway at 80th in a "prominent location within Northwest Indiana’s primary office and retail submarket," according to the commercial brokerage Bradley Company.

We’re Popp'in, which claims "popcorn is the new cupcake," offers gourmet lemonades like Mojito Mint as well as 25 gourmet popcorn flavors, including relatively exotic options like Flaming Dill, Ghost Pepper Hot, Mediterranean Herb, and Strawberry Cheesecake.

To reach the Hammond location, call 219-670-2107. To reach the Merrillville store, call 219 750-9190.

Escapeville, an escape room center, also opened a new escape room at 64 W. 80th Place in Merrillville.

It features two scenarios: Museum Heist in which you're a small-town crook who must steal a 19th-century painting by tortured genius Vincent Van Gogh before the security guard comes back from his lunch break and Crime Scene in which a team of detectives has 60 minutes to find the murder weapon and solve a horrific murder.

Bradley Company’s Steve Nicksic and Jim Nicksic represented both the tenant and the landlord, Great Lakes Capital, in the transaction. 

“These recent transactions highlight our team’s ability to meet the diverse needs of our clients,” Senior Broker Jim Nicksic said. “We are excited to play a key role in finding the right location for these new arrivals to Northwest Indiana, drawing on the expertise of our senior team to develop customized solutions for their specific site requirements.”

The Elmhurst-based company that specializes in Applied Behavior Analysis services for families and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders has centers in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. It will occupy 4,260 square feet at the Park Center in Crown Point, a seven-building, 75,000-square-foot office park on Route 40.

Starbucks opened its second coffee shop in Hammond, the only city in North Lake County it has a presence in.

The Seattle-based coffee titan, ubiquitously known for its strong and sugary coffee drinks, opened a $1.5 million, 2,100-square-foot standalone store in the Marina District redevelopment area on Indianapolis Boulevard near the Horseshoe Casino, the Five Points intersection and the Chicago border.

Starbucks's second Hammond location at 906 Indianapolis Blvd offers a drive-through, nitro cold brew, Google wi-fi, mobile ordering, LaBoulange Cafe items and oven-warmed foods.

K Dental Care opened at 340 Indianapolis Boulevard in the same strip mall as Smallcakes, Buona Beef and McAlister's Deli in Schererville.

"It's a general dental office for families," owner and dentist Keith Kou said. "We offer everything from fillings to crowns, bridges, implants and extractions. We do cosmetic work, CT scans for the more complex procedures and wisdom tooth extraction. We have a laughing gas facility for those who are very anxious to ease them down, especially children."

The New York University graduate hails from a family of dentists and dental technicians. He's opening his first practice in Schererville.

"It has nice visibility off the street and nice open windows," he said. "We have sunlight in here. It's a great community and the people coming in here have been great."

K Dental Care accepts any type of PPO insurance and offers prescription plans for discounted services for the uninsured.

"We'll work with anybody," Kou said. "If you can't make it in at 5, we'll stay until 6. We take appointments at any time. We'll work with you to make sure it's affordable. Our longterm goal is to be an established part of the community."

For more information, call 219-319-1177, visit www.kdentalcare.com, find the business on Facebook or email info@kdentalcase.com.

The Merrillville Tea Room, a Region institution for nearly 40 years, is bringing back formal afternoon teas and light lunches under new ownership — just in time for the holidays.

Longtime owner Ramona McCrovitz is selling the Merrillville Florist Shop and Tea Room at 7005 Madison St. to longtime customer Cindy Lopez.

"I have known Romana for 15 years," Lopez said. "She and I get along really well. We're as close as family. We had a long-running joke that if she sold the business one day she'd sell it to me. Neither one of us took it seriously until she actually tried to sell it and it fell through. Then she asked me if I really wanted to buy it and the fates aligned."

Lopez bought the business for an undisclosed sum and is transitioning into taking it over. She recently reopened the tea room that McCrovitz closed in June of 2018 after losing her chef. 

A beloved destination that's especially popular during Christmastime, when it's decked out for the season with trees and decorations, the tea room serves formal pots of tea as well as freshly baked scones, pumpkin cranberry bread, sandwiches and salads.

"We've certainly been filling up," Lopez said. "It was missed last Christmas season. We've been getting a lot of reservations from mothers and daughters, the Red Hat Society, book clubs, and bridal showers. Business has been picking up because of word of mouth. Word has been spreading as people call their lady friends."

Lopez hopes to carry the vision that made McCrovitz successful over the last 40 years while expanding on her business. She sees the Merrillville Florist Shop and Tea Room as a one-stop-shop for flowers, gifts, and lunch.

"I think it means a lot to the Region," she said. "It's definitely a tradition. It's an annual lunch or holiday party for women or groups here. Whether for a children's tea party or a holiday party, people are excited that it's come back."

She has brought back the same menu to the tea room, which serves 100 to 150 diners, including in "different dining nooks that are super cute and have a ton of character." The 5,000-square-foot restaurant employs 10, including previous staff members like a server who had been there for the last six years. 

"Romana is an amazingly talented woman who comes from an amazingly talented family," she said. "Her daughter owns Captain's House in Miller. The family has such creativity, which is something to be envious of." 

The floral shop is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, while the tea room is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with the last seating at 2:30 p.m. It's open for reservations for baby showers and other events.

"It's always been my dream to own a flower shop," she said. "I have a love for the design and putting the flowers together."

Big Daddy's BBQ, which has been celebrated many times by television personality Steve Harvey, has opened a third Northwest Indiana location, at 2330 Cline Ave. in Schererville.

It took over the space vacated by Phil's Caribbean Cuisine, a short-lived Jamaican restaurant. Big Daddy's was started in 2008 in Gary by Gordon "Big Daddy" Biffle and Darquia Biffle, who started out by selling rib tips grilled at the Embassies of Christ Market City Flea Market.

The barbecue restaurant expanded to Hammond in 2012 and has been a regular at street festivals like Griffith's Broad Street Blues and BBQ Festival and Rock 'n Rail Festival. The new 4,000-square-foot Schererville restaurant will seat around 110 people, serving as a dine-in and takeout restaurant with a similar menu to the other two locations.

Top sellers include ribs, rib tips, pulled pork and brisket. Sides include mac and cheese, collard greens, red beans, candied yams, coleslaw, salad and desserts.

Big Daddy's BBQ has been nominated for at least seven Steve Harvey neighborhood awards and won the national honor twice.

Big Daddy's BBQ also has appeared on television shows like "Windy City Live" and "Hungry Hound." Its north Lake County locations draw customers from all over Northwest Indiana.

"We have a reputation and serve a wide range of customers," she said. "I would say the barbecue is unique, cooked with charcoal on an old school grill."

The restaurant is currently open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, but the hours may change later.

Sip Coffee House and Artisan Cafe, a popular staple in downtown Crown Point and Highland, plans to bring a jolt of caffeine to Cedar Lake when it opens its third location there next year.

Residents of the fast-growing community in south Lake County have clamored for the coffee shop, owner Rhonda Bloch said. Many of her existing customers on the courthouse square in downtown Crown Point drive up from Cedar Lake.

Bloch said Sip's third location, which is slated to open on March 13 after extensive renovations, was direly needed in the growing area. 

"It's by the Sandbar and the Dairy Queen," she said. "It's a good spot. There's a need for a coffee shop."

The new Sip will be about 3,000 square feet, as compared to 1,900 square feet in Highland and 1,200 square feet in Crown Point. The coffee shop will regularly host open mics and bands.

The coffee house will employ about 15 workers and be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Bloch expects it to be busy until close, given the lack of places in town to just hang out.

Sip will serve coffee, espresso, frappuccino, smoothies and food like sandwiches, soup, and pasta salads. There will be a glass case with "fun salads and eclectic meals for people visiting the beach."

"It will be very eclectic and very hipster," she said. "We'll hang local art everywhere and get it in place a few weeks before opening."

Sip is completely gutting the space and installing new seating and decor. The coffee shop faces Cedar Lake so people can look out through the windows at the lake while sipping a latte. 

Bloch said Cedar Lake was an obvious choice for expansion because many of the Crown Point customers hail from there, the community has been growing, and most of the 985 responses on Facebook about where Sip should go next recommended Cedar Lake.

"We looked at another spot there but it was way too small," she said. "We found what we needed and I can't tell you how excited we are."

The next wave of construction is underway at Centennial Village, the new lifestyle development at Centennial Park on Calumet Avenue that brought Munster Kitaro Surf & Turf & Sushi, El Salto, Harvest Room, The Simple Greek and the SpringHill Suites by Marriott. Real estate agent Kris Hoge said the new building just north of the existing restaurants will house more restaurants and professional office space, and that residential housing would follow later.

"The goal is to get the foundation in yet this year and move forward with the construction," Hoge said.

The National Park Service at Indiana Dunes National Park is looking for someone to run the food concession at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Pavilion between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2020. The concession stand would have to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

A cupcake shop that's been featured on the Food Network and "The View" is now selling its sugary confections — deemed by a national newspaper as among the best cupcakes in the country — in Crown Point.

Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery, which opened its first Northwest Indiana location in Schererville last year, opened a cupcake shop at 10533 Broadway in Beacon Hill in Crown Point Saturday. The cupcake bakery and ice cream shop serves up a variety of homemade ice cream flavors, pupcakes for good doggies, and cupcakes with flavors like red velvet, pink vanilla, pink chocolate, chocoholic, vanilla-n-chocolate, cookies-n-cream, lemon drop, wedding cake, carrot cake, birthday cake, caramel crunch, hot fudge sundae and peanut butter cup that's made with actual Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

The gourmet cupcake chain bakes 18 different types of cupcakes from scratch every morning. It rotates its flavors daily, saved for signature flavors like its "famous red velvet," and donates all its leftovers to charity to ensure freshness. It's known for its "ice cream smashes" in which the cupcakes are served a la mode. Smallcakes also bakes special and seasonal flavors like tiramisu, pumpkin, cannoli and Fat Elvis.

The chain was named one of the top 10 cupcake places to try in the country by USA Today, and appeared on seasons one, two and seven on the popular show "Cupcake Wars" on the Food Network.

The restaurant is open from 10 a.m. 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call (219) 779-9241 or find Smallcakes: a Cupcakery of Crown Point on Facebook.

The slick-looking fast-casual taco and burrito restaurant recently opened at 2310 LaPorte Ave. Suite 500 next to Tomato Bar Pizza Bakery in Valparaiso.

The menu includes tortas, burritos, soups, salads and appetizers like a guacamole trio, queso fundido, elota placero and bolas del santo, which is homemade cheese curds stuffed with bacon and jalapeno. Specialty tacos include Baja fish, pork rib, octopus and Koreano with Teriyaki marinated steak, pickled cabbage, cilantro, green onion and serrano pepper.

It serves traditional sides like rice and beans and a Cuban sandwich. Santo Taco also offers catering and online ordering.

The 38-year-old family-owned automotive repair shop at 3530 Chicago Road in Steger took over the closed Drenth's Highway Garage at 7701 U.S. 41 in Schererville. The auto shop, located about a mile south of U.S. 30 by a CVS and Speedway, had previously been Leeps Highway Garage since about the early 1940s.

"There's been a mass exodus out of Illinois, where we have a lot of name recognition," owner Brad Templin said. "We wanted to expand to Northwest Indiana, where people are moving."

Scott's U-Save hired eight more workers at the Schererville auto shop, bringing its employee headcount to 33 overall. It sends mechanics over from Steger as needed, since the two locations are only nine miles apart.

"We like to say we'll do anything but paint," Templin said. "We'll do oil changes, brakes, tires, exhaust, engines, transmissions, suspension, AC, heating, wheel alignment, glass repair, coolants, filters, bulbs, wipers, you name it."

The 8,500-square-foot repair shop in Schererville has eight bays for vehicles. Templin, who owns the business along with his mother Sherri, one of the founders, is potentially interested in expanding Scott's U-Save to more locations in both Illinois and Northwest Indiana.

"We're known for the best customer service and very fair, honest pricing," he said. "We've been doing this for a long time. In Steger, we've drawn customers from St. John, Schererville, Orland Park, Frankfort, Tinley Park and New Lenox. We do that because we have good customer service and take care of people. You can't run a store for 40 years if you don't take care of people, be honest and treat them fairly. Customers who come in don't know how a differential works, or how an engine works. You have to educate them and be fair."

Scott's U-Save is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. through 6 p.m. on Saturday.

In this era of one-click purchases and one-day delivery, more department stores have been closing than opening.

Davenport, Iowa-based Von Maur opened its fifth Illinois location Saturday at 151st Street and La Grange Road in Orland Park, a shopping destination for many Region residents. It's the fourth Von Maur in Chicagoland but the first in the south suburbs.

“We are happy to cap off an exciting 2019 by welcoming Von Maur to Orland Square,” said Cathy Mein, director of marketing and business development for Orland Square. “As the home to Von Maur’s only south suburban Chicago location, we are thrilled to have the popular retailer call Orland Square ‘home.’”

The Von Maur will carry top brands like Joules, Mint Velvet, FatFace, Miss Selfridge, Cath Kidston, Sprayground, Kendra Scott, and Free People for women, men and children.

The store at 4 Orland Square Drive in Orland Park is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Mississippi Boy Southern Kitchen has opened a takeout soul food restaurant at 5284 Broadway Suite 11 in Gary's Glen Park neighborhood, by the Merrillville border on the city's far south side.

The eatery offers home cooking that's billed as "lick your fingers good." The menu rotates but includes items like barbecue ribs, chicken and pork steaks that are served with corn muffins and a choice of three sides, such as baked beans, smothered cabbage, collard greens, stewed corn and smothered potatoes. 

For more information, call 219-262-2593, email mississippiboysouthernkitchen@comcast.net or find the business on Facebook.

The buck stops at 7 West US 6 in Valparaiso, where Dollar General opened its newest Northwest Indiana location.

The Tennessee-based discount retailers sell a number of goods like food, housewares, cleaning supplies, apparel, party supplies, home decor and seasonal items. It carries both private labels and national brands, offering deals on everything from pop to paper towels.

“Dollar General is committed to delivering a pleasant shopping experience that includes a convenient location, a wide assortment of merchandise and great prices on quality products,” said Dan Nieser, Dollar General’s senior vice president of real estate and store development. “We hope our area customers will enjoy shopping at Dollar General’s new location.”

Four Fathers Brewing, an award-winning craft brewery known for its stouts, has moved to a much larger location in Valparaiso.

The 5-year-old craft brewery, which took home a prestigious award from the Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers earlier this year, opened its new taproom at 3705 Bowman Drive in Valparaiso at the end of August. The 5,000-square-foot brewery with a 50-seat taproom is more than three times the size of the old location on Lincolnway on the west side of town.

Four Fathers also operates a mobile taproom that pours craft beer at events at Central Park in downtown Valparaiso during the summer.

Much of the craft brewery's new digs, near Ivy Tech's Valparaiso campus, is dedicated to production space. But the owners said the new brewpub area offers more room to hang out and sip a pint than its previously cramped and parking-challenged space in a strip mall.

"We've got a great reception so far in the new space," owner Jason Lacny said. "Everyone who comes in loves the atmosphere and having elbow room. We have a much better taproom and more space. We play vinyl in there and it has an awesome look."

"We have a lot more seats and a lot more elbow room than the old space," he said. "We're off the beaten path and we were slow to get signage up, but people started finding us right away. We're away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown, but we're right by Ind. 49."

One of three craft breweries in Valparaiso, along with Figure Eight Brewing and Ironwood Brewing, Four Fathers has been taking advantage of the additional space by hosting live music, including acoustic performances from acts like the popular local singer/songwriter Robert Rolfe Feddersen.

"We're going to have live music in the taproom every month," he said. "We feel like people are more drawn to this space, which is cool and different."

The small family-owned brewery is known for beers like Feel Like Maplin' Love, Barrel Aged Sloth Love Chunk, Valhalla, Hilazious and He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother. Its annual special releases, including Viking Funeral and Wheelhouse Stout, tend to draw crowds.

Four Fathers Brewing is open from 12-8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 12-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Longtime Indiana resident and crafter Tara Vincent opened the shop to showcase the work of local artists and crafters.

"This is a new adventure for Tara, owning her first store," Top Shelf Crafts said in a news release. "This is a great store to find one-of-a-kind, handmade items perfect for the upcoming holidays or as a unique gift. Besides the excellent selection of products, Tara offers adult and kids craft classes, kids' birthday parties and more."

More than 35 local crafters sell items like popcorn, jewelry, oil paintings, ceramics, hand made knitted and crocheted items, floral wreaths, wood items, pet collars and leashes and bath products at the store.

For more information, call 219-226-4456, visit topshelfcraftscp.gmail.com or find the business on Facebook at Facebook.com/topshelfcraftscp.

South Suburban Chicago residents have flocked to the Tri-Town in recent years and some businesses have followed, but they haven't fared as well.

The Chicago-style pizzeria opened last year at 1120 U.S. 30 in Schererville in the space previously occupied by fellow Chicago Heights transplant Enzo's, which only lasted about a year at the prime, highly visible spot on busy U.S. 30.

Angelo's Prime a short distance away on Indianapolis Boulevard, another south suburban import that had locations in Flossmoor and Tinley Park, also shuttered last year.

Dozeli, which replaced Enzo's, still serves up tavern-cut thin-crust and deep-dish pizza in Chicago Heights and South Chicago Heights. An employee said it would continue to deliver to Northwest Indiana for a $5 delivery surcharge.

Pro Am Team Sports, formerly Mike's Sporting Goods, will close its Crown Point location on Jan. 1 to consolidate at its newly expanded Schererville location.

"We expanded our Schererville location to make room for additional offices, a new look to our retail store, and room to grow our production areas," Pro Am Team Sports said in a press release. "This will include Crown Point, Lowell and Merrillville spirit wear and varsity jackets. Our trophy department will find a new home in our Schererville location as well. We will still be able to provide you with quick, efficient service to fit all of your award needs."

The business said any varsity jackets ordered by Thanksgiving in Crown Point would be delivered to that store at 530 N. Main St. in time for Christmas. Any jackets not picked up by Christmas Eve will later be available at the Schererville store at 1650 U.S. 41.

"We are excited to continue to see our growth and potential as we make this move," Pro Am Team Sports said in a news release. "We hope that you come visit us, and check out the changes we have been making. We want to thank the residents of Crown Point for allowing us to provide great customer service to the community for so many years."

The Illinois-based chain Rainstorm Car Wash has taken over the existing car washes at 7141 Calumet Ave. in Hammond and 1307 Joliet St. in Dyer.

Rainstorm Car Wash, which also offers detailing and vacuums, also has locations in Bloomington, Bolingbrook, Bourbonnais, Champaign, Decatur, Markham, Peoria and Springfield in Illinois and Lexington in Kentucky.

Earlier this year, Lo’shell's Cajun and Creole Flavors took over the former Z's Shakes and Cakes location at 1929 Broadway in Gary that the highly Instagrammable ice cream parlor vacated before moving down south the Merrillville, closer to U.S. 30. 

The New Orleans-style restaurant serves items like gumbo, creole pasta or rice, cajun alfredo, smoked wings, salmon, and cajun turkey and chicken stuffed cabbage soup. The dishes can be customized with one's choice of chicken, shrimp, crawfish or no meat. 

One can even build one's own boil with their choice of crawfish, shrimp, turkey neck, snow crab, smoked sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob. The eatery also has steamed broccoli and creole salads.

Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.

The Taco Bell in Crown Point that closed because of foundation issues is slated to return in December.

Crown Point residents have not been able to live mas or run for the border in town since April, when the Taco Bell restaurant at 1483 N. Main St. was razed because of structural problems.

The fast-food eatery known for its chalupas, quesadillas and burritos was supposed to reopen in August, but delays pushed that back. A company spokesperson said the Taco Bell should reopen in the first week of December.

Crown Point Building Administrator Joe Cash said Irvine, California-based Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Louisville-based Yum Brands, switched general contractors midway through the $800,000 rebuild. The Tex-Mex eatery that brought the world the Dorito Chip-dusted Doritos Locos Taco, the Fritos-stuffed Beefy Fritos Burrito and the $1 breakfast burrito invested $800,000 in the complete rebuild.

"A building permit is good for two years and appears that job is not even close to completion," Cash said.

Restaurant Specialties was the original general contractor, but Integrated Construction Solutions since has taken over the project, he said.

The Deerfield-based pharmacy chain, the second-largest in the United States after CVS Health, continues its ongoing disinvestment in the Calumet Region. In recent years, it's closed its location in Calumet City and three of its four locations in Gary.

Walgreens did irrevocable damage to East Chicago's heritage and history before shuttering its 14,490-square-foot pharmacy after little more than a decade. The chain demolished the historic 85-year-old First National Bank and Trust Co. building at the northeast corner of Indianapolis Boulevard and Chicago Avenue in 2005 to clear the way for its drug store, even though there were other vacant and far less historic properties nearby.

The city attempted to pursue National Historic Landmark status for the ornate bank building that John Dillinger once robbed, but it had no legal recourse to stop Walgreens. The razed building had been home to a number of tenants, including National City Bank, Indiana Workforce Development, the Community Reinvestment Project and the East Chicago teachers union.

At the time, a Walgreens spokesperson said, "We're offering an investment that's going to be a backbone in the community for many years to come."

Walgreens deprived East Chicago of a neo-classical building from 1918 that had a marble lobby, ornate teller windows and a high-arching entrance. Its grand interior included a skylight. Local residents had hopes of turning it into a local history museum, but they never came to fruition.

The eatery at 8349 Indianapolis Blvd. has been in the Highland Ultra Plaza since at least the late-1990s.

Known for its crab Rangoon, the takeout-focused restaurant served entrees like Kung Pao Beef, General Tso's Chicken and Sweet and Sour Chicken with shrimp-fried rice and egg rolls. Some online reviewers claimed it was one of the best Chinese places in Northwest Indiana. It also offered other Asian fare like Pad Thai and Thai Curry Fried Rice.

It's one of the latest in a string of retail businesses to close in the Highland Ultra Plaza at Indianapolis Boulevard and Ridge Road.

A grand opening celebration will take place Friday at the Amish-style doughnut shop, which is across the street from Walmart and Strack & Van Til.

The first person through the door at 6 a.m. Oct. 25 will get free doughnuts for a year, the next 24 a free dozen of cinnamon caramel doughnuts, and the next 75 one free cinnamon caramel doughnut.

Bob and Nikki Van Kalker, who also own Van Kalker Farms & Greenhouses in Lynwood, opened the second Rise'n Roll Bakery in Northwest Indiana. They also have a shop in Valpo.

“We are opening a Rise'n Roll Bakery because we love the product and want to share it with Northwest Indiana,” Nikki Van Kalker said. “We are excited for the opportunity for our family to expand into a new business.”

The Middlebury-based bakery chain will offer a number of items that include egg noodles, cheeses, jellies and jams.

The annual White Sox Pop-Up Shop opened for the holiday season at the Orland Square Mall in Orland Park with an appearance Saturday afternoon by White Sox legend Ron Kittle, a Gary native who was named an All-Star and Rookie of the Year when he helped lead the 1983 "Winnin' Ugly" White Sox to their first playoff berth in decades.

The shop in the mall's lower level H&M wing will feature the latest White Sox apparel, such as jerseys, hats, T-shirts and sweatshirts. Southpaw will make an appearance Thursday, former White Sox players and ambassadors also will stop by, and there will be special offers and giveaways on Black Friday, Nov. 29.

If you have any nostalgia for Craftsman, Kenmore or a suburban department store that's been a staple of Northwest Indiana for 45 years, you have a month left to swing by the Sears at the Southlake Mall.

A closing date has been set for the two-story Sears department store in Hobart. After 45 years, the Sears that is an original anchor of the super-regional mall at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street will close for good on Nov. 10.

Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears, which filed for bankruptcy last October, is closing large-format stores around the country as it shifts to focus on smaller stores. The company is looking to survive in a radically changing retail landscape at a time when more and more people are shopping online. Long the largest retailer in the world, Sears has not turned an annual profit since 2010 and has been bleeding money ever since as it continues to close stores and lay off workers.

The Southlake Mall store has been undergoing a liquidation sale and all the merchandise in the two-story store has been moved down to the first floor. It still has a lot of heavily marked down merchandise to sell off, including clothes, grills, tools, appliances and mattresses.

Butter Up! Popcorn has been in business for more than six years, but only recently relocated to Schererville.

The gourmet popcorn shop had been in Frankfort, Illinois but moved to Northwest Indiana earlier this year after its owners did.

"We moved here and brought the business with us," said Tom Crohan, who owns the business with his wife Karen Crohan.

Butter Up sells flavored popcorn in 25 different flavors, such as butter, kettle, cheese, caramel, pizza, garlic parmesan and Dragon's Breath, which is made with ghost pepper.

"Our customers rate our cheese popcorn higher than Garrett's," Crohan said. "Our Yelp rating is currently very good, top-notch."

The gourmet popcorn shop at 248 W Lincoln Hwy in Schererville rotates its flavors and will, for instance, soon add a pumpkin spice for the fall. It also sells drinks and candies, including vintage candies. 

"We specialize in gift baskets," Crohan said. "We do gift baskets for businesses, as well as Christmas, holidays, birthdays and corporate events. We wrap up different popcorns and candies in gift baskets, and sell a lot of them, especially for Christmas."

Butter Up sells popcorn in bags, as well as in refillable tins and one-gallon tubs. The shop tries to be creative by combining seasonings to make some of its flavors.

"It's always fresh and it's got different flavors," Crohan said. "We have a different seed that helps with the flavor. We try to skimp on portions, and don't charge an arm and a leg."

Butter Up is a family-run business with a sports theme: its name is a play on the baseball express "batter up."

"We're big baseball fans from the South Side of Chicago," he said. "Our family has baseball in the blood."

Butter Up joins many other gourmet popcorn shops that have cropped up in Northwest Indiana in recent years, including ChicagoLand Popcorn in Hobart and St. John, Lady's Gourmet Popcorn in Griffith, Epic Gourmet Popcorn in Dyer, and Popcorn World in Michigan City.

"In Illinois, we had a couple of competitors, but it seems like there are a lot more shops here," Crohan said. "We're kind of in the middle, between the stores in Hobart, Dyer and Griffith. We feel like we compete with how fresh our popcorn is and how it's not the priciest."

The popular Rob’s Meat Chop & Deli in Dyer moved three blocks from its original spot on Dyer’s North Winds Drive to 901 Fairview Drive in Dyer.

“We’re staying in our neighborhood,” owner Rob Newenhouse said. “We are twice the size and more efficient.”

The 17-year-old business serves hand-cut steaks, chops, kabobs, and other meats, as well as fish, salads and soups.

“I started in the business when I was 15 years old with my wife’s uncle. We’re an old-fashioned meat market, there is nothing packaged, and we wait on everybody.”

Rob’s Meat Chop & Deli secured a U.S. Small Business Administration 504 loan to build the new 16,000 square-foot store. Construction started last year and was recently completed.

“Rob’s Meat Chop and Deli is a small business that services the community with high-quality products offering a higher level of personal service unavailable at large grocery chains," said Andrew Tinberg of NB Bank & Trust of Oak Forest, which was the lender. "Rob staffs the business with local residents providing quality jobs close to home. Rob’s Meat Chop and Deli will be able to grow their business in their new facility offering additional products and services while at the same time creating more jobs.”

Owner Greg Smith said he had to close the furniture and mattress store for personal reasons, but recently hired a manager who will be able to keep the store open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. He eventually hopes to expand the hours.

The 10,000-square-foot furniture store sells a variety of top brands like Ashley, Southern Motion, Best Home Furnishings, Jackson Furniture, Restonic, Simmons, Lane, Hughes, Vaughan-Bassett, and Liberty Furniture. 

"We do wholesale pricing on quality furniture," he said. "It's family-owned and operated. We interact directly with the customer, face-to-face."

For more information, call 219-254-2399, visit www.shayfurniture.com or find the business on Facebook.

The new quilting supply store Bee Quilting & Such aims to weave itself into the fabric of Northwest Indiana.

The mother-and-daughter duo of Martha Lowry and Meghann LaBadie are opening the modern quilt shop at 1842 45th St., suite "Bee" in Munster. 

"We're avid quilters," Lowry said. "I've been sewing my whole life. I've been quilting for 10 or 12 years. We went to a quilt show to see what it was about, and really got into it."

Bee Quilting & Such is aimed at a target customer base of all skill levels and interests, including quilters, home decor sewists and those who sew clothes. It will carry all fabric, thread, notions and all makes of sewing machines, including a full line of Janome sewing machines.

It will also offer classes and finisher services for quilters, such as binding and long-arm quilting.

"We'll offer quilting classes for all skill levels, but the focus will be on introductory classes," Lowry said. "I think everybody can find some kind of fabric project that will interest them."

Bee Quilting & Such will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The Wurst owner Ricky Hanft talks with his mentor Josh Applestone of the Applestone Meat Company in New York.

A former fourth-generation Region ironworker moved to New York City for a change of scenery, went on to supply meat to some of America’s most celebrated restaurants, including Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, and returned to Northwest Indiana where he’s opened a whole animal butcher shop.

Highland native Ricky Hanft opened The Wurst at 130 N. Broad St. next to the Charcuterie specialty food shop in downtown Griffith. The space was formerly occupied by the longtime institution C&R Stationery Store, which closed last year after 56 years. 

“Right now we’re just doing deer processing for the season,” Hanft said. “Next spring, we’re going to open a full animal butcher shop that will serve pasture-raised and antibiotic- and hormone-free animals from small family farms.”

Hanft sold his house and went to New York in 2014 to find a job as an ironworker, but the former culinary school student ended up as an apprentice for Josh and Jessica Applestone of the Applestone Meat Company, pioneers in craft butchering of ethically sourced animals. He ended up managing The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley, California, where he was mentored by Aaron and Monica Rocchino and oversaw the delivery of meat to some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the Bay Area.

Hanft was partly drawn back home by the quality of pork he tried from Howe Farms near Crown Point, where the free-range hogs are not fed corn or soy or treated with hormones.

“They don’t even have a barn,” he said. “It’s the opposite of a factory farm. It’s family farming where many hands make light work. They have a phenomenal breed that exceeds what I’ve seen while supplying meats to the highest quality restaurants in the country. It’s the best pork I’ve seen anywhere.”

The Wurst will process whole deers through the end of January. Hanft hopes the new butcher shop will contribute to a one-stop-shop in downtown Griffith for hunters.

On a one-block stretch of Broad Street, sportsmen can buy rifles, bows or ammo at Blythe’s, get their bucks mounted and caped at American Natural Resources, get the meat processed at The Wurst Meats and pickup spices and rubs to cook the venison with at Charcuterie next door.

“We won’t just have the usual Italian, Polish, brats, chorizo, snack sticks and stuff like that,” he said. “We want an emphasis on all the cultures of the Region and the melting pot of our country. We’re going to have sausages ranging from Thai to Spanish. Food, like music, is for everybody. We want to bring people together... Good, quality food is not synonymous with fancy and expensive. There will always be something for everyone at my shop."

The Wurst is named after German and Austrian sausages, but also a reference to Hanft’s philosophy of using every part of the animal.

“Most of the butchers butchered whole animals before the Chicago Stockyards, which led to specialization,” he said. “People stopped breaking down whole animals from start to finish and butchers only bought hot sellers like New York Strips, ribeyes and tenderloins. Farmers were left with less than desirable parts like shanks, offal, bone and skin. I take those things that are less than desirable by making them into value-added products like pastrami from beef heart or corned beef from beef tongue."

Since returning to the Region, Hanft has done butchering demonstrations for Provecho in Crown Point. He’s looking to do collaborations with such existing businesses, including Grindhouse Cafe a few storefronts down Broad Street.

The Wurst will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily during deer-hunting season, and will likely be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. when the retail operation is added next spring.

An Amish doughnut shop that’s drawn lines in Valparaiso will open its second Northwest Indiana location in Schererville.

Rise'n Roll Bakery plans an Oct. 25 grand opening at 1542 U.S. 41 in Schererville. It's in the Fountain Park Shopping Center off Indianapolis Boulevard, just north of U.S. 30 at the busy intersection that’s known as “the Crossroads of America.”

In addition to doughnuts, the Middlebury, Indiana-based chain, which has 10 locations across the state, sells apple fritters, Dutch apple pies, cinnamon rolls, other baked goods, butter, apple butter, noodles, cheese and jarred foods. Its offerings include powdered, frosted and glazed doughnuts, a soft-serve ice cream-filled doughnut and a cinnamon-caramel doughnut topping nicknamed "Amish crack.”

The first Rise’n Roll in Northwest Indiana in Valparaiso in 2017. The carryout-focused restaurant bakes fresh doughnuts with no preservatives and homemade butter every day.

It also has restaurants in Fort Wayne, Greenwood, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Plymouth, Napanee and its home base of Middlebury.

Tobacco Island, an upscale tobacco and vape shop, will open its second Northwest Indiana location in Schererville.

The retailer is moving into the endcap of a two-tenant building it shares with Arby’s at 700 W. Lincoln Highway in Schererville. The space was formerly occupied by Nutrishop, which recently closed.

“Ownership and management of Tobacco Island have been great to work with. They are very passionate about their stores and extremely knowledgeable about all their products,” said Myles Rapchak with the Schererville-based commercial real estate firm Latitude Commercial, who represented Tobacco Island in the lease. “They go above and beyond all expectations to meet their customer needs and I have no doubt this new location will be huge success.”

“We were happy to get the building back to 100% occupancy within a few months for the owner,” Latitude Commercial Senior Vice President Brett McDermott said. “It’s a great location and we feel that the tenant will be very successful here.”

"Owner Mandy Pelaquin offers a variety of unique options for facials, body wraps and waxings," the business said in a news release. “Each is designed to meet your special needs and Mandy will help you determine which is right for you. Lash extension service is also one of Mandy’s many skills.”

She’s a Tricoci University graduate and a licensed esthetician who has taken additional training for eyelash extensions and microblading.

“Mandy has been obsessed with health and beauty for as long as she can remember,” according to the press release. “She initially started her training as a massage therapist. After a family member dealt with hard to clear acne, Mandy decided she wanted to learn more about skincare… Mandy loves seeing the results of the treatments — whether it is lashes that frame the eyes, treating acne or simply a relaxing facial.”

Liquidation sale signs at the Griffith Kmart before it closed in December. The last Kmart in Northwest Indiana in Valparaiso will close later this year.

The last Kmart in Northwest Indiana will close by the end of this year as parent company Sears looks to restructure in bankruptcy in a desperate bid for survival.

Transformco, which is overseeing the Sears restructuring, has announced the last four Kmarts in the Hoosier state would shutter. The teetering retail titan is shutting the Kmart at 2801 Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso along with Kmarts in Elwood, Kokomo and Richmond before the end of the year.

“As we continue our transformation efforts, we are working closely with our stakeholders, and evaluating our network of stores, operations and business strategy in order to stabilize the business and support a long-term path to profitable success,” Transformco said in a statement.

A liquidation sale has begun. An employee at the Valparaiso Kmart said the store, which has been there since the 1960s or 1970s, would close in December, likely before Christmas.

If you have any unused gift cards, act fast. Transformco also will shutter the nearest Illinois Kmart at 7325 W 79th St. in Bridgeport by year's end.

The big-box store in Valparaiso sold general merchandise, appliances and garden items. It had a pharmacy that's already closed.

The Hoffman Estates-based retailer has a long history in the Calumet Region, dating back to the S. S. Kresge department stores that once drew shoppers from far and wide to downtown Hammond and the Village Shopping Center in Gary. Kmart once had more than 2,000 stores and was the second-largest retailer in the United States after Sears until it was surpassed by Walmart in 1990.

Kmart was known for its blue light specials and exclusive merchandise from celebrities like Martha Stewart and Kathy Ireland.

The sustainably sourced fast-casual restaurant brand with a "Food with Roots" motto seeks franchisees to open new eateries in the Region. The restaurant, which sources seasonal wholesome ingredients from local farmers and food producers, already has 80 locations open or in development internationally, with a strong presence on the East Coast and restaurants in Canada, Switzerland and Germany.

“Today’s consumers are choosing healthier options and prefer wholesome ingredients, which B.GOOD offers through our diverse menu, even our more indulgent menu items,” said Ed Yancey, vice president of franchise development for B.GOOD. “People shouldn’t feel bad about going out to eat, and B.GOOD is a breath of fresh air to people who want to know exactly what they are eating. We are thrilled to bring our ‘Food with Roots’ to Northwest Indiana.”

The restaurant serves greens-and-grain bowls, burgers, salads and smoothies it bills as "all-natural, better-for-you food." The chain offers light and healthy options, comfort food classics and an extensive kids menu. 

The urgent care clinic at the northwest corner of East Ridge Road and Route 51 will treat people for common illnesses and minor injuries with no appointment. Patients can also reserve a spot in line online at porterhealth.com.

“The need for a prompt, quality, walk-in urgent care center at this particular location serving the Hobart, Lake Station and surrounding areas is important for this part of Northwest Indiana. We understand that people get sick beyond normal business hours and need an option other than the emergency room for their minor medical conditions,“ said Sean Dardeau, Porter Health Care System and Northwest Indiana market CEO. “With CareEXPRESS urgent care, we are providing patients in the Hobart area with more access to physicians and nurse practitioners on duty at all times. Patients will be seen in a timely manner and in a convenient setting.”

Porter Health Care System operates Porter Regional Hospital and more than 20 outpatient sites across the Region, employing 450 physicians who practice 50 different medical specialties.

The Beauty Loft is now offering an array of beauty services at 105 N. Court St. upstairs in the Sports Academy building on the courthouse square in downtown Crown Point.

The salon offers microblading, lashes, body waxing, lash lifts, brow tints and shaping, facials and makeup in studio. 

"We have a non-intimidating environment where we make people feel comfortable so can make them feel their best," he said. "I love making people feel happy and feel good about what they do."

"I've worked in the industry for a while and would like to give other artists an opportunity," she said. "I want to create an environment where it's comfortable to work and grow and where I help them in any way I can."

The Beauty Loft is open by appointment only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, find the business on Facebook, email beautyloftllc@gmail.com or call 219-776-6886.

The Chesapeake, Virginia-based chain overhauled the store so it includes a wider selection of food, beauty items, household products, seasonal items and $1 Dollar Tree merchandise. Family Dollar added more freezers and coolers to expand its offering of fresh and frozen foods at the store, which employs around six to 10 workers.

“Family Dollar is proud to be a part of the Hammond community and we are excited to welcome existing and new customers to our newly renovated store,” Family Dollar spokesperson Jim Van Slyke said. “The refreshed store will provide even greater values and convenience to our shoppers.”

Quentin Grant and Jonathan Harris opened the new pizzeria at 4345 S. Broadway in Gary's Glen Park neighborhood.

"Raymond Cantelo has been like a mentor to me for over the past six years in helping me get this point of opening my own franchise, and thank him for that, because he didn’t have to do it," Harris said. "Also, I would like to thank Larry Garetto, the president of Beggars Pizza, or 'The Big Cheese' as we call him, and his wife Mary Jo for all of their support. The entire Garetto family has been so unbelievably helpful."

Harris said it's the chain's first quick-serve location, a new concept that it might roll out more widely if successful at the Gary location.

"We cut down on the menu so we can get everything out fast, in 15 minutes," he said. "We don't have sandwiches or pasta. We focus on wings, fries and pizza: thin crust, deep dish, stuffed and gluten-free."

"If you call ahead by 25 minutes, you'll be in and out and back home eating and happy," Harris said. "We want to minimize the time you're waiting so you can be home eating."

"We're excited to be in Gary," Harris said. "There's the hospital, the steel mill, the university. We toured the city and fell in love with it. This is a great space and it's not far from the college. We're on a prime college on Broadway near Ridge Road."

The pizzeria drew lines in its first few days, and the concept could be expanded to other locations if it proves successful in Gary. The new restaurant also will do catering if given 48 hours' notice.

"All our orders are going through the corporate call center in Blue Island," Harris said. "It's the same people and professionalism that ensure the quality so we can focus on making the food."

A concessionaire at White Sox games at Guaranteed Rate Field, Beggars Pizza has locations in Crown Point, Whiting, Dyer, Lansing, and Valparaiso. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she approached the Chicagoland chain about opening a location in Gary.

"It's great to have a franchise come to the city," she said. "This won't take away from independently owned places like Miller Pizza. We can support those businesses and franchises. It's not either/or. We have diverse businesses." 

Beggar's Pizza in Gary is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. 

Rapid Fired Pizza will soon open its first Northwest Indiana location at 8160 Mississippi St. in Merrillville.

The Ohio-based quick-serve craft pizza chain promises "amazingly good, amazingly fast, fresh-made pizza ... ready in just 180 seconds" that can be customized similar to MOD Pizza in Highland or Blaze Pizza in Chicago. Both individual-sized pizzas and 14" family pizzas are made to order and cooked right in front of the customer.

Seasoned restaurateurs with experience at Subway, Skyline Chili and Hot Head Burritos started the chain in Kettering, Ohio, and it has been growing through franchising. The pizzeria has more than 30 locations in Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky.

In Indiana, Rapid Fired Pizza also has restaurants in New Albany and Jeffersonville by the Ohio River in southern Indiana.

Customers can choose from 35 ingredients, eight sauces, eight cheeses and 14 dipping sauces as well as No Doh Pizza options. Pizza options include Pesto Chicken, Hog Heaven, White Out, Mac Daddy and the 1,591-calorie "Triple By Pass" that includes "spicy red sauce, mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni, bacon, black olive and jalapeño."

For more information, visit rapidfiredpizza.com, call 800-465-9910 or email contact@rapidfiredpizza.com.

Roxana's Restaurant at 234 W. 81st Ave. in Merrillville has grilled its last shish kabob, for now at least.

The locally owned sit-down restaurant that specialized in Mediterranean and American cuisines closed its spot on U.S. 30 but left the door open to a comeback.

"Roxana’s will be merged with Kabul Kabob in Bridgeview, Illinois," the restaurant posted on its Facebook page. "We’re planning on opening another location soon. Thanks for your support. Stay tuned."

The eatery was focused on lunch and dinner, serving lamb chops, adobo chicken kabobs, steaks, burgers, Italian beef, salads and soups, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. It used all-natural free-range meats that were free of steroid, hormones and antibiotics.

The Wisconsin-based sub shop specializes in deli and hot grilled subs, as well as cheese curds, shakes, ice cream floats and root beer.

Unending road work at the corner of 45th Street and Calumet Avenue in Munster finally killed off two businesses at the corner.

The Marathon gas station and adjoining Munster Marathon Auto Repair auto shop and towing service, both at 9451 Calumet Ave, have closed.

45th Street from Calumet Avenue east to Southwood Drive closed in June as the town kicked off the two-year, $36 million road project aimed at turning the traffic snarl at Calumet Avenue and 45th Street across the Canadian National railroad tracks into a less jagged, standard four-way intersection. Construction is expected to continue through next year.

The gas station had initially posted signs stressing it was still open, urging passing motorists to continue to fill up there, but recently posted a closed sign on the door and deactivated the gas pumps.

Merrillville-based commercial real estate firm Commercial In-Sites signed a lease to use the space for administrative office and commercial kitchen use.  

"Just a Dash services K-12 school districts and businesses including cafeterias and catering presently serving over 10,000 meals a day," Commercial In-Sites said in a news release.

Now based out of Highland, the company dates back to 2008 and prides itself on using "quality ingredients," eschewing canned goods and MSG. It makes meals from scratch using USDA certified meat.

For more information, call 219-924-7299, email info@justadashcatering.com or visit justadashcatering.com.

Bee Quilting & Such signed a lease to occupy 1,860 square feet in the Pavilion on 45th Street in Munster.

"The Pavilion on 45th shopping center is now 100% occupied with one out lot remaining," Commercial In-Sites said in a news release.

Scarpe restaurant has opened in downtown Valparaiso. Chris and Katrina Shoemaker, far right, are pictured in the restaurant, whose staff includes Executive Chef Olivia Fissé and Beverage Director Adam Shoemaker, third and fourth from left.

Scarpe, a regional Italian restaurant, opened in late June in the old Bon Femme space at 66 Lincolnway in Valparaiso. It serves authentic cuisine from the 20 different regions of Italy with a focus on regional ingredients from the Midwest and a seasonal, chef-driven menu. 

Owners Chris and Katrina Shoemaker launched the upscale establishment that serves antipasti (appetizers), primi (pastas), secondi (meat, fish and vegetarian entrees) and contorni (vegetables and salads). It strives to offer fine dining in a "comfortable and approachable" environment.

"We try to make the pasta, salad dressing, everything we can in house," Scarpe Beverage Director Adam Shoemaker said. "The menu has a rotating seasonality and we pull inspirations from different regions."

Dishes exhibit different regional influences, including lasagna bolognese from Bologna, cacio e pepe from Rome, and Maiale Alla Milanese from Milan.

Shoemaker met Scarpe Executive Chef Olivia Fissé at The Culinary Institute of America and at a 15-week immersion program at an Italian farmhouse that had been turned into a cooking school.

"We learned different techniques and took field trips to Rome, Florence and Milan to get a feel for the different regions of Italy," she said. "We have a lot of staples and the menu is true to how Italians eat. We have full-on meat dishes, but Italians don't add chicken to their pasta."

They will unveil their fall menu this week and hope to change the menu at least four times a year to reflect the produce that's in season. Scarpe, for instance, will offer a sweet corn risotto after getting a delivery of sweet corn from a farmer just outside Valparaiso.

Its suppliers are local. It gets tomatoes from Porter County, charcuterie from Chicago and Iowa and gelato — the only desert not made in house — from Saugatuck, Michigan.

"People can taste the freshness," Fissé  said. "We put a lot of care and love and attention in our way of cooking. A big point is simplicity. The best dishes have simple tomato sauces that are homemade. People are crazy about it because you can taste the food more when all the components are simple."

The 2,200-square-foot restaurant seats about 62 people in the dining room and another 15-16 on the outdoor patio. It serves Italian wine, craft beers, and vermouth-based cocktails.

"I was born and raised in Valpo, and the dining scene is great," Shoemaker said. "You have places like Don Quixote that have been around for such a long time and cool new spots opening up. We're right across the street from Central Park, where they have movies and concerts, and ice skating during the winter."

Scarpe plans to have wine pairing and dinner events, and will soon roll out a pre-dinner drink and snack offering on weeknights.

The restaurant is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

"We plan to remain dinner-focused because we pride ourselves on quality and need the prep time during the day to ensure the quality is as good as it can be," Shoemaker said.

Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends, and can be made at www.exploretock.com/scarpe.

For more information, call 219-242-8837, visit www.restaurantscarpe.com or find the restaurant on Facebook and Instagram.

The 700-square-foot specialty store opened about a month ago at 8235 Forest Ave. at the busy intersection of Ridge Road and Forest Avenue — hence the name. It's across the street from the Munster Strack & Van Til and next to Consider the Lilies.

"They specialize in artisan gifts so it's a good match," Forest Avenue Vintage owner Carey Halsey said of Consider the Lilies. "We have similar customers and it's helpful to have her established customers coming by."

Forest Avenue Vintage sells a range of antique furniture and vintage items, such as record albums and 1950s Pyrex fiesta bowls.

"It's pretty much everything vintage except for clothes," she said. "We have all kinds of things from the 1940s and 1950s. We have doors that were rescued from houses that were torn down that are in beautiful condition. We have mid-century furniture and antiques that are 100 years old."

A large majority of the items came from Halsey's personal collection. A recent retiree from a career in human services and education, she has some time on her hands and decided a store would be the best way to unload the items and find them a new home.

"Rescuing old things has long been an interest of mine. I liked shopping at thrift stores and finding many things," she said. "I considered a shop on eBay or Etsy but the mail and breakage seemed like a lot of hassle. The rent was reasonable so I decided to give it a whirl."

She's arranged the shop into little rooms that focus on different items like furniture, dishes, books, records and shabby chic items.

"It's the kind of store where you find things you didn't know you needed," she said. "There are hand-embroidered do-dads from the 1950s that are just cute, Hansel and Gretel dolls imported from West Germany and sold by Sears, and rustic things like Coca Cola signs, things made with wood and a rustic old watering can."

Forest Avenue Vintage is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Las Vegas transplant Rosemarie Zack plans to open Just Beautiful Lashes on Main Street near Kennedy Avenue in Highland.

The licensed esthetician and master lash technician will open the business at 2715 Main Street Suite B, donating part of the proceeds to a local women's shelter.

"Being a business woman, I recently moved to the Midwest, and would like to contribute towards my community in a direct way, whereby my financial means can donate to a worthy cause," she said. "Originally a native from this area of the Midwest, I have been absent for over 35 years, and I have recently moved back in the late of 2018. Therefore, I would like to be involved with making society better for women with my contributions. I believe highly in my cause."

Zack specializes in brides and classic lashes, and has previously done work for celebrities, stage performers and drag queens.

"For women looking for lashes, I'm licensed, ensured and bonded," she said. "You want to make sure you're going to an esthetician with cosmetology training. It can do damage to the eye if it's not done correctly."

Just Beautiful Lashes will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. It will take walk-ins but appointments are strongly recommended so potential clients can come in for consultations to see if lashes are right for them.

"It's basically a simple business," Zack said. "It's not rocket science. But I'm really excited to be back in the area and to be doing it in the Midwest. This is where I was born and everything has come full circle."

For more information, call 312-502-0666 or find Just Beautiful Lashes on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Joanna Fotopoulos worked in restaurants for 35 years, cooking at and managing places like Panos Big Boy in Calumet City, Chicago Pita in Hegewisch and the cafeteria at Ford's Chicago Stamping Plant.

"She never had the opportunity," her son Paul Fotopoulos said. "She had to take care of a sick child. I had cancer when I was a kid and I lost my left leg. I'm an amputee with a prosthesis. She raised her two sons. George is now a registered nurse and I'm a physical therapist, and we helped her dream come true, helped her to see that rainbow at the end of the tunnel. It's a beautiful dream come true."

She now runs and is the main chef at Pita Stop, a Mediterranean street food restaurant in the food court at Southlake Mall in Hobart, which they chose as a site because of the steady traffic. It's a quick-service eatery that serves Greek and Mediterranean food that Paul Fotopoulos described as authentic and a healthier option than most fast food.

The menu includes kebabs, all-beef Grecian Delight gyros, a marinated ribeye steak sandwich with Mediterranean spices, salmon and other entrees served on a bed of rice pilaf. It caters to vegans and vegetarians with dishes like salad, green beans and Greek fries with feta cheese.

Pita Stop has sliders called the Mini Gladiator and Mini Spartan that it will sell in orders of up to 300 for catering, and is working to offer to deliver everything on its menu through DoorDash. It has a different low-sodium soup every day, including a lemon rice soup with chicken, a spin on lemon rice soup with beef, a Grecian meatball soup and an Italian wedding soup.

"Essentially no one can try to make this food," he said. "Sure you can add olive oil, lemon and spices to anything. But this comes from experience and the cooking she learned from the old country. We're living out my mother's dream. It's strictly a family-run business. We're a Greek-American family living the dream and we know if you don't put in the work there's no reward."

Pita Stop is open when the Southlake Mall is, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Sundae Funday Ice Cream Parlor opened this summer in Winfield right outside Lakes of the Four Seasons.

The 1,300-square-foot ice cream parlor is located in a strip mill by Two Bills Tap at 9281 109th Ave., where it employs six workers.

"We've got six or seven tables and five or six chairs outside," owner Megan Early said. "You can come in for sundaes, waffle cones, shakes, pints of ice cream of what we call a puffle waffle that looks like a honeycomb, is made with handmade batter and tastes like cake and ice cream."

Sundae Funday, a play on the "Sunday Fundays" Early often spent with her friends, serves 24 kinds of hand-dipped ice creams "like what Baskin Robbins used to serve." Regular flavors include bourbon truffle, brownie batter and coffee caramel. It also has seasonal flavors like Berry Berry Patriotic in the summer, Pumpkin Apple Crisp in the fall and peppermint in the winter.

"We saw there was a need here," Early said. "We have so many different flavors and so many different flavor combinations, there's something for everybody."

Sundae Funday is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from noon until 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Over the last 12 years, Aaron Peters has built a reputation across the Region for doing high-quality organic, realistic tattoos. 

Now the longtime tattoo artist, who studied fine arts at the Arts Academy of Chicago, has opened his first tattoo studio and the first in Schererville, which had long banned tattoo parlors.

Peters, who previously worked at China Doll Tattoo and Piercing in Hammond, Bugaboo Tattoo in Hammond and Sure Fire Tattoo in Crown Point, spent nearly a year appealing the ordinance through the Board of Zoning Appeals and other town boards.

"I was told not to do it, that it would be a waste of time, that they would never allow it," he said. "I was told it would be a waste of money to fight the ordinance, but I kind of passed with flying colors and didn't have to mess with any layers. I just laid out what I knew I could provide the town with, what I had accomplished and how I planned to be here long-term."  

A Schererville resident, Peters opened A Darker Path Tattoo Studio at 242 W. Lincoln Highway in the Lincoln Ridge Plaza shopping mall on U.S. 30.

"I think tattooing still has a stigma as a biker thing," he said. "Towns like Munster, Dyer and Highland still don't have tattoo parlors. But it's definitely gotten more common and now you see moms and grandmas with tattoos on their ankles and wrists."

Peters has been drawing and painting his entire life. He aspired to become a comic book artist. When that didn't work out, he considered becoming an art teacher or graphic designer.

"It honestly just kind of fell in my lap," he said. "I started at a local shop after another artist asked if I wanted to learn. I was working in retail. Literally two months later I was on a machine giving my first tattoo."

He's built up an accomplished resume that includes a spread in Tattoo magazine and awards at tattoo conventions in Chicago, Schaumburg, Louisville and Fort Wayne. He's especially known for three-dimensional photorealism that often features animals, portraiture or nature. He often draws people, flowers, skulls and wildlife scenes that have a black-and-white organic look.

"As an artist, I would get writer's block doing all my own stuff all the time," he said. "I don't always feel inspired. But working with the clients keeps me driven and motivated. I can take a little concept and make it into something huge. I love working with people and giving them a great piece of large scale that will take hours and sessions to complete."

His work has gained popularity on Instagram, especially a portrait he did of the surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

A Darker Path Tattoo Studio is open from noon until 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment.

For more information, call 219-440-7198, visit aaronpetersart.com or find A Darker Path Tattoo Studio on Facebook or Instagram.

The restaurant in Schererville's Shops on Main on U.S. 41 specializes in flame-grilled Portugese peri peri chicken. It's part of a fast-growing Chicago-based chain that recently changed the name of all its restaurants to The Port of Peri Peri.

Tomato Bar Pizza Bakery owner/operator Cory Muro hand-tosses pizza dough at the restaurant in Schererville in 2014. The restaurant, which also has a Valparaiso location, opened in Crown Point this week.

The popular Tomato Bar Pizza Bakery, known for its creative menu and monthly specials, continues to take Northwest Indiana by storm.

Tomato Bar, which began with its location at 2310 LaPorte Ave. in Valparaiso, opened its third location Monday at 10547 Broadway in Crown Point. Owners Cory and Blair Muro, the former proprietors of the acclaimed farm-to-fork Valley Kitchen & Bar, placed their latest restaurant in the Beacon Hill development at 109th Avenue and Delaware Parkway. They also have a Tomato Bar in Shops on Main in Schererville and Ricochet Tacos in downtown Valparaiso.

The menu is outside the box with pizzas like "The Reef," which tops a pesto base with provolone, mozzarella, cheddar, chicken, ham, hardwood smoked bacon, pineapple, banana peppers and jerk sauce swirl. At Tomato Bar, traditional tomato sauce often is replaced with pesto, oil and garlic, barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce or Alfredo.

Tomato Bar restaurants also boast a curated wine list and wide selection of craft beers that include local breweries like New Oberpfalz, Windmill, Crown Brewing and Off Square.

The contemporary interior of Tomato Bar's new sit-down eatery in Crown Point features many pop culture references, such as paintings of Homer Simpson, "The Big Lebowski" and Uma Thurman in "Pulp Fiction." Action figures are hidden throughout the dining room for kids to find.

Tomato Bar is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Theo's Dining Group, which owns Theo's Steaks and Seafood in Highland, Prime Steakhouse in Crown Point and Umi Sushi and Lounge in Crown Point, continues to invest in St. John. 

The local restaurant group bought the longtime institution Dick's Restaurant & Bar at 10808 Wicker Ave. in St John last year and transformed it into the more modern and sophisticated Chop House on Wicker, specializing in steaks, seafood, pork chops, ribs, lamb, chicken and pasta.

Now Theo's is working to open Avgo, a breakfast and lunch restaurant at 9321 Wicker Ave. in St. John. The eatery has been hiring cooks.

Owner Peter Klideris said construction should be completed by the end of the month and the restaurant should be open by the end of October.

Klideris, who grew up working in his parents' pancake house, Ted's Family Restaurant in Calumet City, is diversifying from steakhouses and returning to his roots with a breakfast restaurant.

"Everything will be very great quality," he said. "We'll use cage-free eggs, smoke our own bacon and get the sausage made for us from Michigan. We'll have French toast and pancakes that will be top-notch. Everything will be picture-worthy going on out the table."

Smalltown Coffee Co. will have a coffee bar in the eatery serving locally roasted coffee, lattes and cappuccinos.

"We'll make a variety of juices from scratch," Klideris said. "We'll be squeezing our own orange juices and use that as a base for other juices. We'll have Bloody Marys and mimosas."

After the flagship restaurant in St. John gets established, Klideris plans to open other Avgo locations.

Kui Korean BBQ opened a few weeks ago in the former Exotic Thai space at 9628 Indianapolis Blvd. in Highland.

Jerry Chang, who also owns the House of Kobe restaurants in Schererville and Merrillville and previously ran the Peking House there, opened the 4,000-square-foot Korean barbecue restaurant where customers can cook thinly cut meat like short rib, ribeye, brisket, pork belly top Angus sirloin, raw or marinated, for about a minute on a smokeless 12-inch grill at their table.

The traditional menu includes beef, chicken and pork bulgogi, bibimbap and vegan bibimbap and calamari. There's also seafood, soup, noodles and fusion dishes like red curry tofu and teriyaki steak.

The restaurant will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon until 9 p.m. Sunday.

Sakura Bowl, Hibachi & Sushi Restaurant is taking over the former Lincoln O's restaurant spot at 2813 Highway Ave. in downtown Highland after that half-century-old sandwich shop closed last year.

Though neighboring Munster is home to both Little Tokyo Japanese Restaurant and Kitaro Surf & Turf & Sushi, Sakura Bowl will be Highland's only sushi place. It also will feature teppanyaki-style cuisine in which steak, shrimp, noodles, vegetables are cooked in a metal pan on a flat-top hibachi grill, usually in front of customers.

Family Dollar has reopened its discount store at 5550 Sohl Ave. Suite B in Hammond after a major renovation.

The 55-year-old Chesapeake, Virginia-based chain, a subsidiary of Dollar Tree since 2015 after an activist investor pushed for more consolidation in the dollar store space, renovated the store to include more freezers, coolers and food. It also now carries a wider selection of beauty items, household products, seasonal goods and $1 Dollar Tree merchandise.

“Family Dollar is proud to be a part of the Hammond community, and we are excited to welcome existing and new customers to our newly renovated store,” Family Dollar spokesman Jim Van Slyke said. “The refreshed store will provide even greater values and convenience to our shoppers.”

The Quest Eatery & Spirits, whose slogan was "a family, not a chain," has closed in Schererville after four decades.

“To all of our wonderful patrons, we'd like to share with you that after 40 years, The Quest Eatery & Spirits will be closing,” the owners posted on Facebook. “The restaurant has sold. We have many special memories and invite you to come and enjoy these last days with us.”

The traditional American eatery at 1204 U.S. 30 underwent an extensive renovation in 2016. The Quest hosted live music multiple times a week, often acoustical acts, and sold a wide variety of food including steak, pasta, pizza, seafood, Italian pork chops, pizza pot pie and a pot roast dinner. It had a variety of burgers, including the $14.99 Monster Stuffed Burger it bragged was "famous since '79."

It was a venue for many local musicians who play in a variety of genres, including the jazz singer Marilyn Gaza, bluesman Ken Kinsey, and singer/songwriter Frank Ruvoli. The 3,200-square-foot restaurant also featured a full bar.

"Our story began with the intentions of selling great burgers and cold beer," The Quest said on its website. "We added a dining room in ’97, brought in live music with local bands and danced for hours on end. Lifelong friendships have been formed here, couples have met and gotten married — little lives have been created! It has been quite the blessing."

Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee shop that you’ve definitely heard of and that really needs no introduction, is going to open its second location in Hammond soon.

The first Hammond Starbucks opened in 2016 at 7843 Indianapolis Blvd., across from Cabela's and just off the Borman Expressway. It's nearly completed its second cafe, a $1.5 million, 2,100-square-foot standalone coffee shop by Walmart in the Marina District right be the Chicago border.

"The building has been delivered to Starbuck’s contractor and they have started on the final tenant finishes," Hammond Director of Economic Development Anne Anderson said. "I am hoping to pin down the date of their ribbon-cutting soon."

The purveyor of lattes, Frappuccinos and other sugary espresso-based drinks only has two locations in north Lake County.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the location near Five Points was a prime spot with heavy traffic, retail attractions like Walmart, and major employers like Cargill and Unilever.

Las Mamacitas Tacos, Tamales and Tequila made a splash when it opened in Chesterton with a big party in the back parking lot on Cinco de Mayo weekend, offering attention-grabbing menu items like lobster claw tacos, tequila slushies, and a 100-ounce margarita that will only be served to parties of four or more.

But its run in the former Volstead space at 225 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton may only last for a few months.

Owner Monica Susoreny, who's also a public relations professional and the organizer of the NWI Food Truck Fest and the NWI Hot Air Balloon Fest, said Aug. 30 likely will be the last day "unless a miracle happens or I can get a partner to come through."

"It’s been a short run with lots of obstacles," she said. "My capital has run out and I have no other option."

Susoreny originally conceived of the restaurant as a food truck but decided to make it into a sit-down restaurant after one of her clients, the critically acclaimed Volstead restaurant, closed after a short run in Chesterton, opening up the space. The extensively renovated 120-seat restaurant, which employs 20 people, features many Day of the Dead murals, a selection of 100 tequilas and a Mexican fusion menu with items like Texas brisket tamales and oysters on the half shell with a tequila and jicama mignonette.

It offers many flights, including of tacos and its signature margaritas. It claimed to have Northwest Indiana's largest margarita and gave out stickers saying as much to any groups who finished the 100-ounce drink, which is more than six times as big as a normal margarita.

"I would like to thank all of our customers and the community for supporting us. We truly don’t want to close. This has been one of the hardest things for us to do, but we have no choice short of a miracle (a potential partner) wanting to come forward," Susoreny said. "The potential is here l, but with building issues that arose in the beginning and unexpected unforeseen expenses in addition to other surrounding factors, there is no way we can continue to move forward without help. We were just about to roll out a new menu and we have also transformed our kitchen with a new chef. Everything is made from scratch. My whole heart and soul is in this restaurant and I am trying to do everything I can to save it. The concept is there, our following is there and there is nothing like it in the area. I pray every day for a miracle and that is all I have left. In the meantime, we hope that everyone who hasn’t given us a try come and dine with us and those who have given us a try will come back this week."

The long-awaited gastropub Leeds Public House recently celebrated its grand opening at one of the most prominent spots in downtown Michigan City.

“We are honored to be a part of this new chapter in Michigan City’s story,” said Denise Burns, who owns the restaurant with her husband, John. “We have already felt welcome and embraced by community members who are such a vital part of our success.”

The new owners have extensively renovated the former Ryan’s Irish Pub in a 116-year-old building at 401 Franklin St. in the Uptown Arts District. They named their venture after one of Michigan City’s early pioneer families.

“Our renovation and updates serve to embrace the past while offering a welcoming environment that includes a patio, indoor and outdoor bars and fire pit area,” Leeds Public House General Manager Dave Roberts said. “Every day we walk in under the Leeds inscription, which still tops the building and was the inspiration behind our name. We are proud to help cultivate a component of Michigan City’s roots.”

Executive chef Mark Sabbe, who’s cooked at restaurants like Marchesa and Mercat a la planxa in Chicago, crafted a menu that includes short ribs, duck, roasted garlic chicken, risotto, and salmon. It serves sandwiches, kid’s meals and appetizers like charcuterie and cheese, ginger jerk wings, crostini trio, and soup and frites

“I want a successful restaurant. I want people to go: ‘Have you been to Leeds? I had a great time there,’” Sabbe said. “I want them to love the food, sure, but there is more to it than that … I want them to have a great dining experience. It’s not just the food, it’s the service, the company, the drink, having all that together makes that experience. By and large, I want repeat customers, lines out the door and for people to love this place and want to come back.”

The gastropub will serve brunch in the future and aims to be a hub of nightlife with an extensive wine list, a wide selection of beers with 14 draft beers on tap and specialty cocktails like Tito’s Hibiscus Lemonade, Cucumber Rose, Lavender Pisco Sour, Smoked Hibiscus Margarita and LPH Pride Mule.

“We have house-made barrel-aged Manhattans, 14 beers on draft, more than 25 bottles of beer and more than 75 bottles of wine to choose from,” Roberts said.

Leeds Public House is now open from 11 a.m. until midnight Wednesday through Sunday, but plans to expand its hours soon.

Crown Point is getting another pizzeria, a chain that was founded by Italian immigrant Pasquale “Pat” Giammarco in 1978.

Marco's Pizza, which boasts of being the "only national pizza chain founded by a native Italian" and serving "fresh, authentic, handmade Italian-quality pizza," will open Aug. 22 at 146 E. 109th Ave. in Crown Point.

The restaurant is owned by Chesterton resident Harry Singh, who's worked for Best Buy, Toyota, AT&T and Verizon and now owns a 7-Eleven and gas station. He decided to open the pizza franchise after seeing Marco’s Pizza’s Chief Operating Officer Bryon Stephens appear on the show "Undercover Boss."

“What really drew me into Marco’s Pizza was the business model and how the managers communicated with the owners,” Singh said. “It gave me comfort to know that the top-level executives were also franchise owners themselves. They can share from personal experience the fun and excitement that comes with a new Marco’s Pizza opening. I’m so excited to be a part of it.”

Toledo, Ohio-based Marco's is the seventh largest pizza chain in the United States and the fastest-growing, with more than 900 locations in 34 states and three countries. The restaurant chain is trying to slice a bigger piece of the $47 billion U.S. pizza industry pie, in which an estimated 91% of Americans order pizza at least once a month, by expanding to more than 1,000 locations this year.

The new Marco's in Crown Point will sell classic pizzas, as well as specialty pies like White Cheezy, Deluxe and All Meat. The menu also includes subs and salads with croutons made fresh daily.

Sanfratello's, a South Side Chicago-style pizzeria that has been serving tavern-cut pizza in Northwest Indiana and the south suburbs for half a century, has closed its Highland location, its fourth restaurant to shutter in the last five years.

"It is with much sadness that we announce that Sanfratello's Highland is now closed," the business posted on its Facebook page. "Thank you all for the wonderful support you have shown us throughout these years."

Sanfratello's, a Sicilian family-owned pizzeria chain known for using hand-churned Scamorza cheese and vine-ripened tomatoes, continues to operate a restaurant in the Sand Ridge Plaza at 1050 Joliet St. in Dyer.

The original Sanfratello's Pizza in Glenwood, a beloved south suburban institution, shuttered after 45 years in 2014, with founder Joe Sanfratello blaming "high taxes, the area is changing, people are moving away, high food costs."

Sanfratello started the local pizza chain in 1969, selling party-cut thin-crust pizza and pan pizza that featured sausage made by a local butcher from an old family recipe. Sanfratello's sit-down restaurants included bars and offered a full range of beer, wine, appetizers, sandwiches and appetizers. The pizzeria grew to five locations but is now down to just Dyer.

Sanfratello's Highland pizzeria relocated to 9400 Indianapolis Blvd. in 2014, where it offered both delivery and drive-in on the boulevard. The chain expanded to Naperville in 2016, but that location closed last year.

Hunch Furs and Fine Leathers in Merrillville has closed after making Region women look elegant for more than eight decades.

The family-owned business at 2021 Lincoln Highway has closed. Its sign says "thanks for the memories."

The Times of Northwest Indiana readers voted Hunch Furs best women's clothing store in its Best of the Region voting in 2012. Located in a brick home next to the Merrillville branch of the Lake County Public Library, the retailer specialized in furs, fine leathers, hats, purses, scarves and gloves, also offering repairs and cleaning services.

It branched out into motorcycle apparel and online sales in 1998, but the fur coat business isn't what it used to be, and a growing number of cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles are outright banning the sale of fur.

Few fur coat specialty retailers remain in the Calumet Region save for Highland Furs in Highland and Kluger Furs in Flossmoor.

The Crossing has opened a job training school in the former Boilermakers Local 374 union hall at 6222 Kennedy Ave. in Hammond's Hessville neighborhood.

"It's a trade school for young people who have had difficulties," said Earl Yoho of Woodmar Self-Storage and Acorn Fence and Construction, which has renovated and is leasing out the former union hall. "It gets them up to speed on trades and crafts."

The faith-based alternative education program from Elkhart, which also has a campus in East Chicago, is occupying about 4,200 square feet in the building. Yoko is looking to lease out another 3,245 square feet for between one and three offices.

He's also looking for a tenant to lease out the building's 6,240-square-foot banquet hall, which is equipped with stage and sound equipment. The newly rebranded Cardinal Hall could accommodate around 300 people for special events.

The full-service florist, event management specialist and gift shop relocated to Central Avenue across from Wallace Aylesworth Elementary School and about a block and a half west of Ace Hardware. The business hosts classes for the public at 6:15 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of every month, including classes on how to arrange flowers in vases, centerpiece design and holiday wreath-making.

Crown Point native Elizabeth Whittaker, whose family ran The Beauty Spot restaurant, has opened a new hotel in West Lafayette that might be of interest to parents of Purdue students or alumni returning on football weekends.

Whittaker, a 1995 Crown Point High School graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management and went on to work for Walt Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort and Crowne Plaza Times Square. She and her husband Andrew opened and run the newly built Whittaker Inn, which features 15 guest rooms, gathering spaces, and The Whittaker Kitchen restaurant.

Nestled in a wooded 25-acre site, the Whittaker Inn attempts to blend "the charm and intimacy of a European country inn, with the modern amenities and sophistication of a big-city, luxury hotel." On weeknights, it offers guests a "Happy Tapas Reception" with small plates and craft beer.

The Chesapeake, Virginia-based dollar chain celebrated a grand reopening Saturday. The store added freezers, coolers, and $1 Dollar Tree merchandise from its parent company, which acquired it in 2014. It expanded its selection of "food, beauty and essentials, household products, and seasonal items."

“Family Dollar is proud to be a part of the Griffith community and we are excited to welcome existing and new customers to our newly renovated store,” Family Dollar spokesperson Jim Van Slyke said. “The refreshed store will provide even greater values and convenience to our shoppers.”

The Chicagoland restaurant that serves up Italian beef sandwiches across Northwest Indiana and the greater south suburbs has opened its 15th location, at 1445 Sauk Trail in Sauk Village, just across the state line from Dyer.

“We’re ready to bring Pop’s Italian Beef to Sauk Village,” said Vincent Cryns Sr., co-owner of the Sauk Village restaurant. “I am thrilled to have opened another location alongside another restaurant veteran, and we know the community will love our Italian beef sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, fries and more.”

Cryns, who owns the Pop's Italian Beef restaurants in Dyer and Crown Point, and 20-year restaurant veteran Mike Jones co-own the fast-food restaurant that specializes in Italian beef and sausage sandwiches served with a choice of homemade Giardiniera or cooked sweet peppers. Jones has managed many McDonald's restaurants, including the famous Rock-N-Roll McDonald's in Chicago's Loop.

Founded by Frank Radochonski in Palos Heights in 1980, Pop’s Italian Beef and Sausage slices and cooks Italian beef daily. It serves a variety of fast food items, such as hot dogs, burgers, cheese curds, gyros, corned beef sandwiches, shrimp, salad, soup and chili.

The family-run restaurant chain is now "in strategic growth mode" and seeking franchisees as it looks to expand.

Firehouse Subs shuttered after a seven-year run in the Munster Shops strip mall on Calumet Avenue in Munster.

The firefighter-themed submarine sandwich restaurant closed its eatery at 8153 Calumet Ave., which featured a wide array of hot sauces and murals of the new Munster Fire Department rig along with the Munster High School stadium.

The Jacksonsville, Florida-based chain specializes in hot sub sandwiches that stuff steam-heated meats and cheeses into toasted buns with firefighter-themed names like Hook & Ladder, Engineer and Firehouse Hero. It donates part of its proceeds to first responders and has more than 1,100 locations nationwide, and still has Northwest Indiana restaurants in Merrillville, Portage and Valparaiso.

The Region has seen an influx of sub shop chains like Potbelly's, Jersey Mike's and Cousins Subs in recent years, but some like Which Wich have come and gone and others like Erbert & Gerbert's Sandwich Shop failed to find any franchisees.

Cousins Subs, which was of course founded by a pair of cousins, plans to open its first Indiana location on Aug. 31 in Crown Point, which potentially would be the first of a few Northwest Indiana restaurants.

The Milwaukee-based chain, which has more than 90 eateries across Wisconsin, will sell East Coast-style deli sandwiches, grilled cheesesteaks, floats, shakes and of course cheese curbs in a new strip mall at 10533 Broadway St. in Crown Point. It serves many Wisconsin favorites like Sprecher Root Beer.

Franchisees Amit Patel and Kalpesh Patel, a Munster resident, plan to open 40 sandwich shops across greater Chicagoland by 2025 as the chain expands outside of its home base in the Badger State. The new 1,800-square-foot restaurant in Crown Point will start with 20 workers, seat 32 diners and have a drive-thru. A spokeswoman said there would be the "opportunity to grow the team as needed."

The Cousins Subs in Crown Point will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Pizza Hut announced it would close 500 sit-down restaurants nationwide as it shifts focus to smaller takeout and delivery restaurants, but the Plano, Texas-based chain, a subsidiary of Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum! Brands, did not respond to questions about whether the closures would include any Calumet Region locations.

Walgreens also announced last week it plans to close 200 pharmacies nationwide but company officials would not say if that would include any Northwest Indiana locations.

"The planned closures will represent less than 3 percent of our U.S. stores overall, and given that we have multiple locations in many markets, we anticipate minimal disruption to customers and patients," Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn said.

The Deerfield, Illinois-based pharmacy chain, the second-largest nationally after CVS, shuttered three of its four Gary locations in recent years.

Walgreens opened a new "Community, A Walgreens Pharmacy" in the shiny new Northwest Oncology medical office at 1001 Calumet Ave. in Dyer "to help empower patients who have chronic, complex and rare health conditions with easy access to their specialty and traditional medications."

"The new Walgreens community-based specialty site at Northwest Oncology is one of more than 300 Walgreens Community and Health System pharmacies that focus specifically on community-based, patient-centered care for managing complex health conditions, such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and transplant, to name a few," Walgreens spokesman Michael Frei said.

Belle Tire, a Michigan-based premium tire and auto care shop, is building out a new tire shop at 8200 Louisiana St. in Merrillville, which is expected to open in early fall.

The company, which was founded in Detroit nearly a century ago, is taking over the former Merrillville Fireplace and Patio location just off U.S. 30 between Interstate 65 and the Southlake Mall. The growing chain has more than 130 locations across Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, including a tire shop it opened in Michigan City two years ago and a forthcoming one it's building in Valparaiso.

Belle Tire Marketing Manager Laura Pierce declined to say how much the company was investing in the store, but said it should have an economic impact on the Region.

"We do estimate that on average, we contribute $3 million in direct impact to the city upon the first year of open, and $1.3 million after," Pierce said. "This is calculated through property taxes, wages, and benefits." 

Reyes owns and runs the home insurance office serving clients in Northwest Indiana and south suburban Chicago at 1544 45th St. in Munster. 

It's an affiliate of Brightway Insurance, a "national property/casualty insurance distribution company with more than $593 million in annualized written premium, making it one of the largest personal lines agencies in the U.S."

The company started in 2008. It now employs 900 workers at 190 offices in 21 states, but serves clients in all 50 states.

For more information, call 219-230-8050, email margie.reyes@brightway.com, or visit BrightwayDifference.com.

In the immortal words of House of Pain, easily one of the all-time best Irish-American rap groups named after the H.G. Wells novel "The Island of Dr. Moreau,": Jump around.

A Jump Zone Party and Play Center featuring huge inflatable slides, bounce houses and obstacle courses is hopping into Hobart.

The company, which has 13 locations nationwide, will open its first Jump Zone in Indiana in the former Walgreens at 1605 E. 37th Ave. in Hobart, announced Schererville-based commercial real estate firm Latitude Commercial.

“We are very excited to open the first Jump Zone in Indiana,” said Latitude Commercial’s Myles Rapchak, who represented Jump Zone in the lease. “Mike and Kirsten have been amazing to work with, and they will undoubtedly be very successful in this venture. Their passion for this concept is unmatched. It is an excellent location and is going to bring a family-friendly atmosphere to Hobart and surrounding cities."

Jump Zone is now remodeling the 15,068-square-foot pharmacy in Hobart. It offers an array of activities for kids, including "giant inflatable bounce houses and slides, obstacle courses, arcade games and birthday parties." 

The Michigan-based chain opened a coffee shop at 3091 Village Point in Chesterton — its second location in Northwest Indiana after Michigan City and just eighth in the Hoosier state. Franchisees Brandon Bennett and Justin Neal opened the coffee shop with a drive-thru in Coffee Creek just off Interstate 80 in Porter County.

A staple in Michigan, Biggby offers unique lattes, tea lattes and hot chocolates known as steamers. All of its drinks can be served hot, iced, frozen or with reduced calories. It boasts "near endless flavor options" for drinks that can be customized with additional flavors, whipped cream, sprinkles or "numerous milk alternatives."

Founded in East Lansing in 1995, the chain has grown to 230 cafes in nine states, mostly in the Midwest and South. It purports to offer "connoisseur-worthy drinks with pronounceable names like Teddy Bear and Caramel Marvel" for "a less pretentious and fun approach to the standard gourmet cafe paradigm" in a jab at the Italian co-opting self-seriousness of rival Starbucks.

Biggby Coffee in Chesterton is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

LiqGo!, the liquor store chain owned by Hobart-based Luke Oil, is opening a new location at 1030 U.S. 41 in Schererville.

The retailer, which sells beer, wine and liquor, has 10 other locations in Lake County. LiqGo's new Schererville location, its second in town, is located in the Boulevard Square mall, a shopping center on Indianapolis Boulevard that's also home to Planet Fitness, Last Chance Overstock, United Art & Education, Sky Zone, Salvage Plus, Kali Beauty, Region Ale and El Salto.

LiqGo! is distinctive for its blue and yellow color scheme and brightly lit stores. It's part of the Luke Family of Brands that include Luke convenience stores, GoLo gas stations, Lake Car Wash, CigLo Tobacco Outlets and County Line Orchard in Hobart. The third-generation family-owned company also wholesales gasoline and other fuels.

The fine-dining restaurant at 2352 172nd St. by the LA Fitness just off the interstate in Lansing will fly in fresh fish daily and offer an extensive wine list, as well as martinis and tropical drinks.

The seafood menu includes many fancy offerings like raw oysters, Australian Rack Lobster, Lobster Thermidor, Alaskan King Crab, Dover sole, sea bass, Aegean Scallops, Halibut Vesuvio, Boston Cod Dejonge, and Corn Flake Crusted Pike that's topped with a lemon caper sauce. The upscale restaurant, which features many market-priced entrees, also serves steaks, lamb chops, pork chops, chicken, pasta and burgers.

Dr. Moody Wasif's office provides family dentistry, offering a full range of services "from a single small filling to full mouth reconstruction utilizing dental implants, from simple restorations to cosmetics and implant dentistry."

The new dental office is equipped with advanced technology, including a Galileos Dental CT scanner and a Cerec Omni-Cam for computer-guided implant surgery. Moody Dental has its own ceramic lab on site, treats children of all ages, and offers affordable dentures for retirees on fixed incomes.

Moody Dental is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

A new Mexican restaurant called Mi Maria Bonita is coming to the space in Griffith that was once home to Asada Grill & Cantina and Niko's Steak and Seafood.

Asada moved from the restaurant at 216 S. Broad St. at the south end of downtown Griffith, about three miles northwest, to the much larger former Zuni's House of Pizza spot 2907 45th Ave. in Highland last year.

The restaurant building it left behind in Griffith, just off the Erie-Lackawanna Trail, had 120 seats spread across a bar and a family dining room.

Tri Creek Rentals at 1827 E. Commercial Ave. in Lowell, Glen Park AutoWorks at 1430 W. Ridge Road in Gary, and A&A Auto Clinic Auto Sales at 1307 Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso now offer a range of U-Haul products and services —most notably, its moving trucks.

Brick Street Burrito has brought San Diego-style burritos to downtown Valparaiso, stuffing tortillas with carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, cheddar and french fries instead of rice and beans in the style of the southern California city on the Mexican border.

Customers are encouraged to enjoy their burritos the authentic San Diego way by dipping every bite in roja, caliente or verde sauce.

Costas Restaurant Group opened the quick-serve restaurant this spring in the former Valpo Vienna hot dog stand at 3 Napoleon Street, which is made of brick — hence the name.

The 1,000-square-foot eatery employs about 10-15 people in a 100% made-from-scratch kitchen, seats about 20 inside and has an outdoor patio. The menu includes vegan options and 10 different burritos with ingredients like sauteed mahi mahi, grilled shrimp, carnitas and beef tongue. It also has burrito bowls, breakfast burritos, tacos, quesadillas, chips and guac and carne asada fries. 

Brick Street Burrito sells craft beer and wine, including canned beer and wine that can be taken for carryout to events at Central Park one block west.

The restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

For more information, call 219-510-1100, visit brickstreetburrito.com or find the business on Facebook.

Long a staple of suburban shopping malls, Gloria Jean's has opened a standalone coffee shop with a drive-thru in Crown Point.

The chain that's best known for its flavored coffee opened near the corner of Broadway and East 109th Avenue. The coffee shop, owned by local franchisee Raed Naser, will be the first Gloria Jean's location to offer nitro brew and cold brew taps.

“Our new drive-thru location makes it easier than ever to grab Gloria Jean’s Coffees’ specialty beverages on-the-go,” said Sam Ferreira, president of Gloria Jean’s Coffees. “We know how busy our guests are and we’re thrilled to provide locals with the same delicious experience they’ve come to expect, but with the added convenience of a drive-thru. We’re also very excited for our customers to try our nitro brew and cold brew options at their new local Gloria Jean’s Coffees in Crown Point.”

In addition to the rotating nitro brew and cold brew taps, the coffee shop at 122 E. 109th Ave. will sell chillers, mochas, lattes, hot cocoa, baked goods, and pastries. Bags of bean coffee also will be available for purchase.

Gloria Jean's first opened in Chicago in 1979 and now has more than 60 locations nationwide. The chain that long ago relocated its headquarters to Southern California has been looking to grow through franchising, and is planning more Northwest Indiana locations.

The new Crown Point location is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 6-9 p.m. Sunday.

The Taco Bell that closed in Crown Point because of foundation issues in April is set to reopen in August.

Taco Bell put a sign out in front of the Mexican-themed eatery at 1483 N. Main St. announcing it would reopen next month and is hiring online for a number of positions, including team members and shift leaders. The fast-food restaurant, known for its Doritos Loco tacos, burritos and being a popular late-night destination for bargoers, was razed this spring because of ongoing safety concerns.

It's being entirely rebuilt from the ground up to have the Tex-Mex chain's newer contemporary look. Irvine, California-based Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Louisville-based Yum Brands, has invested $800,000 into the rebuild, Crown Point Building Administrator Joe Cash said.

"We plan to reopen sometime in October," owner Nicole Misch said. "Customers can visit our Merrillville store at 1665 E. 80th Ave., across from Southlake Mall and next door to Pier 1 Imports."

Founded in Detroit in 1957, the nationwide deli chain sells fully cooked smoked honey-glazed spiral-cut hams, both bone-in and boneless, as well as smoked turkey breast, roasted turkey breast, ready-to-heat sides, and also a lunch menu of sandwiches, soup and salads.

Restaurateurs Syreeta Nuckolls and Gavin Jackson, a brother and sister duo, opened Tilly’s Pit & Pub in Calumet City.

"Chicagoans from all over love coming to Tilly’s for the New Orleans style soul food, including fried shrimp, fried oysters, catfish, seafood gumbo and their famous po’boy sandwiches, as well as the live jazz on Wednesdays, karaoke night on Fridays as well as its premium sports bar atmosphere on game day," spokeswoman Shaena Flanagan said.

The restaurant and bar at 1455 Ring Road in Calumet City serves a variety of Cajun and southern food, as well as pizza. Its slogans include "we don't skimp on the shrimp," "the place for fun, family, food and friends" and "the happiest place in town."

Serving lunch and dinner, Tilly’s Pit & Pub has live music, DJs, Sunday brunch, ladies nights on Thursday, and sports viewing and other parties.

The business is open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The law firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith has leased 7,330 square feet of office space at the newly constructed Cardinal Campus on Main Street in Highland.

Merrillville-based commercial real estate agency Commercial In-Sites and the global commercial real estate firm Avison Young announced the new leasing.

Founded 40 years ago, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith employs more than 1,400 attorneys in 60 offices across the country, making it one of the largest law firms in the United States.

Top Fitness Store at 10412 Indianapolis Blvd. in Highland will celebrate its recent opening with a grand opening celebration from noon to 5 p.m on August 4 where attendees will get a chance to win gift cards and other prizes.

The fitness equipment and home gym store will have raffles, giveaways, fitness challenges, and a health and fitness vendor fair. Vendors will include Region Strength Fitness, Your CBD Store, Baums Natural Foods, Graceful Yoga with Samantha Graceful, Life Coach Brandy Maurushes and Amanda Brook, Nutrishop Schererville, 1st Law Fitness, Shanti Wellness, Cryo Freeze, Cafe Barista, Gems Sportswear and more.

The 30-year-old gift boutique and greeting card store — routinely recognized as one of the top gift shops in Northwest Indiana in The Times Best of the Region polls — closed for good.

Owner Jill Luecker, who took over 10 years ago from founders Louise and Bob Lauer, said that rise of e-commerce had hurt business considerably and that people did not shop as much at brick-and-mortar as they had just five or 10 years ago. 

Generations of Region residents bought cards or gifts at Louise's Hallmark Shop to celebrate birthdays, Valentine's Day or other special occasions, both at its previous location at the St. John Mall and its current spot at 9533 Wicker Ave.

The 12,000-square-foot building was snapped up by another longtime business in St. John when it went on the market.

Golf wholesaler J&M Golf, known for its wide selection and annual blowout tent sale, acquired the property for an undisclosed sum. It plans to move from its existing location at 10135 Earl Dr. in St. John to the former Louise's Hallmark Shop building, which is more than twice as large. 

“It is bittersweet to watch as one business closes and another opens," said Aaron McDermott of Latitude Commercial, who represented both the buyer and the seller in the deal. "While it is sad to see Louise’s close its doors, it’s great to see a high-quality local business such as J&M Golf take over the space.” 

Chela's Tacos, a longtime staple of downtown Gary, has reopened at a new spot at 5115 Broadway on the south side of town, near the Merrillville border.

Now called Chela's Tacos and Cervezas, the longstanding Mexican restaurant offers $2 tacos and $3 beers on Taco Tuesdays. The eatery, which opened July 12, offers pork, beef and chicken tacos, as well as nachos and imported Mexican beers like Corona and Modelo.

Chela's Tacos is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and from noon to 2 a.m. Saturday. It's closed on Sundays.

Coffee Cabin, the Pacific Northwest-style drive-through coffee stand, has expanded to Valparaiso and Merrillville.

The rustic, woodsy-themed coffee shop just off U.S. 30 in Schererville and in the Highland Meijer, has opened Lil Coffee Cabin locations inside the Meijer Store at 611 U.S. 30 in Merrillville and at 3538 Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso.

The log cabin-themed coffee shop sells small-batch air-roasted java "as a better alternative to large national chains." The coffee shop offers a wide array of "coffee, lattes, mochas, tea, frappes, milkquakes, smoothies, hot chocolate and fresh baked goods."

The Valparaiso location is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and can be reached at (219) 510-5601.

Dollar Tree is moving into part of the former Sears Mattress and Appliance Store at 1150 U.S. 41 in Schererville.

Northbrook, Illinois-based property manager Pine Tree announced on the Town Square Shopping Center website that the former Sears space would be subdivided into three storefronts, and the Virginia-based Dollar Tree would take up 10,000 square feet of it.

The 138,523-square-foot outdoor shopping mall on Indianapolis Boulevard, across the street from Shops on Main and just south of the Highland border, also is home to Bed Bath & Beyond, Supercuts, American Mattress, Bath & Body Works, Wild Birds Unlimited, H Dog and the newly opened Lou Malnati’s.

Dollar Tree, which sells many different items for $1, is a Fortune 500 company that owns Family Dollar and operates more than 14,000 locations nationwide, including in Dyer, St. John, Highland, Hobart, Griffith, Gary, Crown Point, Merrillville, Portage, Chesterton, Valparaiso, LaPorte and Michigan City.

Steve Stasny and Ed Stojancevich, who have more than 30 years in the mortgage industry, founded the lending company "based on a revolutionary idea that the mortgage business can be smoother, simpler, more efficient and more competitive while creating a mutually beneficial and enriching culture for its team, clients, referral sources and neighboring communities."

"Region Mortgage is a company of loan officers, created by loan officers, for loan officers who are willing to share these same goals, values and ideals and genuinely desire to make a positive impact and enrich the lives of those whom path they cross," the company said in a news release. "As two people who were born, bred, and are currently raising our own families in the Region, we felt it appropriate to tip our hat to the land of our roots. We carry with us, many memories of this remarkable area, and we feel the need to pay homage to the place that has given us so much."

South Shore Eye Care has opened at 10413 Calumet Ave. in Munster in a new strip mall between Dunkin Donuts and CVS.

It was launched by Zachary T. Jones, a second-generation optometrist whose grandfather practiced optometry in Lansing. Jones, a lifelong Munster resident with a wife and two daughters, graduated from the Indiana University School of Optometry in 2008 and worked at Carmine Vision Care in Lansing with Terrance Carmine, his childhood optometrist. 

"I made my decision to step away as his associate doctor in pursuit of owning my own private practice and had a strong desire to practice in my hometown of Munster," Jones said. "This is where the idea of South Shore Eye Care came to be. Our practice is brand new from the ground up and will be a beautiful space with state-of-the-art instrumentation. We will carry unique eyewear lines not found everywhere and will provide highly personalized medical eye care to our patient base."

South Shore Eye Care is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, call (219) 595-0580, visit southshoreeyecare.com or find the business on Facebook.

Regional Federal Credit Union at 7144 Kennedy Ave. in Hammond briefly closed last week after a car hit a power pole outside, causing the credit union branch to lose power.

Seventh Sense Botanical Therapy and Shop Lulu Bean have both opened in the first-floor center court at the super-regional mall at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street in Hobart, which is the second-largest in the state after only Castleton Square Mall in Indianapolis.

A national chain, Seventh Sense Botanical Therapy, sells body and skin care products made with essential oils and CBD, including lotions, massage oils, pillow sprays and bath bombs "crafted to enhance your everyday self-care routine."

Shop Lulu Bean, a local enterprise that won four months of free rent through Southlake Mall's Battle of the Pop-Up Contest, sells "Glam Sequins Tutus that have been shipped worldwide and featured on celebrity children and Heiress Harris, daughter to Clifford 'T.I.' & Tameka 'Tiny' Harris." It makes designer tutus for children, 18-inch dolls, and pets that it markets as "perfect not just for birthdays but for any day you want to stand out."

The retailer also carries other hand-crafted items made by head designer Latoya Carter, including glam tumblers, sparkle necklaces, signature ruffle socks, crowns, party hats, hair bows, tops and unicorn crowns.

Both businesses are open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the mall at 2910 Southlake Mall. 

Broad’s Pastries and Cafe has located in the former Muncheez and More space at 105 N. Broad St. in Griffth.

"It's excellent," Griffith Town Council President Rick Ryfa said. "Truly a family-owned small business."

Owner and operator Alma Aguirre bakes Argentinian pastries like cañoncito, a puff pastry filled with dulce de leche, and medialunas, crescent-shaped pastries that are like croissants "but not as humongous."

She also sells slices of key lime pie, dulce de leche cheesecake, chocolate medialunas, Nutella medialunas, and ham and cheese croissant sandwiches.

"I've been a baker for many years and decided to start my own place," she said. "I like the neighborhood and the little downtown here."

The cafe also serves coffee and seats about 10, but focuses on its carry-out business. Aguirre will fill larger orders with 24 to 48 hours' notice, and is looking into catering in the future.

"It's all made with lots of love and passion," she said. "I like to make new creations and see people loving what I make. My croissants take two days to make. The dough is different and excellent."

The Loft Salon and Beauty Suites has moved to a much larger location in Merrillville after the popular brunch spot Toast and Jam purchased the building it has been located in.

"We pretty much added another 1,200 square feet," owner Zabrina McCully said. "It's on Merrillville by U.S. 30 with a lot of traffic on a very busy corner. It's a prime location."

McCully said she now has 10 salon suites at two sites at Chapel South at 7895 Broadway Suites K and N by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky's office on Broadway. She's looking to lease the space out to professional hair stylists, barbers, aestheticians and cosmologists.

"Professionals can decorate the suites to reflect their own personality and set their own schedule," she said. "They sell their own products, run their businesses and be their own boss."

For more information, call 219-318-0877, visit theloftsalonsuites.com or find the business on Facebook. 

Allen Babiarz started Main Street Communications to help local small businesses with digital marketing, social media website construction and email marketing.

"It's for small businesses that are either looking to outsource their digital marketing or rebrand themselves online," he said. "We can take an outdated website and give it a boost. I bring customized one-on-one services to the customer. Everything is tailored to the customer."

"There's a real community atmosphere here with parades, Little League games and so on," he said. "Hopefully, if all goes well, we'll grow."

Action Water has relocated to a larger space at 760 Lincolnway in Valparaiso, celebrating a grand opening ceremony with Gary SouthShore RailCats mascot Rusty the Railcat last week.

The business doubled its office square and added a salt and water drive-through where customers can pull around, ring a bell, and get their water softening products brought out to their vehicle.

"The location's great," Action Water Manager Torrey Mullins said. "It's right on Lincolnway. We're seeing a lot more customers who see us as they drive by. The new location is great for walk-in traffic and is giving us a boost in customers."

The company has been serving Valparaiso by providing water softeners, reverse osmosis systems and bottled water delivery since 2005, and opened its first retail storefront late last year. The company provides environmentally safe water filtration systems for homes and business.

Action Water offers free in-home water tests and delivers water softeners, salt for water softening and five-gallon water cooler jugs across Porter County.

For more information, call 219-299-8273, visit www.actionwatersolutions.com or find the business on Facebook.

The discount retailer at 1010 E. 162nd St. in South Holland will offer gift basket raffles, giveaways, free samples and entertainment at the grand opening from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 20. The first 50 customers will get a gift card and reusable shopping bag.

“Family Dollar is proud to be a part of the South Holland community and we are excited to welcome existing and new customers to our newly renovated store,” Family Dollar spokesman Jim Van Slyke said. “The refreshed store will provide even greater values and convenience to our shoppers.”

The new F45 Training gym in Crown Point is shown. The chain signed a lease for new Valparaiso location.

For more than a half-century, kids, softball players, Little Leaguers in grass-stained uniforms and their parents crowded around the Highland Custard Shop in downtown Highland.

Emily and Dr. David Foreit, who has an office in downtown Highland, have opened The Counter Ice Cream & Italian Ice at 2936 Highway Ave. Their ice cream shop is in the building that once housed the Highland Custard Shop and was more recently home to Anthony's Cafe.

Highland Redevelopment Director Kathy DeGuilio-Fox said it's also the same building that will house Maria’s Buena Cocina, which closed at its location by the now-razed Town Theatre in February.

"We’re excited that the first of two new restaurants planned for that space is open in time to help everyone cool down over the 4th of July holiday," she said.

Foreit and his wife both grew up in Chicago enjoying Italian ice stands, he on the South Side and she in Lincoln Park.

"We kind of looked at each other and said we want to buy that building," he said. "Selling Italian ice was a childhood dream of mine. We just want to make people smile."

They have been renovating the building since last summer. Maria's will occupy about 1,500 square feet of space, while The Counter will take up about 400 square feet — yes, it's a literal walk-up counter.

"It should be wonderful," he said. "The carnival, the park, the church and the school are right across the street. There are homes within walking distance. I'm seeing people out downtown with strollers. You don't have to drive to come here. You can just walk."

The Counter Ice Cream & Italian Ice sells authentic East Coast-style Italian Ice, soft-serve custard with 10% milk fat, and Dole Pineapple Whip that until recently was only available at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It sells cones, cups and floats, as well as cold brew coffee and bubbly seltzer water.

"You just need to try the Italian ice," he said. "It's wonderful and tart and sweet. It's so satisfying when it's hot out."

The Foreits have not yet decided whether the business will be seasonal but are considering keeping it open in the winter.

"My kids run the place, and I'm trying to teach them about business and people, and how to be social," he said. "I'm trying to get them off their phones. I also want to contribute to the redevelopment of downtown. I'm a physician right down the street with a focus on pain relief and I plan on being here for the duration."

The Counter Ice Cream & Italian Ice is open from 12 to 9 p.m. daily and may decide to open later on weekends.

The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company signed a long-term lease at the new Dunkin Donuts building at 1895 Crisman Road. Domino's plans to start construction soon on the 1,400-square-foot space and open in the next four to five months.

Schererville-based Latitude Commercial’s Brett McDermott represented the landlord of the property in the lease. “We are excited to announce the addition of Domino’s to the center. The franchisee is a multi-unit operator and provides a nice synergy with the Dunkin. We now have one unit left in the center in which we are currently in negotiations with another tenant for.”

F45 Training, the high-intensity interval training gym that opened earlier this year at 870 N. Superior Dr. in Crown Point, will open a second Northwest Indiana location in Valparaiso.

The rapidly growing gym chain, where the F stands for functional training and 45 for the length of every synchronized group workout, signed a long-term lease at 2274 U.S. 30.

“This is a great opportunity in the outlot of the Strack & Van Til in Valparaiso,” said McDermott. Latitude Commercial represented F45 Training in the transaction. “We feel that the location is in a strong retail trade area that also has a large residential component to it. The Crown Point community has really embraced the first F45 that was opened and we anticipate the same with Valpo.”

Developed in Australia, F45 creates unique workouts every day out of database of 4,000 different exercises, so its members never repeat the same workout or plateau. Local franchisee Jason Cotton said he also has aspirations to bring the personal trainer-led classes to Schererville.

CBD American Shaman, a CBD oil and wellness products retailer, plans to open locations in Hobart, Merrillville and Valparaiso.

The small chain, which has locations in the Indianapolis area and across Wisconsin, plans to open stores at 1733 E. 37th Ave. in Hobart, 5145 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville and 1615 N. Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso. The company said it sells a CBD oil derived from hemp that is "100% organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and has no heavy metals or insecticides, and is batch tested using Ultra Performance Convergence Chromatography."

CBD retailers have been springing up left and right across Northwest Indiana, as people take it to treat inflammation, chronic pain, arthritis, seizures, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, PTSD, spasms, neurological disorders and other conditions.

“We’re excited to bring CBD American Shaman to the Valparaiso market,” McDermott said. “As people learn more about CBD oil and its benefits, the demand will continue to grow. Keep an eye out as this franchisee continues to open stores in the Northwest Indiana market.”

The company said its products help relieve stress, maintain focus and manage pain. It will join a crowded CBD market that includes pharmacies, wellness stores, coffee shops, juiceries, gas stations, and even a fireworks store.

“Brett McDermott was efficiently vigilant to finding our next perfect location,” CBD American Shaman's Rebecca Minas said. “We are beyond excited to become a part of the Valparaiso community’s natural health & well-being.”

“Dollar General is committed to delivering a pleasant shopping experience that includes a convenient location, a wide assortment of merchandise and great prices on quality products,” said Dan Nieser, Dollar General’s senior vice president of real estate and store development. “We hope our area customers will enjoy shopping at Dollar General’s new location.”

The Tennessee-based discount retailer typically employs six to 10 people at each store. It carries name brands in a number of areas, including food, apparel, houseware, cleaning supplies. the 9,026-square-foot Griffith location will carry home decor and party essentials.

The lakefront Miller neighborhood has always seemed like the kind of quirky, bohemian place where an artisan ice cream shop might open inside an art gallery.

The Good Scoops opened at 621 S. Lake St., sharing space with the artist Jennifer Taylor's Painted Board Studio along Miller's main drag. 

"We're an ice cream shop and also part art gallery," owner Oscar Williams said. "We just opened last week, and there's been a good response on social media and from word of mouth."

The small 200-square-foot shop sells cones, waffle cones, scoops, milkshakes and ice cream sandwiches, and always has vegetarian or vegan options. It features rotating flavors like mango, pistachio, Mexican hot chocolate, coconut passion fruit and Ferrero Rocher until the day's supply runs out.

"When I first tried La Michoacana Premium in Pilsen in the city of Chicago, I fell in love with it," he said. "I wanted to bring that to the area; artisan ice cream with a Mexican twist."

"I fell in love with Miller," he said. "Gary reminded me of my native (hometown) Memphis, Tennessee. I see a lot of potential here, but people lack options."

"There's not a lot for families to do other than outdoorsy stuff," he said. "The restaurants feel like they're more for adults. But there are families with young kids in Miller."

The only ice cream place in the neighborhood, however, had been McDonald's, where the soft-serve machine was often broken down.

"We're trying to make ice cream accessible," he said. "It's intended to be shared. It's something that makes you feel good. We're a beach community and ice cream kind of goes hand-in-hand with that."

It's mostly carryout, but The Good Scoops is adding outdoor seating in the alley behind Lake Street, where at least a dozen customers will be able to sit.

"I want to get people smiling and bring joy to the place I love, Williams said. "It's hard not to smile when you're eating ice cream. I picture even an angry man who can't help but smile if you give him an ice cream cone." 

The seafood restaurant opened just last year, replacing the Carribean-themed 444 Bar and Grill in a tucked-away spot with a large patio just off Miller's main commercial thoroughfare.

The West Coast-style restaurant had been eagerly anticipated in the lakefront neighborhood because it had been under construction for about a year. Its extensive seafood-focused menu featured lobster pot pie, barbecue bacon shrimp, crab pizza, alligator bites, swai fillet, crab legs, mussels and, of course, Alaskan king crab.

Shay Furniture at 6234 Central Ave. in Portage is closing and liquidating more than $1 million worth on inventory. 

The locally owned 20,000-square-foot furniture store sold a number of top furniture brands such as Ashley, Southern Motion, Best Home Furnishings, Jackson Furniture, Restonic, Simmons, Lane, Hughes, Vaughan-Bassett and Liberty Furniture. It's selling off everything in the store until it's empty.

For the time being, Shay Furniture in Portage is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 219-254-2399, visit shayclosingevent.com or find the business on Facebook.

“Urgent care is really underutilized,” owner Sangeet Shah said. “As (emergency rooms) and primary care doctors fill up, we’re really filling that role for patients who need care, need treatment today, on their own time, at their own convenience.”

The chain now has eight locations including clinics in Munster, Hammond, Schererville and Crown Point. It's looking to open in Merrillville this fall.

“The convenience factor of being able to walk in or schedule an appointment with an online check-in, you can’t do that at the ER. You’re usually in and out of our office in under an hour,” Shah said. “Hospitals and ERs usually average anywhere from two to six hours.”

The clinics can treat any non-life-threatening issues like coughs, colds, broken bones, high blood pressure, injuries and urinary tract infections.

“We definitely put a focus on younger families,” Shah said. “We’re geared towards the growing family, very millennial base. People want that on-demand care. They don’t want to wait weeks and weeks for and they don’t want to spend $2,500 at the ER for basic medical issues. We really wanted to come up with an affordable, convenient care model.”

Midwest Express Clinics offer B12 shots for $10, flu shots for $15 and school and sports physicals for $25.

“On a basic level, we’re more affordable. We’re a fraction of the cost of the ER,” Shah said. “We don’t have any agenda to push any unnecessary testing or expensive diagnostic imaging and that typically saves patients a boatload of money. Our agenda is to save you money.”

Within a week of the Schererville Applebee's abruptly closing earlier this year, Sophia's House of Pancakes struck a deal to move in and replace it.

The popular family-style diner has locations on Indianapolis Boulevard in Highland and in Orland Park in Illinois. It had been looking to expand and seized the opportunity. 

Sophia's, known for its large portions, did extensive renovations at the former Applebee's chain eatery at 650 W. U.S. 30, in the Crossroads Shopping Center in Schererville. It's now open for business.

"We gutted the dining area and got rid of the bar and carpeting," owner Bill Lalezas said. "There's all new tile, a new chef's area in the back and we added 500 square feet of storage in the back. It's inviting with more wood and tiles and warm colors."

The 5,000-square-foot restaurant employs 35 and seats about 200, slightly more than the Highland location.

"We noticed in Highland we were getting too crowded at times," he said. "We were looking to grow and this is the Crossroads of America. We're drawing from a new area because many people don't want to drive over those bridges on U.S. 41 and deal with all the traffic and construction."

Sophia's also is looking at expanding to Crown Point and Valparaiso within the next year, Lalezas said.

The local chain has found success by serving homemade meals at affordable prices, he said. Top sellers include the five-egg omelets, three soups made daily, and its large apple pancake.

Poke-Man has brought the Hawaiian specialty of poke — a trendy take on raw fish that's taken Chicago and other cities by storm — to Northwest Indiana.

The restaurant at 327 E. 81st Ave., across from Portillo's in Merrillville, opened in April. It serves highly customizable bowls of rice, salad or kale noodles with many varieties of raw fish like Ahi tuna, salmon, eel, octopus, shrimp, scallop and snow crab. You can mix in your choice of ingredients like cucumber, edamame, seaweed, blanched kale, portabello, cilantro, red onion and red cabbage.

Customers also can add flavors like wasabi, spicy ginger or eel sauce to their diced fish bowls, a Japanese-influenced staple of traditional Hawaiian cuisine since the 1970s. It's caught on as a healthy, flavorful fast-casual dining option in major cities in the continental United States in recent years.

The many toppings at Poke-Man include avocado, fish eggs, and fish cakes. The menu also includes wings and many tea drinks, including bubble teas.

The fast-casual soup restaurant in the Highland Meijer Plaza at 10140 Indianapolis Blvd. had a four-year run of serving hundreds of soups like crab chowder, ginger coconut squash and fire-roasted tomato bisque, each bowl coming with a hunk of freshly baked bread.

"We are very sorry and also disappointed that our franchise partner at Zoup! Highland decided to close," Zoup spokeswoman Amy Lawrence said. "Unfortunately, at this time, there is no plan for re-opening."

The strip mall eatery across from the Highland Grove shopping center was the Detroit-based chain's only location in Northwest Indiana. 

The restaurant served sandwiches, salads, and a dozen rotating daily varieties of soup, including vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free and low-fat options. 

Zoup! still has a location at Adams and Clark in downtown Chicago, but its only remaining Indiana restaurants are in Carmel, Mishawaka and Evansville.

The bakery at 9159 Wicker Ave. in St. John made a number of baked goods from scratch, including cookies, cakes, kolacky, bread loaves, challah, coffeecake, pastries and brioche.

"It is with mixed emotions to announce the doors to our family bakery will be closing forever on June 22nd," the owners announced on Facebook. "We are sad that our journey in this location has ended. We are proud to have been a part of this wonderful community for the last 11 years. We have loved being a part of so many families through showers, weddings, birthdays, weekend trips for doughnuts and treats for school birthdays. We would like to thank the community for the love. As we transition into the next phase of our lives we will let you know through social media and email where you will be able to find some of the treats you could only find here. Thank you again for all of the love and support you have given us."

The owners said on Facebook they would announce their future plans soon, but that it would not include a new Branya's Bakery.

The family-owned specialty neighborhood bakery serves coffee, smoothies and baked goods like flan cakes, customized cakes, sugar cookies and scones. It also sells hot dogs with bacon glaze, crumbled candied bacon and sweet caramelized onions.

Belle Estanni started as a home business in Los Angeles in 2015 before moving to Northwest Indiana. The bakery focuses on "fresh, quality ingredients" and "attention to detail."

The business is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The locally owned fast food restaurant just north of the Borman Expressway has a drive-through. Its large and varied menu includes Philly steak sandwiches, tacos, tortas, chicken wings, burritos, gyros, ribs, rib tips burgers, Italian beef, hot links, fish and shrimp. The gyros meat comes from Kronos in Chicago, so you know it's legit. 

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday through Sunday.

New Franciscan ExpressCare location opened at 8345 Wicker Ave. across the street from Lake Central High School, replacing the St. John ExpressCare location on 97th Lane that closed on April 12.

“I’m really excited for what we’re going to do for the community," said Chris DiGiusto, Franciscan Alliance vice president of ambulatory services. "This isn’t our first foray into St. John, but this location is really going to be amazing for us.”

Franciscan also has ExpressCare and WorkingWell locations in Crown Point, Hobart, Michigan City, Munster, Portage and Valparaiso. They provide urgent care services without an appointment for non-life-threatening issues.

Leeds Public House is nearly finished with an extensive renovation of the former Ryan's Irish Pub, which closed after a 23-year-run at 401 Franklin St. in downtown Michigan City last year.

"Pretty much the only thing left is the four walls," Leeds Public House General Manager David Roberts said. "It's all new construction inside. There's nothing left of Ryan's Pub. We took it down to the studs and completely renovated."

Named for the prominent Leeds family of physicians that helped build up Michigan City in its early days, the Leeds Public House will be a gastropub with family dining and multiple bars. It will have about 275 to 300 seats outside and inside the historic 116-year-old building, including in a completely rebuilt patio.

The Leeds family built a building at that site in 1857 that burned down, and the family rebuilt the current three-story structure in 1903, Roberts said. The new restaurant and bar will occupy the first floor and the owners are still trying to decide what to do with the upper floors, such as whether to rent the second floor out for parties or other private functions.

"It's a great design from a firm we brought in from Chicago," Roberts said. "It blends the modern and industrial with a classic wood feel."

Leeds Public House aims to complete construction by the end of June and open by mid-July. It's now hiring for all positions and expects to have more than 50 employees.

A gamer who hopes to bring a sense of community and hanging out back to gaming has opened Next Generation Gaming in Griffith.

The 620-square-foot store at 2005 45th St. buys and sells video games, DVDs, music and pop culture collectibles while providing a selection of tabletop and video games for people to play in a social setting in the store.

Owner Elijah Aurand, a Highland resident, grew up playing video games like Civilization, Legend of Zelda, Battlefield and "anything with Mario." About four years ago, he started stocking up on games at pawn shops and flea markets and wanted to share his collection.

He sells hundreds of video games for all consoles, including retro systems and the current generation of Xboxes, PlayStations and Nintendo Switches.

Aurand said he strives to provide prices as competitive as possible on video games, Star Wars collectibles and tabletop games. He also plans to charge $8 a month or $65 a year for members to come in and play video games or tabletop games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon Yu-gi-oh! and Dungeons & Dragons. In the future, he'd even like to organize Esports leagues.

"I want to bring back the social aspect of gaming after the general disappearance of playing together on a couch at a co-op," he said. "A lot of the new games you can't even play on the same system in the same room. I kind of want to bring that social setting back to gaming, like you had at the arcade."

"A lot of the reason behind the storefront is the lack of competition," he said. "I wanted to do it my own way and do it for the public."

Aurand said the inventory would change frequently and the store would look to organize more and more frequent special events, like tournaments for gamers, as it became more established.

The Niles, Michigan-based retail chain of "vape boutiques, glassware emporiums, and hemp dispensaries" is opening its ninth location in the old Radio Shack at 514 N. Main St.

The 2,500-square-foot store will employ one to two workers initially and three to four by the end of the year, Vape & Smoke Chief Financial Officer and Chief Marketing Officer Emily Morgan said.

"We chose Crown Point based on several factors, namely, its similarity to our other localities, demographic and income-wise. Crown Point has a strong population concentration while retaining a small town feel," she said. "We also noticed a gap in the electronic cigarette market in Crown Point, and believe we can offer a more open, educative and overall high-end experience to people looking for progressive smoking cessation and alternative supplements."

"We will also feature a hemp dispensary within our store, with luxury skin care products and some of the most respected CBD brands in the industry, continually vetted by our in-house research and development team," Morgan said. "Our glassware selection is both imported and made in the USA, offering customers multiple options across various price points. And we are rolling out an oxygen bar with this opening, where people can come to breathe various aromas via nasal tubes and will be poised to relax and enjoy the clarity that comes with dedicated oxygen consumption." 

The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Dollar General, one of the nation's largest and best-known dollar store brands, opened a new discount store earlier this month at 6705 Melton Road in Portage.

The Tennessee-based retailer typically employs six to 10 workers at most of its stores, in which it sells food, housewares, apparel, cleaning supplies and health and beauty products. It's the national chain's first Portage location.

“Dollar General is committed to delivering a pleasant shopping experience that includes a convenient location, a wide assortment of merchandise and great prices on quality products,” said Dan Nieser, Dollar General’s senior vice president of real estate and store development. “We hope our area customers will enjoy shopping at Dollar General’s new location.”

Dollar General aims to open 975 more stores in 2019, making it the No. 1 retailer for opening new stores this year and bucking an ongoing trend of decline in the brick-and-mortar retail industry.

Economy Discount Liquors has moved into the former Cobras Motorcycle Club clubhouse at the triangle where U.S. 12 and 20 converge in downtown Gary.

The Stella V.ie Cafe coffee shop moved from the former Blue Room Cafe spot in the Indiana Building at 5246 Hohman Ave. in downtown Hammond down the street to the inside the federal courthouse, where much of its clientele is located.

Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill & Tavern, a "roadhouse-like rustic culinary hideaway" on U.S. 12 in Beverly Shores, has closed after an 11-year run.

The "gastronomic getaway" at 131 E. Dunes Highway boasted a creative, varied and wide-ranging menu that included andouille corndogs, seared Indiana duck breast, duck confit wonton tacos, lamb shank, venison chili, oysters, tuna ceviche tostada, chicken schnitzel, croque madame, shrimp and grits, and shrimp and crab beignets. The Duneland restaurant was destination dining that was a popular stop for people visiting the nearby Indiana Dunes National Park or Michigan City.

Bartlett's iconic sign of a deer knocking back a bottle of beer beckoned visitors off the highway. The restaurant had an annual Oysterfest, live music and a food truck that served "truckin' good grub" at many summer festivals.

Often praised as a "hidden treasure" or "gem of Beverly Shores," it garnered good reviews from far and wide, including from Indianapolis Monthly magazine and Midwest Wanderer.

The restaurant was founded by Gary Sanders and Nicole Bissonette, whose other culinary endeavors include Bistro 157 in Valparaiso.

The spin-off restaurant Bartlett's Fish Camp remains open at 12 On the Lake by the Michigan City Yacht Club on the Lake Michigan lakeshore, where it serves a variety of seafood like a Gojuchang Asian calamari stir fry over basmati rice.

Arcadia Cafe & Bar, another waterfront dining spot in Michigan City, announced on Facebook Thursday it had hired Sanders as a chef.

Bartlett's Fish Camp did not return messages, and Bartlett’s Gourmet Grill & Tavern's phone number was disconnected.

A couple who lived in San Diego but moved back to the Region decided to open a fish market like the ones they enjoyed so much in California in Valparaiso.

Husband-and-wife duo Leslee McGowan and Rob McGowan, who had been an executive chef at a Cajun restaurant, opened McGowan & Sons at 1607 Burlington Beach Road on the north side of Valparaiso. The market sells fresh seafood like salmon, grouper, mahi mahi, halibut, mussels, snapper, king crab legs, lobster, scallops and oysters from both the east and west coasts. The selection rotates depending on what's in season and what's selling.

"It's flown in fresh daily and it's mostly wild caught," Leslee McGowan said. "We do have a salmon that's ocean-farmed, but it's in an ocean harbor in Canada where water is flowing in and out and it's eating regular foods, not pellets. It's sustainable. We're focused on high quality."

To accompany the seafood, Rob McGowan also prepares homemade soups, stocks, shrimp cocktail and other cooked seafood that can be enjoyed cold, and salads like an orzo feta lemon salad to accompany the fish as a side. They also have meal kits with vegetables, herbs and garlic one can chop up at home.

"We have meal kits where everything is prepped and you just need to follow the directions to finish it off, while you cook your fish in the pan and drink your wine," she said. "This is not a restaurant but it's like a restaurant where you can take home a meal that will be that you can enjoy fresh and hot out of the pan."

The McGowans loved eating fish and seafood while living on the coast and missed it when returning to Region to help run her family's trucking company.

"We would go to Whole Foods in Chicago to get our fish," she said. "You can't do that all the time because it needs to be fresh."

"We didn't really want to do a restaurant in the traditional sense because we have young kids and like being home at night to watch them grow up," she said. "But he loves to cook, so we added a party room that does catering both on- and off-site. We'll do prix fixe meals and other fun stuff like clam bakes or shrimp boils."

They plan to soon offer cooking classes to teach knife skills and other culinary techniques. They seek to educate customers, such as by showing them how to shuck their own oysters.

"Valparaiso has a crazy elevated dining scene with many dining and food options," she said. "People's palates are expanding and there's an expectation of being able to get what you can get in Chicago here. We have fresh clean fish without preservatives, MSG or any of the yucky stuff. We love to see people eating and entertaining and enjoying their food, and are here to help them get restaurant-quality food on their table."

Johnny's Round the Clock, a longtime diner at 1800 81st Ave. in Merrillville, has new owners, a new look, new menu items, new hours and a new name.

Anna Saitis and Manny Saitis bought the restaurant from her uncle Louis Christos, who's in his 80s and wanted to retire. They both grew up in the restaurant business, and her family also owns Round the Clock eateries in Valparaiso and Chesterton.

They have modernized the restaurant on U.S. 30 and renamed it Brothers Breakfast and Lunch since they converted it from a 24/7 diner to a pancake house serving breakfast and lunch. The name honors the brothers who immigrated from Greece and launched the Round the Clock chain in Gary in 1968.

"We took it over with him and rebranded with a new concept," Manny Saitis said. "It's only open for breakfast and lunch because it was important to be able to spend some time with family and watch our kids grow up."

They did extensive renovations, getting rid of the platform in the middle of the restaurant and installing new floors, booths, chairs and lighting.

"It looks a lot more modern," Anna Saitis said. "It's a little rustic and industrial with Edison bulbs and more modern light fixtures. As my husband says, we're trying to make it Round the Clock 2.0."

They kept many Johnny's Round the Clock favorites on the menu, such as bacon and eggs, burgers and Greek pork chops. But they have added many newer items to appeal to younger customers such as chicken and waffles, a chorizo eggs benedict, pork belly benedict, coconut-crusted French Toast, croissants breakfast sandwiches with maple aioli, bacon-stuffed waffles, and pancakes with Nutella, bananas and strawberries.

"We've got the old favorites and trendy brunch items," she said. "We want to keep our old customers happy and reach out to younger markets."

They also retained many of the same employees, including a waitress who has worked there for 30 years.

In the long term, they hope to offer catering to the area and potentially open a second restaurant, likely somewhere in Porter County.

The new Now Yoga Club & Community Center celebrated its grand opening last week at 8255 Wicker Ave. in St. John.

The yoga studio offers regular classes, including on Zumba and guided meditation. Owner Sarah Johnson said yoga — a practice of stretching exercises with roots in ancient India — changed her life for the better and she wanted others to enjoy the benefits.

Fluid Coffeebar will open a cafe and roastery in this building on Franklin Street in downtown Michigan City.

Downtown Valparaiso's Fluid Coffeebar is expanding to provide a jolt of caffeine to downtown Michigan City.

The hip new-wave coffee shop will bring its single-origin coffees, pour-overs, nitro cold brew, hand-crafted lattes, local art shows, vegan food options and dark modern aesthetic to the Eagle Building at 518 N. Franklin St. in the Uptown Arts District. 

"We're going to have a cafe similar in style to Valparaiso with a large roastery that will allow us to produce high-quality direct trade types of coffee," said Charles Scates, who owns Fluid along with his wife Alison Scates. "We've been roasting for more than a year or so, just finding unique varieties of coffee that are exciting and different from the same old thing."

The roastery will use equipment purchased from the acclaimed Tinker Coffee Co. in Indianapolis, which has been named the best coffee roaster in Indiana. Fluid will roast beans from all over the world to provide freshly roasted coffee to both the Valparaiso and Michigan City cafes. The coffee shop also will sell bags of beans for home brewing.

Fluid will mostly produce single-origin roasts but also offer a few dual-origin coffees some might find more palatable, such as a blend of Guatemalan and Brazilian beans.

"We're going to source the best possible coffee," Scates said. "I'm a big fan of African coffees and Kenyan coffees. We're going to do direct trade with the farmers with no middleman so the farmers are treated much more fairly. It will be super fresh and people will be able to see the roaster through a viewing window. It can't get any fresher."

Fluid will take over 2,600 square feet of space in a former fraternal lodge that was built in 1921. It was turned into offices and most recently used as a jazzercize studio.

"It's super cool, the exterior of it is kind of like the Greek style with columns and a concrete pergola," Scates said. "It's neat looking architecture."

Fluid is doing extensive renovations. The goal is to make it look like the chic Valparaiso cafe, which has murals and chalkboard restrooms that people scribble all over. It's building out a cafe with 30 to 40 seats, and private meeting or training rooms that can be rented out.

"It lends itself to that industrial and post-apocalyptic look we like," he said. "We plan to expand on the local art by incorporating more street art from the local art scene."

The Scateses tapped Michigan City for expansion because of the downtown's similarity to Valparaiso, its proximity to the popular tourist destination of Southwest Michigan, and momentum it has built with lakefront improvements and the attraction of new businesses.

The cafe will offer a drink or two unique to Michigan City, like the Vale of Paradise latte in Valpo. The kitchen space is larger so Fluid will have a bigger food menu in Michigan City, including many vegan and paleo dishes.

"It's like the trend with microbreweries," Scates said. "People want a focus on the quality of their coffee and to know where their coffee came from, not necessarily something loaded with cream and sprinkles."

Square Roots opens Sunday to bring "a handcrafted dining experience bursting with big city influences, rooted on the historic Crown Point Square."

The new gastropub at 108 N. Main St. in downtown Crown Point offers seasonal menus with "honest, locally sourced and sustainably farmed ingredients," as well as a selection of hand-crafted cocktails.

"I think what sets it apart from other restaurants in the region is the inspiration my staff and I bring into work every day," Head Chef Matthew Griseta said on the Square Roots website. "Our core concept for the food and drink menu at Square Roots is to show our guests that this is our passion. The food is honest, and is a lot of work to create, but we do it because we love it. Braising, smoking, and brining are not quick processes, but it’s a labor of love."

The restaurant offers truffle-parmesan fries, appetizers like charcuterie and a fireside elote dip, salads and sandwiches like a "Smashville Hot Chicken Sandwich" and a "Brunch Burger" with Applewood smoked bacon, an over-easy egg and avocado mash. A selection of Main Street Tacos include smoked brisket, Corona-battered shrimp and jackfruit tinga. It has craft pizzas and entrees like a crispy sous vida pork shank, blackened trout with pimento cheese grits, and a garlic rubbed pork chop with cauliflower yellow rice.

Sakura Bowl Restuarant will fill the space the legendary Lincoln O's sandwich shop vacated when it closed last year. Highland Building Commissioner Ken Mika said the new owners run the Dragon Bowl restaurant in Munster.

"I believe the party currently owns a restaurant in Munster on the northeast corner of Hohman Avenue and Ridge Road," he said.

Redevelopment Director Kathy DeGuilio-Fox said the new owners have been renovating the restaurant's interior since last fall.

Lincoln O's, a beloved local institution known for its Italian submarine sandwiches and its U.S. Steel Special, closed last year after being founded in Gary 55 years prior.

Anyone who wants to work out at home instead of schlepping to the gym can swing over to Top Fitness Store in Highland.

The exercise equipment store at 10412 Indianapolis Blvd. sells "top-of-the-line fitness" equipment like treadmills, stationary bikes, kettlebells, home gyms, free weights and elliptical machines from name brands like Precor and Helix. Fitness specialist Matt Richardson said the store also offered warranties and service.

"If you're looking to start a home gym or want to pursue a healthier lifestyle we can set you on the right path," he said. "We sell commercial grade fitness equipment for home use."

Top Fitness Store delivers and will install rubberized gym flooring, Richardson said. Its service team that will try to fix any exercise equipment, even if it was purchased somewhere else.

The business is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Chesterton Town Manager Bernard Doyle said an announcement may be coming in the next few weeks about a new tenant at the former Kmart building at 750 Indian Boundary Road.

"We certainly hope that the area is redeveloped as it is a critical location for the Indian Boundary business district in Chesterton," Doyle said.

Rumors that the German discount grocer Aldi would take over the former Kmart have swirled around town for months, but the company is mum.

"At this time, we don't have any updates regarding a potential new store in Chesterton, but we will be in touch if we have information to share at a later date," Aldi Valparaiso Division Vice President David Zalunardo said.

The historic Aberdeen Inn in Valparaiso, which dates back to the 1800s, has added an upscale restaurant and piano bar serving steak, seafood and pasta dishes.

New owners Roxanne Chayhitz and Barb Sexton, who also owns Tommy B's Clubhouse in Valparaiso, recently bought the cozy 10-room inn at 3158 S. Ind. 2 in Valparaiso, which they have been modernizing to give it more of the feel of a contemporary Airbnb. They added The Abbey Pub and Eatery, hiring chef Liz Stressler who worked at Gamba Ristorante in Merrillville.

"They were literally talking about it one night and bought it the next day," General Manager and Innkeeper Kylee Chayhitz said. "It was cool and crazy. Barb has been in the restaurant industry for 30 years or so, so they figured they wanted to add in the restaurant."

The inn dates back to at least 1857 and was a stop on the Underground Railroad where slaves fleeing to freedom hid in a root cellar accessible only by a hidden trapdoor. Kylee Chayhitz said it "may or may not" be haunted by the ghost of a little girl who died of tuberculosis there.

The dinner menu features appetizers like Italian hummus, Prince Edward Island mussels, stuffed banana peppers, sea scallops, charcuterie, and west coast oysters. A wide range of pasta dishes includes cacio e pepe and papardelle with scallops, mussels, shrimp, spinach, and tomato lobster brandy cream. Other entrees include airline chicken, filet mignon, porterhouse pork chop, espresso dusted black bass, snow crab legs and twin lobster tails.

"It's an Italian fusion thing," she said. "We do some very good pasta and a lot of seafood. We do brunch but nothing super-fancy: eggs benedict, of course, a veggie burger, some sandwiches, and omelets. The chef makes some amazing food. It's a really good atmosphere with a beautiful historical building."

The new owners have done extensive renovations, adding in a commercial kitchen and a piano bar where the library used to be and where they now have live music once a week, usually on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

"Before we added in the restaurant, it was a conference center, it was very gaudy-looking with green carpet and red tablecloths," Kylee Chayhitz said. "It was terrible."

The Abbey Pub and Eatery, which employs 17 workers, offers beer, wine and craft cocktails that were designed by a mixologist.

It's open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, with the bar staying open for as long there are customers. It's open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and for brunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Leeds Public House is moving into the former Ryan's Irish Pub space at 401 Franklin St. in Michigan City.

Construction on the gastropub is expected to be completed next month, with a targeted opening in July. The restaurant has posted job openings for servers, bartenders, floor managers, bussers, line cooks, prep cooks, dish washers and kitchen supervisors.

Named after the city in West Yorkshire, the English pub will replace the longtime Irish pub across from the library that had been an anchor of the downtown for more than 20 years.

Mary & Martha Home is moving out of Louise's Hallmark Shop at 9533 Wicker Ave. in St. John, since that Hallmark store is closing after more than 30 years.

The 20-year-old home decor store, which was located in Porte De Leau Plaza in Highland for 16 years, is now moving to Lake Central Plaza across from Lake Central High School in St. John.

"We've kind of learned to hone the kind of items people want for a shopping experience other than what the big boxes offer," owner Dawn Johnson said. "We've got unique items for people looking to create beautiful homes or thoughtful gifts for something special."

The shop, named after the sisters Mary and Martha in the Bible, has stayed in business for so long by keeping abreast of current trends, Johnson said.

"It's traditional items with a trendy twist," Johnson said. "We're really blessed with a good following, and now we'll be closer to the customers we had from Highland, Munster and Dyer, those north of 45th Street who might not want to go all the way to the far end of St. John."

"We display decor so it tells a story and don't just stuff products on shelves," she said. "In an age with less and less locally owned small businesses, we're hanging on and changing with the times."

CPR Cell Phone Repair has opened a second Northwest Indiana location, in a strip mall along Main Street at the border of Schererville and Highland.

The national chain of smartphone and device repair shops has more than 750 locations nationwide, including on U.S. 30 in Merrillville. It recently opened another location at 727 Main St. in Schererville. 

The store will fix everything from cracked screens to broken charging ports for iPhones, other smartphones, iPads, tablets, Macs, laptops, video game consoles, and iPods. It will remove viruses from computers and offers free estimates.

“Dollar General is committed to delivering a pleasant shopping experience that includes a convenient location, a wide assortment of merchandise and great prices on quality products,” said Dan Nieser, Dollar General’s senior vice president of real estate and store development. “We hope our area customers will enjoy shopping at Dollar General’s new location.”

The North Carolina-based dollar store, where not everything is one dollar, sells a variety of goods that include food, housewares, personal care, toiletries, seasonal items, cleaning supplies, basic apparel, home decor, and health and beauty products.

Buttermilk Pancake House isn't just another diner, one of many to sling omelets and bottomless cups of coffee in Northwest Indiana.

The pancake house — meaning it's only open for breakfast and lunch — recently opened in the former El Salto space in the historic Old Town Hall at Ridge Road and Calumet Avenue in Munster. It will celebrate its grand opening Monday with complimentary upgrades to specialty pancakes.

"We have some unique items like our pineapple upside down pancakes and very berry bliss pancakes with blueberries and mascarpone cheese," owner Sam Yfantis said. "We wanted to bring downtown into the area, into the Region, but we still have traditional breakfasts for those that prefer that."

Yfantis grew up working in his parents' restaurant in Chicago and has owned restaurants in the city and Wisconsin.

"I like this area," he said. "A lot of people are moving into the Region. I see a lot of growth. There's a lot of condos coming to Centennial Park. It's an awesome location."

The 4,600-square-foot restaurant seats about 135 diners and employs about 25 workers. Buttermilk Pancake House makes all its batter from scratch and prepares its three-egg omelets in the French way, cooking them in a pan and finishing them in the oven. The lunch menu features items like a triple-decker Monte Cristo sandwich served with either fruit or French fries.

The extensive menu includes pancakes, French Toast, waffles, crepes, blintzes, biscuits and gravy, breakfast combos, salads, Black Angus burgers and club sandwiches. It boasts both a My Big Fat Greek Omelet and a My Big Fat Greek Salad, as well as The Ron Swanson Sweet N Savory. Named after the breakfast food-loving parks director from "Parks and Recreation," the Ron Swanson is a bacon-filled waffle topped with more bacon and cheesy scrambled eggs.

"I made it up myself while I was watching the show," he said. "It was delicious with syrup. It's our alternative to the chicken and waffle that so many places are doing."

Yfantis said he eventually would be interested in opening more Buttermilk Pancake House locations in the area, but said he planned to take it slow and focus on getting the Munster diner established.

Dicky's Dogs, a Chicago-style hot dog joint, celebrated its grand opening Monday at 108 W. Commercial Drive in Lowell.

The fast-food restaurant serves Chicagoland favorites like Chicago dogs, Maxwell Street Polishes, gyros, Italian beef, pepper and egg sandwiches, pizza puffs, and the Italian breaded steak sandwiches that are popular in Bridgeport and on the South Side. Its extensive and varied menu also includes burgers, tacos, burritos, salads, fried pickles, salads and wraps, as well as desserts like ice cream and milkshakes.

The Chicago dog costs $2.95, and nothing on the menu runs more than $8.49 if you feel like splurging on a double gyros burger.

It's a family-owned restaurant with both inside and outside seating. Dicky's Dogs offers take-out, delivery, and catering.

Dicky's Dogs is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Spike's Lakeside 2, a downtown Schererville institution known for its walleye, perch and frog legs, has been sold and will be renamed Greg's Place.

"With mixed emotions, we would like to announce the sale of Spike's Lakeside," owner David "Spike" Jaroszewski announced on Facebook. "We would like to thank everyone for the past 33 years of your patronage and friendship. Good news is, a great friend has purchased it. The new name will be Greg's Place, also the staff is staying on. Menu and salad bar to be continued. May God bless everyone."

Jaroszewski and his wife Carol opened Spike’s Lakeside Inn on the southeast side of Chicago in 1985 and opened a second location at 21 E. Joliet St. in downtown Schererville in 2000. They closed the original location on Ewing Avenue on Chicago's East Side four years later.

The restaurant and bar serves up seafood, ribs, pork chops and other entrees with a traditional salad bar that includes beets, cottage cheese and kidney bean salad. It's especially known for seafood like smelt, whitefish, catfish, crab cakes and shrimp.

Owners George Fitusis, then 84, and Angie Fitusis, then 74, wanted to retire but couldn't find a buyer. But they announced earlier this year on Facebook they finally sold the restaurant at 322 Main St.

The old-school Bright Spot had a vintage lunch counter and a traditional diner menu with omelets, skillets, and triple-decker club sandwiches.

The hair care chain will be located in front of Strack and Van Til and next to GNC on U.S. 30. Operations Manager Brittany Fitzsimmons said it should open by the end of the month and is looking to hire local stylists.

The 1,200-square-foot salon will employ 12 stylists and offer $7.99 haircuts for the first few weeks.

Great Clips, a Minneapolis-based chain with more than 4,100 locations that pulls in more than $1 billion a year in revenue, also has a location over on the east side of town at 2710 Laporte Ave Ste 130 in the Valparaiso Marketplace shopping center.

The new location will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. 

R&R Sports Bar & Grill in the U.S. Steel Yard in downtown Gary was closed Wednesday and Thursday, but was just being deep-cleaned in preparation for the baseball season and resumed normal operations Friday.

The gym offers fitness-focused boxing workout classes and High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, workouts. 

For more information, call 219-803-414, visit classufcgym.com or find the business on Facebook and Instagram.

The new F45 Training gym in Crown Point is shown. The chain plans to open locations in Schererville and Valparaiso.

The fast-growing F45 Training gym chain — F standing for functional training, 45 for the length of every workout in minutes — has opened a location in Crown Point and is coming soon to Schererville and Valparaiso.

Developed in Australia seven years ago, F45 has since spread to 1,500 studios in 36 countries, where everyone worldwide does the same high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, workout every day, and they never do the same workout twice. Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg recently invested in the trendy studios, which offer high-energy group workout sessions that use functional movements and heart monitors.

"It's taken off like wildfire," F45 Training Crown Point owner Jason Cotton said. "Franchise territories are selling like crazy. Now, there are 1.3 million people worldwide doing the same workout every day."

The 2,700-square-foot gym at 870 N. Superior Drive in Crown Point typically has eight classes a day between 5 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., and three classes a day on Saturday and Sunday. Class sizes typically range between 22 and 36 people, and more classes are added as more people sign up.

Nine personal trainers now lead the classes, which involve cardio on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and resistance training on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. There's an hour-long "Hollywood" class with a live DJ on Saturdays that combines cardio and resistance training.

"There's a database of 3,800 exercises. Professionals are working behind the scenes to design the workouts a month in advance," Cotton said. "One or two personal trainers go through the class to make sure everyone is doing it correctly, but you don't have the cost of hiring an hourly personal trainer. People are burning 600 to 1,100 calories per class and their heart rate gets so high they burn calories for hours afterward. The workouts are structured for any age or fitness level. We have a 66-year-old man who comes in and loves it."

Cotton tried the workout while visiting Scottsdale for his day job and loved it. He's signed leases for a Valparaiso location he hopes to open sometime in October and a Schererville gym that should open in January.

"It's an addictive class," Cotton said. "Everybody is giving each other high fives at the end, whether they know them or not. It's for anybody that has fitness goals, or is stuck in a rut or plateau."

The third-generation, family-owned jewelry store specializes in fine diamonds, engagement rings, wedding bands, watches, bracelets, necklaces, chains, cuffs, rings and other jewelry. It opened in 1969 and also offers jewelry repairs, such as remountings. It's now in the midst of a going-out-of-business liquidation sale that it's billing as "the greatest savings event in our history" where "everything must be sold."

Tapas Cafe, a Spanish tapas restaurant that promised an "exotic trip to the Iberian Peninsula without leaving Northwest Indiana" has served its last small plate after a seven-year run, but its chef continues to cook and cater out of Cafe Fresco in downtown Crown Point.

The restaurant that served Spanish favorites such as paella, bacon-wrapped dates and goat cheese baked with tomato sauce, was located on U.S. 30 in Merrillville for five years and moved to 518 N. Main St. in Crown Point two years ago. It had a cult following, as it was one of few Region restaurants to offer tapas, the traditional Spanish cuisine that evolved from inns placing small plates over glasses of sherry for travelers as samples of their cooking — and to load them up with salt to get them to order more drinks.

"Thank you food lovers," Chef Uly Gom said in a Facebook post announcing its closure. "Seven years ago, I started a dream, more of a journey. We became well-known as the hidden jewel of Merrillville and later the hidden jewel of Northwest Indiana. We were always bringing food innovations and eclectic fusions that chefs and food lovers were amazed by. We are happy with the accomplishments we reached. All thanks to you food lovers but when one door closes another door opens for better opportunities."

In addition to cooking at Cafe Fresco on the courthouse square in downtown Crown Point, Gom plans to be at the Chesterton European Market every Saturday and the Crown Point Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday.

The Ann Arbor-based pizza chain, which became the largest pizza seller in the world in February and boasts 16,100 stores worldwide, is opening a restaurant employing about 30 people at 560 Indian Boundary Road.

Franchisee Jim Gronemann also recently opened Domino's restaurants in Merrillville and Hammond. He started as a delivery driver in 1984 and now owns 17 franchises in Indiana and Illinois.

“We are dedicated to the Chesterton area and are excited to better serve its residents,” Gronemann said. “We have a deeply experienced team of folks who live and work in Chesterton, and they are eager to offer our delicious products, exceptional service and innovative ordering technology to the community.”

Domino's serves pizzas in a number of styles, including hand-tossed, thin crust, handmade pan and Brooklyn Style. Though best known for pizza, it also sells pasta, chicken, sandwiches, wings, salads, desserts and stuffed cheesy bread. 

The new Chesterton location features a large lobby, a chalkboard for customers to scrawl on, an open kitchen that lets people watch their pizza being made and an electronic lobby screen that tracks carryout orders in real time.

As a part of the grand opening celebration, the Chesterton Domino's will offer medium one-topping carryout pizzas for $3.99 through June 9. Police, firefighters, first responders and military also get 50% off at any time with an ID.

A group is seen enjoying a 100-ounce margarita. Las Mamacitas Tacos, Tamales and Tequila in Chesterton will serve them to groups of four or more.

Las Mamacitas Tacos, Tamales and Tequila in Chesterton hopes to generate buzz this Cinco de Mayo weekend with unique menu items like lobster claw tacos, tequila slushies, flash fried avocado fries with a chipotle crema, and a gargantuan 100-ounce margarita that will only be served to parties of four or more.

The restaurant, scheduled to open this weekend, is in the former Volstead space at 225 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton. It will offer five different varieties of margaritas in servings of 16 ounces to 56 ounces, with different rim options, like hibiscus or sweet-and-salty, intended to bring out different flavors. Las Mamacitas eventually will have a selection of 100 tequilas and offer customizable flights of tequilas, margaritas, tacos and tamales.

The restaurant is the brainchild of owner Monica Susoreny, who's also a public relations professional and the organizer of the NWI Food Truck Fest. She's spent the last four months renovating the restaurant to have a carnival-like ambiance with brightly covered murals that often evoke the Day of the Dead, adding a fireplace, Mexican pottery and a pergola by the bar to give it an outdoor feel. The restaurant employs about 20 people and could seat up to 120 people, including on the outdoor patio. It also offers catering to local businesses in Porter County.

Las Mamacitas hired chef Michelle Gomez, who's worked at the Ritz Carlton in South Beach and cooked for celebrities like the rapper Jay Z.

"We'll have authentic but out-of-the box concepts," Susoreny said. "I would say it's Mexican fusion."

The 100-ounce margarita — more than six times as large as a normal margarita — will be available in different flavors like fresca, orange and strawberry and will only be available to groups of four or more. Anyone who finishes it gets a sticker saying they drank Northwest Indiana's largest margarita.

"The best way to describe it is that it's like a fish bowl," she said. "I worked with a mixologist in Chicago after coming up with the concepts. I just have the wow factor, something fun and different, something unique and out-of-the-box. We want people to have fun when they come in and dine with us, whether it's a date night or they're looking for a unique and different experience. We want people to have fun and feel good."

Las Mamacitas also will serve imported Mexican cerveza, craft beer and fine wines. The sangria also is stronger than normal because they added brandy, and a different tequila slushie flavor will be offered each month, starting with cucumber lime. 

The menu will include lobster claw tacos, oysters on the half shell with a tequila and jicama mignonette, Mexican cactus chili nachos and vegan and vegetarian options. The many different tamale varieties include Texas brisket with a whiskey barbecue sauce, buffalo chicken with blue cheese crumbles, and Philly cheesesteak. Taco options include chipotle chicken, bang bang shrimp, and spicy siracha snapper with pickled carrots and a siracha crema.

"My husband and I are happy to bring something like this to this area," Susoreny said. "Owning our own restaurant has always been a dream of ours, being foodies ourselves and in the industry for over 20 years. We developed the Las Mamacitas concept around what we envisioned would be an inviting atmosphere that provides an experience like no other. Las Mamacitas is a place that anyone can come to. There are many different authentic and unique cocktail and menu items to choose from."

Las Mamacitas plans to have regular special events like a mimosa brunch on Mother's Day, a Día de los Muertos celebration and ticketed five-course meals paired with tequila tastings. It's broken up into Taco, Tequila and Tamale rooms that can be rented out for graduations, birthday parties or other events. People also can rent out the entire restaurant.

The eatery is doing a weekend-long grand opening celebration. DJ Chef, who's appeared on the Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen, will perform a DJ set and cook samples for guests from noon until 6 p.m. Sunday. Beer and tequila ambassadors will be on hand for tastings, and there will be live music, folklorico dancers, a beer tent and a selfie station.

Tickets to the 21-and-over grand opening fiesta in Las Mamacitas's back parking lot Sunday will include all-you-can-eat tacos and tamales, with a side of hand-cut chips and homemade guacamole.

The restaurant will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 219-728-6650, visit www.lasmamacitasnwi.com or find the business on Facebook and Instagram.

The yoga studio at 8255 Wicker Ave. in St. John aims to make yoga accessible to both adults and kids. It has a reception area with complimentary tea and a 1,200-square-foot yoga room where 12 yoga teachers lead 30 classes each week.

"We have a wide range of classes for everyone because there is such a wide range of needs with yoga," owner Sarah Johnson said. "For example, Chair Yoga might be perfect for someone who wants to experience the physical and emotional benefits yoga offers, but might have more physical limitations than our Vinyasa class or Yoga Burn would be comfortable for. Restorative Yoga is great for the athlete needing to stretch, the busy parent or student needing some time to unwind, or any of us who works long hours and needs to give the mind a rest and the body some recovery."

The studio also offers Zumba, guided meditation, family yoga and kids yoga, as well as monthly workshops.

"I'll never forget coming home from my first yoga class and taking a two-hour nap because it wiped me out, and I thought I might never go back," she said. "But I went back because I bought a class package, and by the time I finished that package I was hooked." 

"I started to realize it calmed and soothed me in ways I would carry off the yoga mat as well," she said. My Type A personality started to relax a bit. I started to practice mindfulness and presence not only in the yoga room, but in my life and relationships."

She began teaching yoga to middle school students and colleagues, and then at a friend's gym in St. John. She saw an opportunity to open the first yoga studio in St. John.

"There are so many benefits to yoga. Yoga is amazing work for our bodies," she said. "No matter where you start, you will see improvement in your physical practice. And it doesn't matter where you start. The biggest myth about yoga is that you need to be flexible or have balance or any of these other prerequisites people come up with in their minds. All you need to do to start is show up and just be patient with yourself and see what happens. Yoga is amazing work for our emotional bodies as well. It's not an overstatement when I say it has completely changed my life for the better."

The beloved South Side fried chicken chain, a favorite among rappers like Kanye, Lupe Fiasco and Chance the Rapper, will open in a strip mall by the McDonald's on Dunes Highway in the Miller neighborhood later this year, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.

Known for its cooked-to-order chicken and wings, often enjoyed with generous servings of mild sauce, Harold's has another Gary location on Grant Street as well as restaurants in Hammond, Merrillville and Dyer.

Noonies Famous Jerk & Things, the latest restaurant venture from the owner of Granny's Carry Out and Jet In Jet Out Fish, will serve up spicy chicken at 3931 Main St. downtown. El Charro Grocery is coming to 4926 Kennedy Ave., and Las Tres Palmas Grocery will open at 502 W. 151st St. downtown.

“I am pleased to see new business growth in East Chicago," Mayor Anthony Copeland said. "Small mom-and-pop establishments are critical to our local economy. They provide much-needed items, services and jobs."

"This is their first location in Indiana and they chose a great location on Indy Boulevard and 80/94, joining Red Wing Shoes, Great Clips and an entertainment-focused AT&T Store," Hammond Director of Economic Development Anne Anderson said.

The popular gourmet popcorn shop ChicagoLand Popcorn plans to open a third location in Gary's Miller neighborhood, likely in August or September.

ChicagoLand Popcorn opened on U.S. 30 in Hobart across from the Albanese Candy Co. in 2013, selling more than 250 flavors of popcorn, including cherry cola, Twix, crab legs and key lime pie. It expanded to a second location in St. John in 2017.

President Dwayne Walker said he would open a third location with about 1,500 square feet at a strip mall on U.S. 20 in Miller. The former corporate executive has located all his stores near established attractions and hopes Miller Beach will provide as much of a draw as Albanese in Hobart and the Shrine of Christ's Passion in St. John.

Gary residents also account for a large chunk of his business and he wanted to be closer to the customer base.

"Probably about 25% percent of my customers come from Gary," he said. "We wanted to do something for the community, and eventually my wife and I would like to live in the area. There's the beach traffic and the project that's coming to the South Shore Line station."

Walker said the new store likely would offer around 90 flavors at any given time, similar to the St. John store.

Temptations, the gift shop that's been a longtime staple of downtown Valparaiso, is closing after 32 years.

Owner Kathy Adams Butterfield, 76, said health issues led her to close the gift store, which sells items like Precious Moments figurines, Norman Rockwell figurines, teddy bears, and ceramic nativity scenes. She's only semi-retiring and will continue to work at her husband's law office next door.

"It's a sentimental situation," she said. "I love running a gift shop, but with my health I can't take it. I'm not able to do the things I used to be able to."

Butterfield, who started her retail career at Comay's Records in Gary, named the business after her favorite band, The Temptations. On the first week, one of her husband's clients got married in a hasty ceremony at the store.

"It was just the first of many blessed things to happen in our store," she said. "I've been in the business for 32 years and never had a bad customer. I've watched customers who were pregnant have their children, and their children to come in with strollers of their own. There are lots of memories."

"I never charged them. It was an accident," she said. "But people will tell me they felt so bad that they broke this or broke that."

The process of closing has taken some time because Butterfield has been sorting through the inventory to divide up what to donate, what to throw away and what to sell on eBay. The store will remain open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays for at least another 45 to 60 days, and any interested customers can pop into the Butterfield law office next door if they need to have it opened.

"I'll miss the people most of all," she said. "I told my employees there are a lot of gift shops and they're all fine places, but I wanted to be known as the one where the nice people work."

The Sears Appliance and Hardware Store at 6169 U.S. 6 in Portage announced it was closing with a liquidation sale starting at 30% off.

New franchise owners acquired the hardware store in 2014. It's just the latest Sears store to close in Northwest Indiana as the landmark retailer, which hasn't turned an annual profit since 2010, continues to struggle through bankruptcy.

Walter Day and Corinne Roempagel, who are brother and sister, opened the shop at 3537 Orchard Drive by 173rd Street and Kennedy Avenue after traveling around to buy and sell comic books at various comic book conventions throughout the Midwest, and as far away as South Carolina and Utah.

"It was fantastic. It was always fun and I enjoyed chatting with people and working with comic books at the store," Roempagel said.

They decided to open a store of their own in Hammond because they both live there and wanted to remain close to their 40-hour-a-week day jobs as they look to bootstrap the retail business. They took over the former Windy City Pizza pizzeria after cleaning out the kitchen equipment, and many people still come in looking for pizza.

"It's a nice-sized store," she said. "It's not cramped. We have new books on the walls, dollar books in the back. We have back issues, prints and little odds and ends. We promote reading and try to get kids interested in reading comic books, which is a good start. The world's getting more digital but there's just something about paper."

So far the store has attracted kids coming in after school and collectors looking for specific titles. Happy Day plans to add game nights with Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer and other role-playing games.

They also will continue to do business at comic book conventions, including the Irland Park Comic Con this weekend.

Fat Burrito, a popular Crown Point Mexican eatery known for its huge burritos, has opened a second location in Highland.

Fat Burrito #2 opened as a 40-seat restaurant in the former Memo's Taco Mex location at 2128 45th St. in Porte De L'eau Plaza.

NutriHub opened in a new Merrillville strip mall on U.S. 30 about six months ago, and aims to expand near gyms across Northwest Indiana.

The juice and smoothie bar at 536 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville sells health products — namely a three-step meal replacement that consists of an aloe drink, a 16-ounce tea and a 20-gram protein shake. The aloe is meant to aid the digestive system, while the tea burns calories and the protein builds muscle, partner Michael Golumbeck said. All together, it's only about 300 calories total with 9 to 10 grams of sugar.

"You can get fiber, protein and collagen," he said. "You also can add different things like caffeine, lemon and pomegranate in different milligrams." 

Golumbeck and partner Jared Tauber opened the juice bar in a new strip mall that includes Catch 22 Table + Tap and Planet Fitness. The latter is a major driver of health-conscious traffic. 

"We get people interested in generating fitness coming in at 7 a.m. before their workout or for a breakfast they'll bring back to the office," he said. "We also have 20 Andrean High School girls hanging out in the afternoon. It's very clean with leather chairs where they can lounge and do their homework. They sit here for hours and do their studying."

NutriHub serves up a milkshake-like drink that's healthy. The low-calorie, low-sugar beverages draw many people working out at the gym a few storefronts over.

"People want something other than going to McDonald's or Taco Bell," Golumbeck said. "On Lent on Fridays, we also get a lot of people looking to avoid meat and wanting an alternative to a fish sandwich. We talk to the coaches at Andrean and Merrillville High School about sending their kids here for shakes instead of 1,500 calories of garbage."

NutriHub is looking to expand to other locations by busy gyms across Northwest Indiana, Golumbeck said. The top priority is putting a new location, possibly a standalone building, by the Planet Fitness on Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville.

The NutriHub on U.S. 30 in Merrillville is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

You may have tried Ay Chihuahua's food at various farmers' markets and summer festivals across the Region.

The third-generation family-owned Ay Chihuahua has now established a permanent brick-and-mortar residence at 142 S. Broad St. in downtown Griffith. It fills a void of Mexican cuisine in downtown Griffith created when Asada recently moved from Broad Street to a former nightclub at 45th Street in Griffith.

Owners Alexis Coronado and her mother Sandra Coronado plan to still bring their food trailer to the Griffith Central Market in Central Park and the St. John Farmers Market.

"We've been at the farmers' market in Griffith since the beginning, since it was by the railroad, for a long time," Alexis Coronado said. 

Ay Chihuahua — Spanish for yikes, or an "expression of dismay, annoyance or rejection" — has served its food at a number of festivals, including in East Chicago, Hammond and Schererville.

Known for its pork tacos and elote, the restaurant serves a variety of Mexican foods, such as tacos, tostadas, tamales, burritos and Pico de Gallo. It's a largely a la carte menu in which one can order refried beans or rice as sides.

Coronado, who has a culinary degree from Ivy Tech and a hospitality degree from Purdue University Northwest, learned to cook old family recipes that have been passed on for generations. She runs regular specials like flautas.

The brightly decorated restaurant, which is filled with taco pinatas and decorations compared to the Pixar movie "Coco," caters mainly to carry-out patrons but can seat up to 30, including up to 10 in a private room for family parties. It took over the space previously occupied by Angel Hair Cafe, a favorite among vegans, hipsters and bike riders on the Erie Lackawanna Trail.

"We didn't realize how many people bike the trail," she said. "We've heard from people who used to walk to Asada that they're glad to walk to us. I just want to stay here as long as possible, until I get old. I love to cook. I just hope people enjoy the food and the atmosphere. I hope they have a good time and are comfortable. It's a little taste of Mexico in Griffith, so you don't have to go all the way to Mexico."

Ay Chihuahua is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

A new restaurant concept has replaced The Old Lowell Watering Hole and Bub's BBQ in the historic Lowell water plant that was decommissioned in the 1990s.

The Mason Jar opened this week in the recently renovated building at 241 N. Library St. that had been home to a short-lived microbrewery.

Owner Jo Ellen Jostes said the new restaurant offers "amazing home-cooked foods" prepared by the award-winning chef Liz Corns.

"It's a family-style sit-down restaurant with homestyle cooking and a bar with 16 brews, including craft beer," she said. "We've got a lot of farm-style and antique decorations, serve beverages in mason jars, and have a salad bar."

The Mason Jar, whose menu is "Home Cookin' and Good Thymes," serves down-home fare like smoked meats, barbecue, meatloaf, fried chicken, jambalaya, pork tenderloin sandwiches, country fried steak, shrimp and grits, bone-in pork chops, catfish and lake perch. It also serves build-your-own burgers and mac and cheese bowls. A sample item is the Big Piggy sandwich, which serves pulled pork, grilled ham and bacon smothered in mustard BBQ sauce on thick parmesan-crusted toast.

A top-seller is the BBQ Pork Totchos, a spin on nachos involving tater tots and pulled pork smoked in house.

"We smoke our meats daily, sometimes a few times a day," she said. "We've got country-style ribs, brisket chili, amazingly good foods that are unique to this area. There's nothing like us in Lowell or surrounding areas."

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

The store at 5972 U.S. 6 will sell a selection of tools and accessories, including welding supplies, generators, shop equipment and power tools.

“We’re excited to serve customers in the great city of Portage,” said Calvin Singh, Harbor Freight Tools project manager. “At Harbor Freight, we’re passionate about providing our customers with the tools they need to get the job done, and always at an affordable price. We look forward to welcoming auto technicians, contractors, woodworkers, homeowners, hobbyists — anyone who needs affordable tools.”

The privately owned company was started by 17-year-old Eric Smidt in 1977 and remains privately owned to this day. Over the last four decades, Harbor Freight Tools has grown to have more than 1,000 stores nationwide and more than 20,000 employees. It's one of the fastest growing companies in the country, opening two new stores a week and serving more than 40 million customers.

Harbor Freight Tools also is developing new lines of tools and plans to introduce more than 600 new products this year.

The Portage store will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Crew Car Wash plans to open a new location soon on Lincolnway in Valparaiso, just west of the exit off Ind. 49.

The Indianapolis-based chain recently opened its first Northwest Indiana location off U.S. 30 in Merrillville, a $4.5 million facility employing about 20 workers in front of the Meijer. The 71-year-old company, spun off from Mike's Car Wash, is known for its buy-four-get-one-free specials and unlimited car wash packages.

A server dishes up a slice of deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's Pizza in Chicago. The chain is expanding to Schererville and is interested in more Northwest Indiana locations.

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria will open its first Indiana location at 36 U.S. 41 in Schererville early this summer, but the fast-growing chain known for its Chicago-style deep-dish and thin-crust pizza may expand further across Northwest Indiana.

"There is interest in continuing to expand in the area," Lou Malnati's Brand Manager Meggie Lindberg said. 

Lou Malnati's first Region location will be located in the former Gayety's Chocolate & Ice Cream in the Town Square Shopping Center at Indianapolis Boulevard and Main Street in Schererville. Don't expect to dine in.

"It will be a carry-out and delivery location, there will not be any seats," Lindberg said. "We will hire between 30 to 40 employees for this location."

Lou Malnati's carryout and delivery locations are usually open at 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m Friday through Sunday, Lindberg said. They typically close between 10 p.m. and midnight.

"Schererville is part of Chicagoland and an area we haven’t ventured," she said. "As a thriving community and a great place to raise a family, we feel it is a natural fit for us."

Schererville Town Manager Robert Volkmann said it would be one of "about 35 pizzerias" in the town, but said the chain was beloved throughout Chicagoland, where it's held up as one of the top purveyors of deep dish.

"Hopefully, it will lead them to eventually open a sit-down restaurant," he said. "Some people like to have a glass of wine with their pizza."

Schererville has managed to land both Giordano's and Lou Malnati's over the last few years because it's a regional hub for dining and entertainment, Volkmann said. 

The owner of the House of Kobe restaurants in Schererville and Merrillville plans to open Kui Korean BBQ next month at 9628 Indianapolis Blvd. in Highland.

Jerry Chang ran the Peking House there and then leased it out to Exotic Thai, which closed last year. He tore down the old building and built a new one.

Chang opened the Schererville House of Kobe in 1997 and then placed a second restaurant in Merrillville in 2001. He decided to open the 4,000-square-foot, less-than-100-seat Kui — which means grill in Korean — because there was nothing like it in the Northwest Indiana market.

"It's Korean barbecue where the food is cooked right at your table," Chang said. "A chef cooks in front of you, or guides you on to how to cook the food. It's mostly steak. It would be considered a steakhouse with a couple of seafood dishes."

"It's an interesting concept," Chang said. "We marinate the raw meat, slice it up and guide you on how to cook it. The raw meat is cut fresh-to-order and sent right out to the table. You can cook it for less time if you want it more rare. It's an atmosphere where you can have fun with family or a date."

"It's very interesting for the area," Chang said. "There's no restaurant like ours around unless you go to downtown Chicago."

If the Highland location succeeds, he may open a second restaurant, potentially near Valparaiso University in Valparaiso.

The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon until 9 p.m. Sunday.

B & B Cafe plans to take over the former Joe's Cafe spot at 1312 N. Main St. in Crown Point that previously had been home to the Cherry Tree Cafe.

New owners Brittany Walter and Brian Czerwinski plan to reopen the spot as a family diner that will serve breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. They've put in new flooring and new chairs, and repainted the outside of the building.

"We're going to have a lot of the same food, like homemade waffles, but we'll also have pasta dishes with shrimp and a lot of new soup," Walter said. "I've been working in restaurants for the last 15 years and had worked for Joe, the previous owner. It's been my dream to open a nice place that serves a good meal."

The menu at the 1,100-square-foot, 84-seat restaurant will include skillets, omelets, French toast, pancakes and biscuits and gravy. Breakfast meals will be served with hash browns, toast or fruit cups.

"It's going to be the same type of restaurant but we're going to modernize it a little bit," he said. "There's been a diner here so long. We just want a place where you can get a coffee and oatmeal. We want the same atmosphere as at your own house where you can smile and have nice food that makes you happy."

The restaurant will offer items like Chicken Parmesan, French fries, homemade coleslaw, and fish on Fridays like tilapia and perch.

"Everyone is welcome," she said. "It will be clean with a warm atmosphere and fresh food where everyone is respected as a person."

"We've spent a pretty penny to freshen everything up," Walter said. "We want everything to be new and modern and exciting. We plan to be involved in the community, to sponsor kid's teams in baseball and basketball. We want to be active, to do community fundraisers and things in the neighborhood.

JD's Resale Store is giving clothes, furniture and other used items a second chance at 5744 Central Ave. in Portage.

"We sell anything that's resellable and of good quality or good use," owner Joshua Davis said. "We're a limited liability company that's trying to be competitive with the big guys like Goodwill and Salvation Army. We're trying to help the community and make a little profit."

Davis, whose father owns a company that does cleanouts, wanted to avoid throwing away "a lot of good stuff." So he opened a 2,800-square-foot resale shop that aims to have lower price points than the bigger thrift store chains.

"Our prices are the lowest of the low," he said. "We want to help people get dressers, furniture, electronics, home improvement items, things people actually use. We have a little bit of everything and are always getting new stuff."

"When you come in, you're supporting a small business," he said. "We have two employees already. We're trying to help the community out. We're not trying to get rich. We're just trying to help people find a good deal."

The Valparaiso-based chain tore down a Family Video rental store at the corner of 45th Avenue and Colfax Street across from the Griffith-Calumet Township Branch of the Lake County Public Library.

Unlike other convenience stores, Family Express stocks many fresh items like milk, bacon, square donuts, espresso drinks and ready-to-go salads.

The Milwaukee-based chain plans to serve its East Coast-style deli sandwiches, grilled cheesesteaks, floats and shakes in a new strip mall at 10533 Broadway St, Suite A in Crown Point. Founded by cousins 47 years ago, the sub shop has a menu that's heavy on Wisconsin specialties like Sprecher Root Beer and cheese curds.

"It should open this summer. The building is now being built at 107th and Broadway," Cousins Subs Vice President of Development Joseph Ferguson said.

Cousins Subs now has more than 90 locations across Wisconsin and has been expanding aggressively into the Chicago market. Franchisees Amit Patel and Kalpesh Patel, who is a Munster resident, plans to open 40 sandwich shops across greater Chicagoland by 2025.

"It the first wave, we've got seven new restaurants opening," Ferguson said. "It should be five to eight new locations a year."

The Crown Point restaurant, which will have a drive-thru, is the only Cousins Subs location currently slated for Northwest Indiana, but Ferguson said the Patels may decide to open more in the Region.

"We look at high-density areas with a lot of traffic and retail," he said. "We like to be in multitenant buildings."

Cousins Subs Director of Operations Kevin Dinnen said the space in the strip mall under construction should be turned over to Cousins Subs in late May and the business should be ready to open sometime in July. The 1,800-square foot restaurant will open 15 to 20 workers and seat 30 to 40 customers.

"It will probably be open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.," he said. "We just opened our first Chicago location at 120 W. Madison and it's been received very well. Wisconsin transplants are very happy and other customers have been pleasantly surprised."

The Crown Point location will be Cousins Subs' first in Indiana, but the chain also is eyeing the Indianapolis, Lafayette and Fort Wayne markets, where it's actively looking for franchisees, Ferguson said.

Jorge Armando and Shelly Ann Armando, the owners of Skillet's Bistro in Highland, bought the Vegas Cafe restaurant at 800 Cedar Parkway in Schererville last year and reopened it under the slightly tweaked name of Vegas Cafe Bistro in February. The restaurant specializes in breakfast and lunch, and offers the Skillet's Bistro breakfast menu in addition to its own.

It runs many specials such as $0.99 Chicago-style hot dogs between 2:30 and 5 p.m. for Lake Central students, free pancakes for children with disabilities under the age of 12 years old, and discounts for seniors and veterans.

"It's a truly American-style cafe," he said. We offer chili every day, and lemon rice soup every day. We have daily specials like chicken stir fry or Italian. Two people can eat here for under $25, including drinks. We have the same objective as with Skillets. We want to make our customers our friends, and give them the best food, prompt service, and respect."

The bistro secured a beer and wine license and plans to start offering local beers, wine and the mimosas that are popular at Skillets. It serves Kona coffee from Hawaii, espresso that's been imported from Italy and healthy drinks like Sobe Water or watermelon juice since it's close to a few gyms.

Vegas Cafe Bistro seats about 42 inside and will add another 22 seats on an outdoor patio when it's warmer.

"We're hoping to attract people with a good summer ambiance," Jorge Armando said. "We welcome everybody here. We have a lot of specials and low prices. We want to give the community what they want. We want to be friends with our customers."

The 102-year-old Crown Theatre on the courthouse square in downtown Crown Point showed its last movie years ago, but will finally get a sequel as a performing arts center this summer.

New owner Brad Strom bought the one-screen, 497-seat movie theater at 19 N. Court St. and has been extensively renovating it for months. He added a stage for live entertainment like music, theater and stand-up comedy.

Originally slated to reopen by December, Crown Theatre just announced on Facebook it would have a grand opening celebration with food and drinks from 7 to 11 p.m. on July 20. It added a number of future events, including a comedy night, a murder mystery dinner, a disco night dance party, dueling pianos, an adult Halloween costume party, and a special screening of "The Grinch" just before Christmas. It's scheduled a jazz brunch, a princess brunch, an Elvis impersonator night, concerts with Pink Floyd cover band Echoes of Pompeii and M&R Rush, and screenings of movies like "The Sandlot," "Hocus Pocus" and "Polar Express."

The beloved 49'er Drive-In Theatre, one of the last drive-in movie theaters around, expects to reopen for the season on Friday, April 19.

Entertaining generations of Porter County residents since 1956, the outdoor movie theater is located at 675 N. Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso. Named one of the top 10 drive-ins in the country by USA Today, the 49'er offers a menu of hot dogs, hamburgers and pork fritters to enjoy in your car while watching the movie and streaming the sound in through the car radio.

The Market gathering and event venue in Valparaiso has opened a high-end cocktail lounge with small plates and desserts open after 5pm in the evenings.

The Market Gathering and Events hall in Valparaiso has opened a sophisticated craft cocktail bar with an emphasis on gin.

The trendy Market Lounge at 2405 E. Morthland Drive, the former Strongbow Inn, is whipping up cocktails including a modern interpretation of the Harvey Wallbanger with vodka, fresh orange, Galliano, mandarin marmalade and a sage leaf topping, and The Old Brooklyn, a spin on the Manhattan with bourbon, maple simple syrup, sweet vermouth, orange bitters and Luxardo cherry.

The Market also serves small plates including truffle fries and an "Adult Lunchable" charcuterie plate with Smoking Goose's Gin and Juice salame, as well as desserts like campfire s'mores served in a sealed mason jar, from which wood smoke puffs out when it's opened to evoke a sensory memory of a campfire.

"We opened a portion of the restaurant space as a cocktail lounge and pulled from some of the cooler hotel lobbies and lounges we've been to," owner Jay Rudy said. "We wanted a place where people can have a nice drink and hang out with friends. It's gin-focused because that's what we like to drink. We juice all of our citrus, use fresh premium ingredients and proper technique. There's technique and artistry to what we create."

The 21+ non-smoking lounge aims at a relaxing vibe with comfy leather couches, chess boards, and an arcade game that lets people play many different vintage games.

Rudy, along with Corey and Blair Muro, who also run Tomato Bar and Ricochet Tacos, took over the Strongbow space by U.S. 30 and Ind. 49 in 2016 after Luke Oil had made a last-ditch effort the save the legendary turkey dinner restaurant, a Region institution for more than 75 years. The new owners initially had a contemporary southern restaurant at the site, but shifted focus to weddings, banquets and other special events.

"We wanted to open it up more to the public and get people excited," Rudy said. "This will get more interaction than we do as an event hall."

A light food menu focuses on shareable plates, such as truffle tries, artichoke dip, duck confit on focaccia bread and veggie spring rolls. It offers different Adult Lunchables with a variety of cured meats, like the lamb Gin and Juice and Stagberry elk with blueberry; fancy cheeses like Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog and Beehive Cheese Teahive. The Adult Lunchable also comes with peppadew peppers, fried chickpeas, maple mustard and warm baguette.

"We've got a lot of cool stuff that goes beyond typical bar fare. We don't have any entrees but we have enough plates to make a meal," Rudy said. "They're super-shareable plates you can share with a group of people. You can just hang out with your friends with no hassle of feeling you have to leave after finishing a meal."

In addition to cocktails, including The Last Word, comprised of Hendrick's Gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and lime juice, The Market Lounge offers a selection of 10 craft beers on draft, including beers from Lagunitas, Revolution, War Pigs and Upland.

It seats about 50 people inside and will have a patio and live music. The room can be rented out for private parties and corporate functions and for weddings. 

"Any wedding that ends in the grand hall also can continue the party there while it remains open to the public," Rudy said. "The ambiance is definitely modern. It's a nice setting, very intimate, with really comfy couches and armchairs."

The Market will be open from 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday but will stay open later if it is busy enough.

The treatment facility for those suffering from kidney failure is located in a new 9,000-square-foot building in the Main Street Downtown Corridor. The city and a developer partnered to replace an abandoned building in a $5 million redevelopment project. The new kidney care center was built on what had been a brownfield site.

Ashley Furniture HomeStore took over the big-box store formerly occupied by H.H. Gregg and Borders in the Highland Grove shopping center in Highland.

The furniture retailer had a grand opening for its new showroom at 10135 Indianapolis Blvd. Saturday.

The store sells a variety of home decor, rugs, accessories and, of course, furniture, including sofas, mattresses and full bedroom sets. The Wisconsin-based retailer sells Ashley Furniture-brand products at more than 700 locations nationwide, including at 1550 E. Lincoln Highway in Merrillville.

The boutique shop is now located at 12615 Wicker Ave. 2 Old Goats sells repurposed antiques, women's clothing, vintage items, jewelry, candles, Dixie Belle Chalk Paints, man-cave essentials, gourmet specialty food and locally made artisan goods, including from Mother Wilma’s, Smudge’s Organics, The Gourmet Goddess and Wooden Jacket.

2 Old Goats teaches painting classes, and owner Abbey Sylvester said many events and workshops were coming up.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 219-390-7183 or find the business on Facebook.

Tri-town residents will have a harder time finding jerk chicken now that Phil's Caribbean Cuisine has shuttered its Schererville location.

The Jamaican restaurant opened in 2017 at 2330 Cline Ave. in a strip mall just south of U.S. 30 by Van Tobel. The 50,000-square-foot restaurant space, which replaced the Sal y Limon Mexican restaurant, had 60 seats and was extensively renovated by Phil's owners.

Fans of Caribbean dishes like curry chicken, beef oxtail and bone-in whole red snapper can still try Montego Bay Grille in downtown Hobart or the Cool Runnings restaurant and food truck in Michigan City.

The short-lived take-out restaurant served Italian beef, tacos, fried chicken, Philly cheese steaks, meatball sandwiches and other fast-food fare at 105 N. Broad St.

Battista's Artisan Pizzeria has swooped in to take over the restaurant space recently vacated by Mattioli’s Pizza in the Hall of Justice building in downtown Crown Point. 

Chef Joe Gaal, the owner of the acclaimed Sage Restaurant in downtown Valparaiso, plans to open a Neopolitan and alla Romana gourmet pizza place, which will grow all its herbs hydroponically inside the building and handmake all its sourdough.

Gaal's "chic + casual" Sage is a trattoria that specializes in homemade pastas and American-Italian fusion cuisine. It's so classy that Google describes it as classy when you Google it.

"The nice thing is we can cook whatever we like there," he said. "But we have favorites that if we took off the menu people would throw bricks through the window. If I took the chicken marsala off the menu, I would fear for my life every time I went to my car."

At his new venture at 220 S. Main St. in Crown Point, Gaal hopes to introduce diners to more European styles of pizza. His second restaurant is named after his mother, whose maiden name is Battista.

"The pizza we have here in this country is basically Italian-American," he said. "It's New York-style pizza everyone's accustomed to. In Italy, there are a couple of different styles. There's alla Romana with the thin crispy crusts, and Naples-style with the big wood-fired crust. We'll be offering both Naples-style and alla Romana."

"It will be old world meets the new world," he said. "We do a classic Margherita and a classic buffalo Margherita with buffalo mozzarella. We'll also do a Cluck Cluck Boom, where the cluck cluck is chicken and the boom is lightly pickled banana peppers."

Gaal plans to smoke chicken, porchetta, pork shoulders and other meats that will be served on the pizza or with cheese on charcuterie plates. Basil, oregano and other fresh herbs will be grown hydroponically on-site. A major focus will be on the crust.

"Artisanal means you work with your hands," he said. "We'll be making dough with sourdough, the world's oldest bread that dates back to ancient Egypt. We're going to let the dough ferment for at least 30 hours. It's the old way of making it that brings more flavor. It gives the dough the chances to be alive and express itself. The yeast is alive, and the longer you ferment it, the more complex and bigger the flavor is. It takes hours and hours to master a living dough."

"I've been doing this for 25 years and you have to have a passion for it," he said. "There's a right way to make things and a wrong way. You have to never stop learning, and dive into the studying. If you give your heart to it and have a passion for it, people notice."

He plans to source many ingredients from local farmers and farmer's markets. He makes the sauce with tomatoes picked at their peak of ripeness, with salt and olive oil, but no sugar.

The 2,800-square foot restaurant will seat 48 initially and another 60 when the back room is opened later. It will employ 10 people and offer outdoor dining in the summer.

The South Side native always wanted to run a pizza restaurant and got the opportunity to do so when he found out the Mattioli’s space was opening up.

"The pizza stars aligned," he said. "It's a historic building and when you walk in it's like a corner on Italy, where you're walking down the street to a trattoria. Then you walk through a door and cross through the old world into the new world. At least I hope people will see it this way. It's like an alleyway in Italy and then you enter a more modern space we've been renovating."

Battista's Artisan Pizzeria will offer a featured pizza of the month, calzones, salads, espresso and desserts like tiramisu and cannoli. It will offer Italian wines, craft beers and imported Peroni, and cocktails.

"We'll have all the popular varietals and estate origin wines," he said. "The wine selection will be rotating and the wines won't break the bank. There won't be any $13 wine pours. We also plan to educate people with wine classes, bread-making classes, hands-on stuff."

Battista's Artisan Pizzeria will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The California-based chain plans to open a new store next to Big Lots in the Portage Commons Shopping Center on U.S. 6, in the heart of the city's retail trade area.

Harbor Freight Tools purports to sell "quality tools at ridiculously low prices." It carries a selection of more than 7,000 tools that range "from hand tools and generators, to air and power tools, from shop equipment to automotive tools."

The family-owned chain has more than 1,000 locations across the country and has served more than 40 million customers since it was founded 42 years ago.

The 15,000-square-foot store at 5972 US Highway 6 is tentatively slated to open April 16, with a grand opening in May.

Belle Tire, a Michigan-based premium tire and auto care shop, will soon open new stores in Valparaiso and Merrillville.

Spokeswoman Sawyer Lipari said the Valparaiso store will open in a newly constructed building on Porters Vale Boulevard in September, and employ around 20, who will be hired locally.

"Belle Tire believes there is a lot of opportunity in the market, and the company can offer premium tire and auto services to the community," she said. "Belle Tire is planning to open a store in Merrillville as well, with its next closest store already located Michigan City, which has been open for two years now." 

Debbie’s Dresses in Whiting is closing after 42 years. Debbie Manderino has run the prom dress shop at 1828 Indianapolis Boulevard.

The business opened in 1977 when Manderino got a $1,000 loan from her mother. It became known for its bright purple awning and eye-catching window displays. The boutique “exploded into one of the most highly trafficked special-occasion destinations in the Region, outfitting thousands of girls a year with the perfect dress for their high school proms and formals.”

“Debbie’s has been the absolute joy of my life,” Debbie Manderino said. “But all good things must come to an end. And I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life. A chapter with more palm trees.”

The pancake house and diner at 1312 N. Main St. in Crown Point closed for good because of the death of the owner.

“Due to the passing of Joe Sila, his cafe has closed effective immediately,” a sign posted on the front door said. “We apologize for the abrupt nature but we know you understand given the circumstances.”

The cafe, only open for breakfast and dinner, was known for burgers, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, ethnic fare and endless cups of coffee.

Most people are streaming movies via Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Crackle or other streaming services.

Oasis Video at 8231 Hohman Ave in Munster, the town's last video store, went the way of VHS and disappeared.

The owners of Beverly Shore's Hobgoblin, a high-end liquor store with an emphasis on wine, kept hearing the same complaints about how the lakefront beach community in Duneland lacked anywhere to grab coffee, breakfast or groceries.

So Dawn Huston decided to open the Goblin and the Grocer at 1 W. Dunes Highway in Beverly Shores. It's a cafe, restaurant and wine bar with a deli and market that sells charcuterie, fancy cheeses and other picnic items that could be taken in a basket to the nearby beach.

"We've been working for two years now," she said. "It's a brand new structure. It's about six weeks out now. It's going to be unique. It's not going to be so expensive that you feel you can't come often. We'll also be offering acoustic bands on a weekly basis." 

The 3,600-square-foot building will include a coffee shop that serves a variety of coffee and espresso drinks throughout the day, as well as breakfast sandwiches, pastries, muffins, bagels and waffles. It will pour java made with locally roasted beans from Smalltown Coffee in Crown Point. Customers will be encouraged to hang out.

"For people at their beach homes, they can come in and bring in their computer," she said. "You can get away from your family and your husband for a little change of pace." 

A full deli will specialize in cured meats like prosciutto and jamón, and serve up charcuterie plates that could be noshed on with a glass of wine.

"It will have international cheeses, smoked salmon, chicken salad, things you can gather in a basket and take to the beach," Huston said. "Oh, and there will always be fresh bread."

"We'll bring in a Spanish guitarist," he said. "We'll of course have wine dinners with pairings and have a partnership with the liquor store where if you taste something you like you can pop across the street to buy a bottle."

The restaurant will serve a gastropub-like menu of small plates of modern American cuisine. It will feature a chef-driven seasonal menu with moderately priced items like crab cakes, chopped salads, shepherd's pie, and shrimp cocktail. Huston is bringing in a chef from Chicago who can't be named yet.

"We're going to source as much locally as we can, from local farms and purveyors," she said. "There will be no fried food. There's so much barbecue and fried food along the beachfront, but this neighborhood is filled with hikers, bikers, cyclists and bird watchers. We feel like they don't really go together. We'll focus on more healthy food." 

The restaurant will be able to seat about 90 in a cozy interior with two fireplaces, as well as another 50 or 60 outside in the summer, where there will be live music performances.

"It's gorgeous," she said. "It's up on the dunes. You can't see the beach but it's near the entrance and has a beachy feel like you're on vacation. It's a coastal atmosphere."

In addition to filling voids in Beverly Shores, Huston hopes to draw visitors "from Miller Beach to Long Beach," as well as people heading up to Lake Michigan to go boating or to the beach. It's in a high-profile location by the Beverly Shores Depot Museum and Art Gallery.

The Goblin and the Grocer name comes from a Hans Christian Andersen story about a goblin who must choose whether to save a poet or a grocer from a house fire.

"It's about how you do what you're passionate about and keep yourself fed," she said. "How do you do your life's work and keep feeding? The goblin falls madly in love with the poet but goes to the grocer to eat. He's faced with a choice of which to save, but in the end they both survive."

The Hasta La Vista Eatery has opened in the One Best Life at Tinker's Attic art gallery and music venue at 2513 Highway Ave. in Highland.

Susan Crouch opened the art gallery in downtown Highland about five years ago, where she sells the work of about 25 artists. It's become a popular destination for open mic nights, poetry readings and art classes. 

"Art and music appeal to a certain niche of people," she said. "But everybody needs to eat. We're looking to break down barriers and show what a melting pot Northwest Indiana is by serving international food to appeal to a diverse population of people."

The Hasta La Vista name has nothing to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous one-liner from "Terminator 2." 

"It means see you again," she said. "It's an endearment that's consistent with living one's best life and being happy with yourself."

The chef-driven menu will feature a variety of foods like cajun sausage, Thai chicken soup, rustic tomato bisque, blackened catfish, lasagna, steak, $5 hamburgers and grilled pork tacos with mango salsa. Tuesdays will feature barbecue and live blues music.

"The food leans healthy and really is a melting pot," she said. "It's fine food but in a laid-back atmosphere where you can be really comfy and make yourself at home."

The restaurant can seat about 48 people. It will tailor orders to meet particular diets, such as vegan, low sodium or keto.

"If anyone has diabetes or any health issues, we can make anything around their dietary limitations," she said. "We have a good older crowd that comes in to listen to the music and we want to cater to them."

Crouch said the eatery will have a family-friendly atmosphere where musicians are often jamming on the small stage. It will sell beverages such as cappuccino, coffee, espresso, pop, water and fruit juices, as well as lighter fare like muffins, brownies, and fresh-made yogurt.

Hasta La Vista Eatery will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and by appointment, as well as for special musical performances on Sundays.

The family-owned pizzeria at 220 S. Main St. in downtown Crown Point closed indefinitely after four years.

"Four years ago my family and I started with nothing but a pizza pan, a recipe and a dream," owner Rick Mattioli posted on Facebook. "What it turned into was some of the most challenging, and rewarding, experiences of my life. The business and personal relationships I’ve formed over the years will continue to impact and influence me for the rest of my days. Unfortunately, due to multiple unforeseen circumstances, I have to let that dream fade once again back into the ether."

"I would like to personally thank all my customers for taking a chance on a small out-of-the way pizzeria in a basement," he said. "And thank you to all my family, friends and employees who supported me and helped me deliver pizzas, prep the food, and for slaving in 95-degree heat just to serve slices out of a tent to an eager crowd. Those miserable days truly were some of the happiest days of my life."

“White Castle has been part of the Chesterton community since 2003,” White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram said. “We know that our restaurants play a daily part in the lives of many community members and we’re excited to re-welcome them to this Castle.”

“We’re thrilled to be once again serving delicious sliders to Chesterton cravers, and we’re thankful for our amazing team members who worked at nearby locations while this one was temporarily closed,” Ingram said.

Abbiocco Italian Cuisine plans to bring Chicago-caliber Italian fine dining to Chesterton, drawing on a rich family heritage that includes the famous John's Restaurant & Pizzeria in Calumet City and Ciao Bella in Schererville.

A sister business, the rooftop bar Luna Kitchen + Cocktails, will open above it in a new building that's under construction at 600 Gateway Boulevard in Chesterton. It will have a retractable rooftop so it can be used year-round and in inclement weather.

A group that includes Agostino Femminella, the grandson of former John's Pizzeria cook Agostino "Gus" Femminella, and Ciao Bella owner Joe Scalzo are opening the 9,000-square-foot eatery that will seat up to 350 diners.

"We wanted a new place for Chesterton that's different and exciting," Femminella said. "In Italian, abbiocco means to feel fulfilled after having a great meal. It's going to be traditional Italian cuisine with a twist on it. And there will be a rooftop bar with small plates where people 21 and older can go to relax. It will be a little bit more casual with small plates, shareable appetizers and comfort food. It will be a little more American."

Abbiocco hired Chicago chef Josh Ramirez to serve as its executive chef. He's worked at Quartino Ristorante, Bar Siena and Custom House Tavern in the city and will craft a chef-driven menu for the new restaurant, which also may serve some Ciao Bella favorites.

The menu will include pasta, pizza, steak, seafood and daily specials, sampling different regional cuisines from across Italy.

"We want a place where everyone, whether white collar or blue collar, can feel welcome and comfortable and enjoy their meal," Femminella said. "We'll provide some live entertainment, mostly on the roof. You can come for a fine dining experience or to watch the game by the bar."

They expect it will be a draw from neighboring towns since it will be located just off Ind. 49 and the Indiana Toll Road, by AJ's Pizza.

Construction should be complete by the end of April. Abbiocco and Luna Kitchen then plan to hire about 30 to 40 employees and be open by early June, Femminella said.

"My family has been in the restaurant business for a long time," he said. "My grandfather came here from Italy and one of his first jobs was at John's in Calumet City. We want to give people a good, fun experience."

Yes, the pun is a reference to bundt cakes, the European-style ring-shaped cakes that are baked in bundt pans.

Valerie Warnell and Tammy Oliver, friends of 25 years, opened the franchise bakery at 69 U.S. 41. The pair has some personal history.

“We have been friends since our kids were little and now we have eight children and five grandchildren amongst us,” Warnell said.

The Dallas-based chain was founded in 1997 and now has 292 bakeries across North America. The Schererville bakery is its fourth in Indiana and 20th in the Chicago metropolitan area.

It sells bundt cakes made with eggs, butter and cream cheese in four sizes, 40 unique designs, and 10 flavors.

“Bundt cakes mean happiness and we can’t wait to spread joy in our community," Oliver said. "To be able to do it with my dear friend is frosting on the cake."

Nothing Bundt Cake is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Dry Goods will open at the Southlake Mall in Hobart during the first week of March, mall Marketing Director Kristi Jackson said.

"They are a national chain that sells women’s apparel," Jackson said. "They are located on the upper level near JCPenney."

Dry Goods started as an actual old-fashioned dry goods store, selling textiles and sundries in Davenport, Iowa in 1872. It now sells modern women's fashions at more than 40 mostly mall-based stores across the Midwest, including five in Indiana and nine in Illinois.

The Iowa-based retailer sells dresses, sweaters, jackets, T-shirts, rompers, kimonos, skirts, shorts, pants, jeans, jewelry, bathing suits, and accessories.

Harold's Chicken Shack, the legendary South Side Chicago fried chicken restaurant, is eyeing a Michigan City location.

Signs posted in the window of a storefront at 11th and Franklin streets in downtown Michigan City say a Harold's is coming soon.

The fast food and takeout chain is widely celebrated for its southern-style fried chicken, which is often dipped in mild or hot sauce. Harold's has Northwest Indiana locations in Gary, Hammond, Merrillville and Dyer, which an article in Chicago Magazine claimed was the second best Harold's in a ranking many South Siders disputed.

Caring Hearts Adult Day Care opened in Portage to take care of people who are physically or emotionally impaired.

The business at 3391 Airport Road watches over and provides two meals a day to clients who currently range from 21 years old to 94 years old. They are taken care of in a family-home environment during the day, while their caretakers are at work.

“Our staff of caregivers is most patient, kind and understanding when it provides for the activities and entertainment of its charges,” owner Karen Ruiz said. “Virtually all efforts are made to make certain that the client is active and comfortable.”

Caring Hearts Adult Day Care accepts insurance, Medicaid waivers, and direct payments to take care of adults, such as quadriplegics or those who suffer from multiple sclerosis. They get access to nurses, beauticians, and podiatrists, and go on occasional field trips.

“We are happy to provide a place, comfort and opportunity for any person with disabling impairments to feel loved and comfortable,” Manager Rebecca Ames said.

The straightforwardly named Booze Liquors at 820 W. 61st Ave. in Merrillville was acquired by a new owner and renamed Party Liquors #1. It continues to be a liquor store that sells booze, as the old name implied.

"Rivich Enterprises has been in business for 34 years in Northwest Indiana and Chicago," owner Rebecca Rivich said. "We work on location liquidating people's things of value, such as better antiques and quality jewelry, art and designer items — through estate sales and auction."

The pop-up shop runs through the end of March, but then must close because the property is being redeveloped.

The gyro stand closed in August because the city of Hobart plans to demolish the Clock Tower Plaza where it was located. The demolition is part of a project to rebuild the East 3rd Street Bridge over Lake George. So the gyro place relocated a few blocks away, to a much larger location at 524 E. 3rd St. in Hobart, where it's more than doubled its staff to nine employees.

Formerly a small carryout restaurant, Brickies Gyros acquired and moved into a building formerly occupied by the Old Stove meat market and deli, which closed about four years ago, and the Mauer's Hospitality Room, a banquet hall that closed more than a decade ago. Brickies Gyros now has 60 seats.

"Before, customers could only sit outside on a picnic bench by the lake," owner Wendy Race said. "Now we have a lot of seating."

Brickies Gyros also gained a much larger kitchen that lets it run regular specials in addition to its usual offerings of Chicagoland staples including gyros, hot dogs, Italian beef, Italian sausage and meatball sandwiches. Specials that prove popular, like the pot roast sandwich, get added to the regular menu.

The restaurant has been in downtown Hobart for more than six years, and Race acquired it about four years ago, looking for a change of pace from being a Realtor.

"It's my whole life," she said. "It's all I do. I get up in the morning and go shopping for the restaurant. It's a full-time job. Then I go home and go to bed."

Race spent months renovating the new building, which has been decorated with nostalgic Brickie memorabilia, both of the city and Hobart High School. The restaurant now keeps a pot of chili going, has rolled out all-day delivery, and has snagged a three-way liquor license to help boost evening business.

"We can offer Long Island iced teas, margaritas, and reasonable bucket specials," Race said. "You can come in for a sandwich and have a glass of beer or wine with your hamburger. It's still a family-friendly restaurant where kids can come for cheese fries after school; it's just now more people can get a beer if they want."

About once a month, Brickies Gyros will host acoustic musicians or other live entertainers, like stand-up comedy or trivia contests. It plans to offer a family fun night every Tuesday with face-painting, balloons and other activities for kids.

"It's a lot nicer than the old place," she said. "Everything is made-to-order and reasonably priced."

A grand opening celebration will take place from 4:30 to 10 p.m. Feb. 28. There will be a pig roast with $8.99 plates of roast pork, potatoes, soup and salads. In the evening, Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor will make remarks and the country and classic rock band Nawty will play. 

The 118-year-old Fort Wayne-based bakery chain opened a store at 8280 Mississippi St. in Merrillville, in a former Tire Barn Warehouse across from the Southlake Mall, in 2015. It sold an array of whole-grain bread, buns, rolls, English muffins, bagels and muffins.

The company also operates a commercial bakery in Lowell, making hamburger and hot dog buns that are sold at grocery stores under the Aunt Millie's brand name. It cranks out as many as 69,600 buns per hour. The facility opened in 2017, employs an estimated 117 workers, and serves the greater Chicago area.

Munster resident Julie Kapteyn enjoys going to pop-up craft and artisan markets like The Fetching Market.

She wished there were someplace one could go at any time to find handmade goods, so she opened a shop herself, naming it after the Bible quote "consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin."

Consider the Lilies Giftery at 8237 Forest Ave. in Munster sells handcrafted work from more than 50 vendors. Most of them are local and within an hour's drive, but some hail from as far away as Kenya and Indianapolis.

The store sells jewelry, home decor, handbags, baby items, teddy bears, dolls, soup, candles and leather journals. Vendors include the Flannel Candle Co., Poppies Candles & Gifts, Bird and Bear Dolls, Tiddleywink Toffee, the Gourmet Goddess and Mother Wilma's Marshmallow Factory

"We have a real variety," she said. "I always want to open a little shop. I would go to popup markets, meet the vendors and see what they make. I was inspired by their passion and talent."

Kapteyn, who repurposes furniture for her own enjoyment, said the boutique was a place to find one-of-a-kind gifts.

"I have a lot of repeat customers," she said. "There are a lot of great artisans in the area. It's a place to find unique things and gifts. The work of the artisans makes the store what it is. It's a great way to shop small and local."

The store is currently open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The company, which was founded in Detroit in 1922, has more than 90 locations across Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, including one in Michigan City.

Belle Tire President Don Barnes III told the trade publication Tire Review that the chain planned to open another 17 stores this year, mostly in the Indianapolis area, but including the store in Valparaiso.

The recently opened El Poblano Mexican Restaurant at 7600 Broadway in Merrillville just got a three-way liquor license that lets it sell beer, wine and liquor, owner Javier Paredes said.

The traditional Mexican restaurant that takes pride in its carne asada has started selling domestic and imported beers, sangria and a variety of margaritas in the former Delta Restaurant space. 

Evanston-based Extended Care acquired the 216-bed facility of HCR Manor Care in South Holland for an undisclosed sum and rebranded it as  the South Holland Manor Health & Rehab Center.

“With the addition of this former Manor Care facility to our roster, our world class services will now be available to the South Holland community,” said Dina Gallo, regional director of business development for Extended Care. “Our goal is to offer the full spectrum of health and rehabilitation services throughout the health care continuum in the south suburbs. ”

The facility offers recovery and rehabilitation care to both long-term residents and people who were recently discharged from the hospital.

“We can now promise the services, support, expertise and training from one of the largest and most complete post-acute health care teams to the people of the Chicagoland region, yet deliver it with the same ‘neighbors caring for neighbors’ community approach that will make these locations so special,” she said.

A new Thai and sushi restaurant by the Valparaiso University campus aims to bring a taste of Thai cuisine to Valparaiso.

Thailand native Ittaya Kolasa and her husband Richard Kolasa opened Kin Khao Thai & Sushi at 607 Lincolnway Thursday. It's the second Thai and sushi restaurant to come to Valparaiso in the last three years, after Bangkok Thai and Sushi opened at 2103 Calumet Ave. on the north side of town in 2016.

"My wife loves to cook," Richard Kolasa said. "She wanted to bring some of her culture from her country that might not have been present. It's true authentic Thai food that supports the values of Thailand and the owner's nationality."

The 40-seat restaurant serves Thai food such as Pad Thai, curries, pho, fish soup and a "Three Kings" dish that includes a lobster tail, giant prawns and scallops. It hopes to add sushi in a few weeks and is in the process of trying to hire a sushi chef from Thailand.

Diners will be able to watch the sushi chef at work up close at a traditional sushi bar that sits up to six people.

The business offers Thai teas and coffees, green tea, and soft drinks, and is applying for beer and wine permits.

Kin Khao Thai & Sushi is located in the space of the former Greenwich Terrace Cafe, an American-style restaurant and coffee shop with live jazz that closed in 2014. The new owners invested about $70,000 in renovating the building, leaving up a historic mural depicting Valparaiso in the 19th century.

The 1,300-square-foot restaurant will employ five people at first. It has an outdoor patio that can accommodate 20 diners. Live entertainment is planned outside, including Thai dancing and karaoke.

"We're going after the university crowd," Richard Kolasa said. "Many college kids don't have cars and could walk here or get it delivered."

Kin Khao plans to offer delivery itself and through online platforms like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash. It will also try to draw a lunch crowd with $9 lunch specials.

"Our long-term goal is to keep this family-owned restaurant up and going as long as we can," he said. "Taste of Thailand was in Chesterton for at least 20 years, and we want to be like that."

The owners of Vegas Cafe in Schererville sold their business on Indianapolis Boulevard to Skillets in Highland, and have since opened Vegas Baby at 213 N. Broad St. in Griffith.

Unaffiliated with the It's Vegas Baby nightclub at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Vegas Baby replaces the short-lived Zuchez Restaurant and Bar in Griffith, which opened and closed in a few months last year. 

Vegas Baby is a breakfast and lunch restaurant by day, and a bar and nightclub by night. It seats up to 300 and has a large dance floor in the bar area. 

Valentina Mitreska and Mike Petrovic  opened the 6,000-square-foot establishment, which is three times as big as the their former Vegas Cafe in Schererville.

The new place has a different menu that includes all-you-can-eat fish fries on Fridays, stuffed peppers, beef stew, Greek salad and the Serbian sausage cevapi. Vegas Baby has a three-way liquor license that allows it to sell beer, wine and spirits, and will have live DJs and dancing every Friday and Saturday night.

"Local people have to go to Chicago to go dancing or meet someone," Mitreska said. "There's nothing like that here, so we wanted a place where people can go and get on the dance floor. You can't find a nightclub here. Most bars are sports bars."

Vegas Baby maintained the Las Vegas theme of their previous restaurant and also has raffles for prizes.

"We love Vegas. We love going to shows," Metreska said. "I love dancing and music and entertainment. My passion has always been music and entertainment. There are good times in Vegas and we are trying to have a Vegas experience here to make people happy. It's a Vegas kind of atmosphere."

Vegas Baby is open as a restaurant from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The bar and nightclub is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday.

The restaurant, known for its Polish sausage, pierogi and golubki, relocated to a new location in East Chicago's Roxanna neighborhood that's "just a 30-second drive east of the old place," Big Frank's posted on Facebook.

Big Frank's is now serving up its hearty Polish cuisine at 918 Carrol St., not far from the South Shore Line train station.

Started in 2011, the old school Polish eatery also is a staple at the Region's summer festivals, including last year's inaugural Kielbasa Fest at Kosciuszko Park in East Chicago.

Spokeswoman Alexa Kavanaugh said the 2,700-square-foot restaurant seats up to 64 people and has a drive-through. The St. Louis-based chain is best known for its "charbroiled thickburgers," including the once-popular but discontinued half-pound Six Dollar Thickburger. 

The Hardee's will be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

The Columbus, Ohio-based Express Clothing located an outlet store at 134 Indianapolis Blvd. between Old Navy and Bath and Body Works near the retail-heavy and highly trafficked intersection of Main Street and Indianapolis Boulevard.

The clothing retailer started out as Limited Express in Chicago's Water Tower Place in 1980, and now has more than 600 locations worldwide, including an Express store at Southlake Mall and an Express Factory Outlet that opened in the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in Michigan City in 2017. The retailer sells both women's and men's apparel and accessories like jewelry, sunglasses, belts and handbags.

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.

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.

"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.

"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."

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."

"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."

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

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."

Many fans of traditional Mexican food were bummed out when the beloved Memo's Taco Mex restaurant closed in Highland last fall.

But another Mexican place with a cult following plans to take over the 40-seat eatery at 2128 45th St. in Porte De L'eau Plaza.

Fat Burrito, which has been stuffing Crown Point residents since 2012, is renovating the restaurant space and hoping to open its second location within the next few months.

Co-owners Ben Parades Rojas and David Huetra De Jesus have been looking to expand for some time because of the brisk business at the original location at 1302 N. Main St. in Crown Point. De Jesus said they hoped to open the Highland Fat Burrito in a few months, possibly as soon as March, but that a lot of renovation still needed to be done.

"We're going to have to do some work in it," he said. "We don't know the date we're going to open yet."

Fat Burrito serves a variety of Mexican fare but is especially known for its huge namesake Mission-style burritos made with a 16-inch tortilla, melted cheese and red or green sauce on the top. They are indeed fat and not for the faint of appetite.

Also in Mexican restaurant news, Asada Grill & Cantina has completed its move from the former Niko's Steak and Seafood just south of downtown Griffith to the much larger former Zuni's House of Pizza at 2907 W. 45th St. in Highland, a short distance from the Griffith border.

The popular Mexican eatery has been working on the big move since last spring and recently passed final inspections with the town. It's going from a cozy 120-seat space it had been leasing to a much more spacious 250-seat restaurant with a 50-person party room.

Asada has been ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the state of Indiana by Yelp reviewers and offers an extensive wine selection to pair with items like whole tilapia and skirt steak.

The grill and cantina is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The popular Tuscan-style Italian trattoria Ciao Bella Ristorante at 1514 U.S. 41 in Schererville was closed for a few days early last week, alarming some. Diners showed up to find a darkened storefront and a sign saying it was closed for maintenance.

Munster Donut, the beloved 24/7 donut shop on Calumet Avenue in Munster, suffered from a similar issue. It closed in anticipation of the -50 windchill Wednesday and remained closed Friday.

"So sorry, we will not be able to open tonight," Munster Donut posted on Facebook Thursday. "We are having issues with the pipes. Please check back for updates. Thank you for your understanding."

Action Water has been serving Valparaiso by providing water softeners, reverse osmosis systems and bottled water delivery since 2005, and just recently opened its first retail storefront at 316 N 325 E Unit 2 in Valparaiso.

The water treatment company specializes in environmentally safe water filtration systems for homes, offices and restaurants, though the bulk of its business is residential. It delivers water softeners, salt for water softening and five-gallon water cooler jugs across Porter County, with a focus of the Valparaiso area because of the hard water there.

Action Water is owned by Doug Edwards, who has 15 years of experience in the business. Action Water offers free in-home water tests to potential customers.

"We treat well water and city water," manager Torrey Mullins said. "The water in Valparaiso is is between 20 and 25 grains per gallon. It's two to three times as hard as Portage city water, so we have a lot of business in Valpo."

For more information, call 219-299-8273, visit www.actionwatersolutions.com or find the business on Facebook.

The fast food burger chain Hardee's plans to open a new restaurant at 5223 Franklin St. in Michigan City, and is now hiring crew members.

The St. Louis-based chain is known for its charboiledthickburgers, hand-breaded chicken tenders and for its habit of garnishing specialty burgers with piles of pastrami, pulled pork and other meats.

Hardee's, which once courted controversy with racy television ads aimed at its young male demographic, has multiple locations across central and northeast Indiana. It once had restaurants in Merrillville, Portage and Rensselaer, but they have all closed.

All Starz Barbershop and Beauty Salon has consolidated its Hobart and Lake Station locations into a larger space in the former Paulie's Billiards at 3653 N. Hobart Road in Hobart. It's centrally located between its two former sites.

"Our new location is 2,800 square feet," owner Andrew Concepcion said. "The previous locations were both 1,300 square feet, so this is bigger than both of them."

"We offer modern cuts with a twist, everything from conservative to urban, all styles, all the latest trends," Concepcion said.

All Starz expanded to Lake Station about five or six years ago and built up a loyal clientele there, but Concepcion wanted a single larger location so the barber shop and beauty salon could better serve its clientele.

"We're very busy and it was wearing down our staff if we had one or two people missing," he said. "By putting it together, we have 10 barbers on any given day. We can serve our customers better and it's lighter on us. The flow's a lot better and the wait's not as long. We do recommend appointments at least a day in advance, but also take walk-ins."

All Starz is open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. It's closed on Sundays.

A new smoothie and juice bar on U.S. 30 in Valparaiso hopes to give residents on the south side of the city some healthier options.

The tropical-themed Island Nutrition Smoothies & More recently opened at 1675 Morthland Drive in Valparaiso.

Owner Scott Milligan said his smoothie and juice bar offers only clean, natural, non-GMO foods. It sells smoothies like a Strawberry Slam, Mango Crusher, Key Lime Sublime, and Berry, Berry Good. Juices include the Beet It Up, Kale Krusher, Citrus Coast, Sunrise Delight and Purple Rain with red cabbage, lime and apples.

Island Nutrition also offers detox drinks, pre- and post-workout drinks, low-calorie meal replacements and lifestyle shakes like the Banilla, made with banana, vanilla, vanilla whey protein and unsweetened almond milk. 

"What inspired me was the need for healthier options," Milligan said. "I felt there was nothing like this on the south side of Valparaiso."

Smoothies and juices are the top sellers, but Island Nutrition also offers kombucha, CBD, supplements like protein powders, and healthy snacks like a smoothie granola bowl. A light food menu includes salads and sandwiches.

"There's quite a few choices to grab and go," Milligan said. "We've it set up with a tropical vibe and the colors of Key West that are warm and inviting. We want people to feel good about themselves and have fun."

Island Nutrition targets those who want to eat healthy, and its customers thus far have included high school students, busy mothers, blue-collar workers and business professionals, Milligan said.

"I want people to be happy with the choices that they make, to do something that's right for the community," he said. "It's just a healthier choice than the fast-food options out there. There's a lot of hustle and bustle, so it's nice when there's a healthy choice that's also convenient."

A ribbon-cutting with the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce and an educational seminar about CBD are tentatively slated for Feb. 15.

For more information, call 219-242-8773, visit islandnutritionsmoothie.com, or find Island Nutrition on Facebook.

"We are a personal training and small training studio where we work one-on-one, or in small group training sessions," said owner Luke Strain, a longtime personal trainer who has struck out on his own. "I've worked at quite a few big-box gyms, as you would call them. Our studio lets clients feel secure in a semiprivate setting where they're getting personalized attention from a trainer, and not distracted by gym traffic."

Strain and his wife Kayla Strain relocated their five-year-old fitness studio to the 4,400-square-foot facility with state-of-the-art equipment, a garage door and ample outdoor space for fresh-air training. They offer fitness training to a wide array of clients, including athletes in youth sports and seniors going through rehabilitation after surgery.

"We just needed more space," he said. "It's much more conducive to having more trainers under one roof, and we've been able to make good use of the garage door."

Valpo TruFit trains high-level athletes with power plates, vibration platforms, kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, sleds, Jacob's Ladders and state-of-the-art equipment.

Training sessions range from a half hour for personal sessions to 45 minutes for group sessions. Group training is limited to 12 people to ensure quality.

The studio helps people toward a number of fitness goals, including building muscle, burning fat and losing weight. It specializes in conditioning for athletes, given Kayla Strain's experience as a collegiate softball player and former high school softball coach.

"We primarily do strength training but serve multiple populations," Luke Strain said. "It's not just for bodybuilding and sports performance. We help everybody move better."

For more information, call 219-242-1078, visit www.valpotrufit.com or find the business on Facebook or Instagram.

Amici Grill and Pizzeria, a popular Italian restaurant on Ridge Road in Highland, plans to open its second location in Valparaiso, across the street from the Valparaiso University campus.

Owner Rosemary Mouratides said the goal was to open at 1409 Lincolnway in the spring. The menu will be largely the same but tweaked to cater to the college crowd.

"We expect more walking traffic in Valparaiso," she said. "We'll sell pizza by the slice, which will be one major difference."

Amici's menu includes thin-crust pizza, pasta, calzones, salads, garlic knots, desserts and espresso drinks. It offers traditional Italian fare made with all-natural, high-quality ingredients, Mouratides said.

"The reason we got into the restaurant business is we were tired of processed frozen foods, not just at fast-food restaurants but also at full-service restaurants," she said. "The vast majority of the menu items in our restaurants are made from scratch. We make the dough and the sauces in-house. We do all the slicing and chopping ourselves."

The Mouratides family plans to turn the business over to their two sons, leaving the Highland location to one and the Valparaiso eatery to the other.

"Amici means friends in Italian," she said. "We try to make sure all the employees we hire are friendly so the diners have a friendly experience. It's also named in honor of our friends who always encouraged us to open a restaurant."

The popular Italian beef chain Buona Beef is eyeing a location at Broadway and Summit Street in Crown Point, north of the Tomato Bar that's being developed, said Aaron McDermott, president of Latitude Commercial real estate in Schererville.

A staple at Guaranteed Rate Field, Buona Beef opened its first Indiana location last March on Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville.

Highland has completed the final inspections to allow Asada Grill & Cantina to move from Griffith to a much larger location at 2907 45th St. The Mexican restaurant, which Yelp ranked as one of the best in Indiana, will take over the former Zuni's House of Pizza space that previously had been home to several nightclubs. Zuni's closed in December 2016.

Bombers BBQ, one of the Region's most celebrated barbecue joints, has more than doubled its space in a new location at 435 Ridge Road in Munster.

The military aviation-themed barbecue restaurant, acclaimed for its brisket, rib tips and other smoked meats, has more than doubled its seating in the new space behind Mark O’s Bar & Grill in the former Harrison Ridge Plaza, now called the South Shore Plaza. Owners Chris Cole and Anthony Petrocelli had been looking for a larger space to keep up with demand, especially with catering orders.

Bombers had been in a strip mall on Ridge Road next to Johnny's Wings and Burgers since it first opened in April 2013.

"We probably outgrew our last location two and a half years ago," Cole said. "But opening a new facility is costly and we wanted to make sure we were doing it right."

Bombers BBQ more than doubled its square footage from 2,200 square feet to 4,500 square feet, which has been filled with long picnic table benches, stools and double the kitchen space. The restaurant is tripling its smoker capacity.

"We weren't able to take catering orders for weddings and other events on Saturdays," Cole said. "We've had to turn down weddings throughout the summer because Saturday is our busiest day and it was impossible to have enough room in our smoker to do a wedding offsite and meet the needs of our customers in the restaurant. Now we'll be able to cater for up to 500 people and deliver it. We're looking forward to doing weddings, rehearsals, graduation parties and other fun stuff."

The restaurant's sole smoker had been in an outdoor barn, but it will now operate all three smokers inside the kitchen.

"It's great for us and will improve the quality of the meat in the wintertime, because we won't have to move the meat from the cold outdoors," Cole said. "We'll also have the smoker capacity to try and experiment with new menu items, wood combinations and temperature combinations."

Bombers BBQ could start offering short rib dino bones, pulled chicken, whole smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving, and Christmas ham. Diners also can watch the meat being placed into or pulled from the smokers through large viewing windows in the dining room and by the counter.

"It's where the magic happens," Cole said. "It's pretty cool to be able to watch them load or pull meat from the smokers."

Bombers BBQ added four jobs during the expansion and is looking to hire more. It's looking at adding self-ordering kiosks because of the difficulty of finding enough cashiers, and will eventually take all to-go orders online. The restaurant might also partner with a delivery service.

The barbecue joint's carefully curated selection of bottled craft beer won't return until the middle of February, because it had to reapply for its alcohol permit and couldn't get a hearing scheduled before then.

Dante's House of Pizza, the popular pizzeria founded by the son of the restaurateur behind the legendary House of Pizza in Hammond, has moved just down the street to 1869 45th St. in Munster, right next to Danny Z's.

"We remodeled in both and have a brand new bar with 20 new taps," restaurant manager Leann Humpfer said. "We still have people's favorite things at Dante's: the lunch buffets, the pasta bar, and the dinner buffet on Thursday."

The new restaurant seats about 60 to 70 diners, and is connected by a doorway to Danny Z's, which can accommodate up to 110 people.

"The space was available, and the owners thought it made sense," she said. "Now we're all under one location instead of split between them."

Dante's has been remodeling the space and transporting over much of the art that decorated the previous location, at 1734 W. 45th St.

"We moved some art over so it has the old familiar feel," she said. "But it's a more modern space that's newly remodeled and so beautiful."

Fans of the popular Fat Burrito in Crown Point might want to check out a new Mexican restaurant in Merrillville.

Fat Burrito alum Javier Paredes, with Edgar Tapia and Round the Clock veteran Freddy Palma, opened El Poblano Mexican Restaurant in the former Delta restaurant space at 7600 Broadway in Merrillville. Paredes is the brother of Benjamin Paredes, one of the Fat Burrito owners, and he and Tapio worked there for years before striking out on their own. 

"We decided to find our own place," he said. "Some of our food is the same. I changed the name but we also have a large burrito with a 16-inch tortilla, melted cheese and red or green sauce on the top."

Paredes said they invested a lot of money in renovating the former Delta restaurant, such as by installing all new booths.

"There are more Tex-Mex restaurants around," he said. "This is more authentic Mexican food. We make the rice and beans fresh every day."

The 3,000-square-foot restaurant employs five and seats about 74 people. The menu includes carne asada, steak a la Mexicana, tacos and burritos. The El Poblano special piles steak, chicken, and shrimp on rice mixed with green peppers and onions, which is smothered with cheese sauce and ranchero sauce.

"We served authentic Mexican food," he said. "If you think the food at Fat Burrito is good, you will like our food."

El Poblano is open from 10 a.m to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Nick's Tavern, a Lemont bar that has been featured on Chicago's Best on WGN, is taking over the former Carlo's Pizzeria/Big Butt BBQ at 13231 Wicker Ave. in Cedar Lake.

"We're bringing our famous one-pound burger to Northwest Indiana," Nick's Tavern announced on its Facebook page.

Billing itself as a great place to watch the Chicago Blackhawks, football or other sporting events, Nick's has been serving its massive and acclaimed Nickburger since 1945, and keeps its beers "ice cold in its unique Bevador cooler."

The Cedar Lake location will serve lunch, dinner and drinks, offering waiter service and outdoor seating.

Pizza Hut, one of the largest pizza chains in the country, opened a new restaurant at 13300 Lincoln Plaza Way in Cedar Lake a few weeks ago.

The Yum Brands subsidiary is known for its restaurants' distinctive red roofs, the Book It! program that rewards young readers with personal pan pizzas, and of course the "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" song.

Pizza Hut says that "no one outpizzas the hut," a claim which could not be verified as of press time.

The carryout restaurant, which also delivers, is located in a strip mall just south of Hanover Central High School.

The Pizza Hut is open from 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

The new JC Bocatas Mexican Street Food restaurant specializes in tacos, empanadas and cemita-style tortas that are served in a sesame seed-covered roll similar to a brioche bun.

The quick-serve restaurant at 6475 U.S. 6, across from the Portage 16 IMAX, also offers elote, cheesy roasted poblano soup, and battered yucca fries with mojo mayonesa. Tacos come topped with jalapeño lime slaw, a Mexican cheese blend and cilantro, with options including braised beef, achiote pork, chicken tinga, fish, vegetables and chorizo and potato.

"It's the best Mexican street food," co-owner Claudia Saenz said. "It's all made fresh the same day. Nothing is frozen. It's good, fast and fresh."

Her husband Jose Saenz had worked in restaurants for 20 years and always dreamed of opening his own place.

"He always worked long hours and said he should be working for himself," she said. "He had the opportunity to do it and just went for it. I have a job but help out as much as I can. He loves it."

The small restaurant has a drive-through and focuses on take-out orders. Customers will soon be able to order through the website.

"We eventually probably want to open more restaurants," Saenz said. "And we probably want to make this one bigger."

JC Bocatas is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and may eventually open on Sundays. For more information, visit www.jcbocatas.com or call 219-841-9523.

Tocayos Express Mexican Food aspires to be the Chipotle of authentic Mexican food. The taqueria at 6652 U.S. 6 tries to get all its food out fast and lets customers choose their own meat options for tacos and burritos, including ground beef, shredded chicken and grilled veggies, or premium options like asada, shrimp, al pastor and barbacoa.

"We're something similar to a Chipotle," owner Sarah Garcia said. "You can view the guys cooking the food in the back, cooking it on the grill."

The restaurant in the Diamond Plaza strip mall employs four and has a 3,000-square-foot dining room, plus a few seats for outdoor dining. It serves enchiladas, quesadillas, chips and salsa and dollar tacos on Tuesday.

"We try to get all the food out in less than five minutes," Garcia said. "We have a really good product with really good flavor, a good marinade. It's different than most Mexican food. It's more authentic and fresh and you can watch it being made at that moment."

Garcia eventually hopes to open more Tocayos express restaurants, including in Valparaiso and surrounding areas.

Tocayos Express Mexican Food is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 219-850-4458.

Illiana Power Asylum outgrew its space in the World Gym in Highland and is now located off the Cline Avenue service road at 7940 1/2 Nevada Ave. in Hammond. The gym caters to powerlifting and strongman athletes.

"Both the owners compete in strength sports," said Heather Dawn Gray, who handles marketing for the gym. "It serves a niche for strongmen and powerlifting. It's like an old school mom-and-pop-type gym where the strongest fit in and do their work."

Owners Evan Young and Andrew Jeleniewski filled the gym with free weights and specialized equipment like Atlas stones, prowler sleds, and giant tires that can be flipped in the parking lots. It offers discounts to active-duty military, police, and students with good grades.

The gym sells protein powders and other supplements, offers personal training, and sponsors a local powerlifting team that enters into competitions.

"It's fun and everyone is super-friendly, helpful and respectful," Gray said. "It's not like a commercial gym, where you expect the staff to put your weights back for you. It's one big family."

Illiana Power Asylum is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Core Crown Point has moved to a new studio in the space formerly occupied by the Dillinger Museum in the lower level of the old Lake County Courthouse in downtown Crown Point.

Owners Kelly Walden and David Walden opened the business a year ago in a 400-square-foot space on an upper level of the historic courthouse. They recently relocated to fill a 1,600-square-foot space right by the north entrance, nearly all of the space previously occupied by the John Dillinger Museum.

The gym offers small group classes in pilates, yoga, Bohdi suspension and indoor cycling. Walden said the goal is to offer the quality of group training one could get in Chicago at much more affordable prices.

"None of the classes have more than eight people," Kelly Walden said. "It's not just about how you feel after the workout, but also the connections you make in the class. The retention rate is so much higher when you make a friend in class."

Core Crown Point expanded quickly after Pilates of Northwest Indiana, the only other pilates studio in Crown Point, closed last March. Most of the instructors moved over to Core Crown Point, and brought their clients with them.

The fitness studio was drawn to the courthouse because of the affordable rent, but isn't as visible as when it had its own storefront.

"We've had to grow organically by word of mouth," she said. "We have seven instructors and they're all just fantastic."

"I just love the courthouse environment," she said. "It's a historical building but a living, functioning part of history. Prisoners used to walk through here on the way up to trial on the third floor of the courtroom. There's a lot of history."

For more information, call 219-202-8622, visit www.corecrownpoint.com or find Core Crown Point on Facebook and Instagram.

The immediate care clinic, in a newly constructed building by the Munster-Highland border, will offer walk-in healthcare services for minor illnesses and injuries and imaging services like MRIs. Doctors who practice Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Obstetrics, and Gynecology will be available to meet with patients there.

“When illness strikes, access to quick care is important,” Community Hospital CEO Lou Molina said. “With the addition of this new immediate care center, residents will have access to the same high-quality services found across our entire healthcare system in a convenient location.”

Community Immediate Care Munster will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.

The door at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Robinson Township, Pennsylvania. The fast-casual chain is opening its first Crown Point location.

Chipotle Mexican Grill opens its first Crown Point location Tuesday to satisfy fans of fast, fresh carnitas, barbacoa and black beans.

The fast-casual Mexican restaurant, known for its huge burritos and bowls stuffed with highly customizable ingredients, is at 10715 Broadway in Crown Point. It will feature a drive-up digital pickup lane so customers can get orders they placed on Chipotle.com or the Chipotle app handed to them without even getting out of their car.

A favorite among millennials and anyone who likes cool, creamy guac, Chipotle also has Region locations in Highland, Munster, Merrillville, Portage and Valparaiso.

A 2,100-square-foot Starbucks also is under construction on Broadway by Crown Point's new Chipotle restaurant.

Crown Point Planning Administrator Anthony Schlueter said the chain coffee shop, which will be the second Starbucks in Crown Point when it opens, is a standalone building with a drive-thru. Seattle-based Starbucks closed its coffee shop at 10761 Broadway nearby a decade ago when it shuttered more than 600 stores nationwide. 

In a blow to local meat lovers and carnivores everywhere, Dickey's Barbecue Pit has closed its Highland location at 8359 Indianapolis Blvd. in the troubled Highland Ultra Plaza, which is being foreclosed upon after the anchor Ultra store closed as a result of the 2017 Central Grocers bankruptcy.

The phone is disconnected, and Highland has been removed from Dickey's locations page on its website.

The Dallas-based chain claims to offer "Legit. Texas. Barbecue." Its menu features many slow-cooked meats like beef brisket, pulled pork and ribs, which customers could sample on two-meat or three-meat plates.

The fast-casual counter-service barbecue restaurant chain shuttered its location a few miles south at 713B Indianapolis Blvd. in Schererville in 2014. It's down to just three locations in the entire state of Indiana, with the Portage restaurant at 6200 U.S. 6 being the only local Dickey's left.

It's the latest in a series of departures at the Highland Ultra Plaza, where Fallas, Dollar General, and Taco & Burritos Rancho Grande have also closed in the wake of the Ultra departure and foreclosure.

Bee & Me Boutique is on the move again after losing its lease to the former Renovar space at 100 S. Broad St., at the corner of Main and Broad streets in downtown Griffith.

Bee & Me is moving right across the street to the former Griffith State Bank, which is being transformed into The Bank.quet Gatherings & Events to host weddings, company parties and other special events. The boutique had been squirreled away in an industrial park on the southeast side of town before moving to the heart of Griffith's downtown earlier this year.

It's home to a Cute as a Cupcake express shop and also sells school uniforms, spirit wear and flame-resistant work clothes for steelworkers.

It's slated to close its current location on Jan. 12 and reopen across the street when the old bank renovation is complete.

For more information, call 219-781-6850, visit www.ourtextilehive.com or go to www.facebook.com/OurTextileHive/.

A new strip mall is being built near the Strack & Van Til supermarket at 109th Avenue and Broadway in Crown Point.

Crown Point Planning Administrator Anthony Schlueter said the 5,400-square-foot strip mall would have three units. He's heard it will be home to a coffee shop and a pizza place.

Beer and barbecue soon will be replaced with down-home Southern cooking at the old Lowell water plant at 241 N. Liberty St. in downtown Lowell.

The Old Lowell Watering Hole and Bub's BBQ revived the historic building by the post office, opening in August but closing recently after the business partnership dissolved.

Burke said the new restaurant in the old water plant, which was decommissioned in the 1990s, would have more of a "Southern home cooking theme," would not include a brewery and would open in the next 60 days or so. A new name will be chosen "very shortly."

Right after hemp was legalized with the signing of the U.S. farm bill earlier in December, Blackbird Hemp opened a CBD dispensary in Crown Point.

Owners Corey Lurtz and Dennis Hein opened the shop at 449 E. Summit St. in Crown Point. It sells CBD, or cannabidiol, products that are being hyped across the country as a treatment for inflammation, anxiety, depression and various other ailments. The business is cash-only, awaiting federal regulations that would allow banks and credit card companies to do business with hemp merchants.

Since CBD oil was decriminalized in Indiana in March, many retailers in the Region have started selling it, including pharmacies, fireworks stores and skateboard shops. Market researcher Brightfield Group estimates CBD may grow into a $22 billion industry nationwide by 2022.

Blackbird Hemp is focused entirely on selling CBD products. It carries more than 100 products including tinctures, capsules, gummies, bath bombs, salves, lotions, coconut oils and vaping cartridges. Users might apply a salve for a topical inflammation, take a pill for other issues, and use a vape cartridge for anxiety, because it is fast-acting, taking effect in about 15 minutes.

The dispensary carries established brands such as Green Lotus Hemp, Lazarus Naturals Hemp and Sun State Hemp, and sources many of its products from small farms and co-ops in Colorado, Washington and Kentucky. Customers — who often skew older — use it to treat neuropathy, epilepsy, Parkinson's, inflammation and anxiety, among other conditions. Some try to use it to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure or digestive health.

"We try to educate our customers on what to take and how to take it," Hein said. "Education is a building block and the key. We point them to things they can go home and research on their own. For the longest time, hemp had basically been a boogeyman but it's becoming more normalized as more research and studies are coming out about the health benefits."

A post in Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Blog said CBD may be effective at managing anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain, but that it could have side effects like nausea and fatigue. Some CBD promoters overstate its curative powers, according to the blog, and more research is needed to determine CBD's effect. People should consult their doctors before using it, the Harvard blog concludes.

Blackbird Hemp hopes to organize an annual hemp festival with educational seminars at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point, launch its own Blackbird-branded products and open more locations around the Region. Once it can accept debit and credit card payment, it hopes to establish a subscription service in which payments are automatically deducted and CBD is mailed out to customers.

"We're looking to bootstrap this up," Hein said. "Expansion will be doable, but we'll do it step-by-step. We're focused on good-quality products and getting it out to the public."

The dispensary offers 15 percent discounts to seniors, first responders, members of the military and union members.

Blackbird Hemp is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, call 219-226-4154, visit facebook.com/blackbirdhemp, or find Blackbird Hemp on Instagram.

Poke places specializing in Hawaiian raw fish bowls have sprung up all over Chicago in recent years, serving sushi-like pieces of uncooked tuna and salmon tossed in soy sauce and sesame oil atop beds of rice, with avocado and other fresh ingredients.

A few places in Northwest Indiana have poke on the menu, such as Kitaro Surf & Turf in Munster, but the hot restaurant trend is finally coming to the Region.

A sign in the strip mall that's home to Panera Bread and Qdoba Mexican Eats at the corner of U.S. 30 and Broadway in Merrillville announced that Pokéman Restaurant is coming soon.

The owners could not be reached for comment. Apparently unrelated poke restaurants with the Pokeman or Poke-man name have cropped up in cities like Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Vancouver and West Hartford, Connecticut, but it's not clear if there's any potential intellectual property dispute with the popular Pokémon video game and anime franchise that enjoyed a massive resurgence in popularity when Pokémon Go was released in 2016.

South suburban Dozeli Pizzeria, which has locations in Chicago Heights and South Chicago Heights, has opened in the former Enzo's space at 1120 W. U.S. 30 in Schererville.

The pizzeria offers both thin crust and deep dish pizza, as well as "deluxe" sandwiches like Italian beef and chicken Parmesan. The extensive menu includes wings, salads, appetizers, and both hot and cold sub sandwiches.

The small Chicagoland chain, which was founded in 2008, bakes pies including Italian beef pizza, a chicken Alfredo pizza, and a "Meaty Lover's Pizza" topped with five different meats.

Unlike the other locations, the Schererville restaurant does not have a grill yet, so no hot dogs or hamburgers are available. With no dining room, it is carryout and delivery only, delivering within about a five-mile range.

Dozeli Pizzeria is currently open from 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

Retired Indianapolis Colts player Gary Brackett aims to bring his Stacked Pickle restaurant chain to Lansing and other Region locations.

Former Indianapolis Colts player Gary Brackett plans to open a Stacked Pickle restaurant in Lansing before the end of 2019.

The linebacker and Super Bowl champion has been looking to expand his sports-themed sit-down restaurant and bar chain in the Region. He's also been looking for franchisees to open Stacked Pickle restaurants in places like Schererville, Merrillville, Crown Point and Gary.

The casual dining restaurant serves traditional American fare like burgers, wings and its namesake fried pickles in a "family-friendly atmosphere."

Founded eight years ago, the fast-growing Stacked Pickle now has nine restaurants in Indiana, and has signed on franchisees in Houston, Orlando and Dayton, Ohio.

At any rate, Burrito Stop Mex and American Grill recently opened at 1421 119th St. in downtown Whiting, adding to the lakefront city's Mexican cuisine options.

The fast-food restaurant, which incorporates a big red stop sign into its logo, offers burritos and bowls with a choice of steak, chicken, barbacoa, carnitas, ground beef and veggies.

Burrito Stop also serves gorditas, tortas, XL quesadillas, tacos, salads and dinner platters with steak or chicken that are served with rice, beans and tortillas. 

The eatery, which has a small waiting area, serves tacos, tortas, sopas, gorditas, burritos, enchiladas, tamales, nachos, 99-cent chicken flautas and the Mas Special, which is rice topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, jalapenos and one's choice of meat.

Fifth Third Bank recently opened a new branch on Franklin Street by Ames Field in Michigan City, Mayor Ron Meer said.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third, so named after the merger of Fifth National Bank and Third National Bank and not some random fraction, is a Fortune 500 company with more than 1,100 branches in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.

Locally, Fifth Third has locations in Gary, Merrillville, Schererville, Crown Point, Highland, Hammond and Valparaiso.

The Michigan City branch is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Merrillville Tea Room, whose formal afternoon teas are a holiday tradition for many Region families, closed back in June, but that's only temporary.

The tea room in the Merrillville Florist Shop at 7005 Madison St. was closed after its chef left for a new gig, but owner Ramona McCrovitz said she hopes to reopen after finding a new chef.

In addition to pots of tea, the tea room serves scones, salads and sandwiches in a peaceful and quiet setting. 

Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.

Anyone who loves huge Mission-style burritos stuffed with their choice of fresh ingredients won't have to wait much longer for Chipotle Mexican Grill to finally open in Crown Point.

The widely influential Newport Beach, California-based chain, a favorite among millennials and anyone who appreciates a high degree of customization, plans to open its first Crown Point location on Jan. 8 at 10715 Broadway.

Chipotle is known for its assembly line-like service in which burritos, tacos, bowls and salads are constructed with a selection of ingredients like barbacoa, carnitas and guacamole. It has been considered the gold standard of the fast-growing fast-casual segment with many restaurateurs scrambling to be the first to open "the Chipotle of pizza," "the Chipotle of Greek food," and so on. But Chipotle's reputation was dinged after E. coli outbreaks and other food safety concerns in 2015.

Chipotle was originally supposed to open in Crown Point on Saturday but the opening was pushed back. A company spokesperson said no further delays are expected.

In a novelty for a Chipotle, at least in Northwest Indiana, the new Crown Point restaurant will feature a drive-up pickup lane for customers who place and pay for orders on the Chipotle app or at Chipotle.com.

Also in Mexican-themed chain restaurant news, Taco Bell has opened at 917 Joliet St. in Dyer, near the Jewel-Osco supermarket at U.S. 30 and Calumet Avenue.

Especially popular among perpetually hungry teenagers and late-night bar-goers, the Tex-Mex-ish fast-food chain, known for a value menu where ingredients like Fritos chips are wrapped in a tortilla and sold for a buck or so, serves chalupas, XXL Grilled Stuft Burritos and whatever a "crunch wrap" is.

Taco Bell, owned by Louisville-based Yum Brands, describes the food as "Mexican inspired" on its website. It has 7,000 locations worldwide, including in Highland, Griffith, Crown Point, Winfield, Valparaiso, Hobart, St. John, Merrillville, Hammond, Portage, Munster, LaPorte, Chesterton and Michigan City.

The Dyer Taco Bell is open from 7 a.m. through 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 7 a.m. through 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Work off all those burrito calories at the new Anytime Fitness gym in Chesterton. The gym chain that allows members to workout around the clock has opened its 17th Northwest Indiana location.

The 24-hour fitness franchise at 757 Indian Boundary Road offers free weights, weight machines, cardio equipment, group training, personal training, tanning and hydro-massage therapy.

“For many people, joining a gym can be an intimidating experience,” Anytime Fitness Regional Manager Kevin Scott said. “Our gym is big enough to feature everything you need for a great workout and small enough to provide personalized attention for all of our members. Whether weight loss is your goal, or increased strength or improved balanced and flexibility — or a combination of some of those things — at Anytime Fitness, we’re able to help you achieve whatever results you seek.”

On average, Anytime Fitness gyms are staffed for 12 hours a day but can be accessed by members at any time day or night — hence the name — with a key fob. Members also have access to any of Anytime Fitness's more than 4,000 clubs worldwide.

“We make it easy for our members to exercise whenever and however they like,” Scott said. “We have personal trainers available to help you learn how to use all of the equipment and to develop an individualized workout plan, if you like. And, our Personal Training and Group Training programs are optimized to provide efficient workouts in 1-on-1 settings as well as small & large group settings. All training programs are designed to provide guidance, accountability and of course results.”

Granite & Quartz Tops is moving into the former Lynn’s Bedding at 1862 W. U.S. 30 in Merrillville.

Merrillville-based Commercial In-Sites brokered the sale of the property to the new owner, which is opening its first location in Indiana. The showroom will feature custom granite, marble and quartz countertops.

Commercial In-Sites said in a news release the new countertop showroom should open in early summer 2019.

Starbucks shuttered its coffee shop at 2531 Willowcreek Road in Portage, the oldest Starbucks in Porter County's most populous city.

The Seattle-based purveyor of cold brew, Frappuccinos and other strong espresso drinks that power people through the day, still has two other Portage locations, at 6030 U.S. 6  and 6295 Ameriplex Drive.

Don Pedro's, a Tex-Mex restaurant that offered steak, seafood and Mexican staples like enchiladas, quesadillas and Huevos Con Chorizo, has permanently closed its long-standing location at 7840 U.S. 41 in Schererville.

A favorite spot for Mexican cuisine among many in the Tri-Town, the restaurant had a bar that served drinks like Corona-ritas with an upturned Corona bottle jutting out of a margarita glass. It had some authentic menu items like menudo and pozole.

"It is with great sadness that we inform you after 16 amazing years in business we have come to the difficult decision to close our doors and focus on our next business venture," the owners said in a note posted on the door. "It has been an incredible journey. Thanks to all our wonderful patrons and to the NW Indiana community. Please feel free to visit the original Don Pedro's located in Calumet City, Illinois. Thank you."

A Golden Corral on military appreciation night in 2017. The Schererville location will reopen before the end of the year.

The Golden Corral buffet will make its triumphant return to Schererville before year's end, though likely after Christmas.

The owners of the Merrillville Golden Corral have made extensive renovations to the Golden Corral at 915 Eagle Ridge Dr., by the Home Depot, in Schererville. The buffet had served its last slice of ham and scoop of mashed potatoes three years ago. 

"We completely remodeled the place," General Manager Ken Churchill said. "We put in a fireplace, recessed lighting and all new decor on the inside. Everything is bright and shiny. It's like a brand new store opening."

There's no official opening date yet, but Golden Corral is working to hire 200 workers, including servers, cooks and cashiers.

"The menu will be pretty similar to the Merrillville location, with some small differences," Churchill said.

The Raleigh, North Carolina-based chain has been frequently updating its menu recently, adding new items every three months like prime rib, fajitas and different kinds of wings.

Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery has opened at 336 Indianapolis Blvd., next to the new Rosati's Pizza, Buona Beef and McAlister's Deli in the Shoppes on the Boulevard.

Gloria Jean's franchisee Raed Naser, his wife Noor Musleh, his brother and their family opened the chain, which has been featured on the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" and "The View." It features 18 different flavors of cupcakes daily, including 14 regular flavors and four that change daily.

Popular items at the 1,500-square-foot cupcakery and ice cream parlor, which seats 12, include red velvet cupcakes and smashes, in which a cupcake is paired with two scoops of ice cream in a mason jar.

"They're delicious and perfect for Instagram and social media," he said. "They look great, and people like to share it."

The restaurant employs 12 workers and serves only cupcakes baked freshly that day. Leftovers are donated to charitable organizations and other places like local hospitals and nursing homes.

"You can ask to be on the list, and then we call through it until we find someone to take the leftovers," Naser said. "We only serve fresh cupcakes."

A grand opening celebration is planned for 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15. Smallcakes will give away mini cupcakes while supplies last, offer 40 percent off on everything all day, have family-friendly activities like balloon animal-making, and will enter customers into a raffle.

Jorge Armando and Shelly Ann Armando, the owners of Skillet's Bistro in Highland, bought the restaurant and plan to reopen it as Vegas Bistro Cafe in the middle of January.

The reborn eatery will focus on quick breakfast items and sandwiches. Nothing on the menu will cost more than $7.60, as the restaurant will target passing truckers and workers at stores and restaurants along Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville and Highland.

"We want to give workers a good-priced breakfast or BLT or something like that," Jorge Armando said. "It's going to be good for workers who come in the early morning on their way to work. Drivers can call ahead to order their food in advance. We have a huge parking lot and will bring it out to them. It will be like 1960s service without the roller skating."

Vegas Cafe Bistro will seat 46 people inside, and another 18 outside during warmer weather. It will serve beer, wine, wine-based cocktails and espresso drinks such as lattes and espressos.

"We have a good team and have been practicing getting breakfast sandwiches out in no more than five minutes," he said. "We want to offer a quick breakfast."

It will be cheap, with hot dogs for $2 and hot dogs with fries and a drink for $4.25. The lunch menu also will include burgers, soups and chili.

"Schererville was a point of interested because it's been a draw for all the towns around it, including Chicago," he said. "I've lived in Dyer for such a long time and see so many people, including from the city and Illinois, coming here to have a good meal, good shopping, or a buy a good house. Just look at the amount of cars going by."

Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.

There's no more "eating good in the neighborhood" in Schererville after Applebee's closed near the intersection of U.S. 30 and Indianapolis Boulevard, disappointing fans of $1 drink specials, 2 for $20 date nights, steaks crisscrossed with huge grill marks, and whatever riblets are.

Sophia's House of Pancakes, a popular pancake house on Indianapolis Boulevard, plans to take over the space and open another location there.

A sign posted at the recently shuttered Applebee's Grill + Bar at 650 W. U.S. 30, in the Crossroads Shopping Center in Schererville, said Sophia's is opening there soon. The family-style diner, which also has a location at Orland Park in Illinois, is known for its stacks of old-fashioned, powdered sugar-dusted pancakes and for its hearty breakfasts with huge portions, including five-egg omelets. One reviewer on Yelp called it "the Grand Kingdom of Breakfast" with "a menu the size of the Sunday paper" and skillets "the size of glacially carved freshwater basins."

"As a little kid I worked with my father at grocery stores in the city," he said. "There was a hand car wash with a line around the block. I saw the potential of how much cash a car wash could make."

Car washes start at $3 and go up, depending on the level of cleaning one wants. Similar $3 car washes have opened in recent years in Hammond and Dyer.

"It's a price point that's affordable to everybody," Mahmoud said. "If you drive by a $5 car wash, you think, 'maybe.' But $3 is a price you don't want to pass up."

Birdie's $3 Car Wash also will sell monthly memberships allowing people to get their car washed every day or as frequently as they want.

The Crown Point car wash is largely built-out and expects to open in a matter of weeks, in the busy season where many people try to get the road salt washed off their cars. It has a 140-foot tunnel and 20 vacuums. Mahmoud has talked with his banker about building 10 of them across Northwest Indiana and hopes to eventually take the brand national. The next one will be in St. John, and then he'll look at Illinois locations.

"We'll take baby steps," he said. "Of course I'd like to go nationwide. But these are big projects. These aren't $100,000, $200,000 projects. These are $4 million apiece."

"A lot of thought and hard work went into this establishment, and it's run by the owner himself," he said. "I built this car wash so my car could run through it. I'm a car guy who used to work in car sales. I wouldn't run anyone's car through it if I wouldn't run my own car through it."

Chicago Heights-based Enzo's Beef and Sausage restaurant expanded to 1120 U.S. 30 in Schererville in 2015, but has decided to refocus its efforts on its Illinois location. 

"We decided that it was best for both the family and for the business to focus our time and energy on the original location," the owners posted on Facebook.

As the name suggests, Enzo's sells Italian beef and Italian sausage, as well as gyros, hot dogs and $1 slices of pizza. It used old family recipes and premium ingredients like top-quality pork butt and extra virgin olive oil. 

Another Chicago Heights business may soon replace it in Schererville. A sign outside said Dozeli Pizzeria is coming soon.

Dozeli has been around for nearly three decades with locations in Chicago Heights and South Chicago Heights. It's known for both thin-crust and deep-dish pizza, wings and deluxe sandwiches.

In other pizza news, and who doesn't like pizza news, Domino's is opening a new "pizza theater" restaurant where customers can watch the pizza being baked at 1918 165th St. in Hammond, its second in the city.

“We are dedicated to the Hammond area and are excited to better serve its residents,” said Hammond Domino's franchise owner Jim Gronemann, who owns 15 other Domino's stores in Indiana and Illinois. “We have a deeply experienced team of folks who live and work in Hammond, and they are eager to offer our delicious products, exceptional service and innovative ordering technology to the community.”

The Ann Arbor-based pizza company, the largest in the world based on retail sales, will celebrate its Dec. 3 opening by offering medium one-topping carryout pizzas for $3.99 each through Dec. 30, and by having a drawing on Dec. 24 for free pizza for a year.

The Hammond pizzeria also will offer 50 percent off to police officers, firefighters, first responders and members of the military on an ongoing basis.

The store is hiring and features a large lobby where customers can watch their food being prepared, an electronic screen for tracking carryout orders and a chalkboard "to allow customers to express their creativity or leave feedback for the store team members."

Big Lots relocated its Merrillville store to 3201 E. Lincoln Highway in Hobart and reopened with a new format, "which is part of a broader initiative to reposition the brand as a community retailer offering trustworthy value and friendly service," the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer said in a press release.

“We are excited to introduce our new store format to Merrillville,” stated Steve Haffer, senior vice president and chief customer officer of Big Lots. “It brings to life our new brand traits and showcases our product assortments of affordable solutions in furniture, seasonal, home, food, and consumables."

The discount retailer, which "offers a little bit of everything," moved about 100 feet over to a new unit in a strip mall that also includes Xfinity Store.

To celebrate the opening, Big Lots plans to donate $5 to Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana anytime a BIG loyalty member redeems a reward there through Jan. 12.

Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.

The technology repair shop uBreakiFix has opened in Crown Point, where it will fix smartphones, tablets, computers, video game consoles and more.

The fast-growing company has 11 Indiana stores, including in Schererville, Michigan City and Portage. Franchisees Angelo and Alexandra Giannakopoulos established the new Crown Point location at 864 N. Superior Drive and hope to open more in the coming year.

“Crown Point has experienced incredible growth over the last few years, and we are excited to serve the community by providing a trusted place for tech repairs,” Angelo Giannakopoulos said. “We love being able to bring uBreakiFix to new communities because we truly believe in the mission of this company.”

The company now has more than 460 retail shops across North America and had made more than 4.5 million repairs on electronic devices, including of cracked screens and malfunctioning cameras. It offers same-day repair for products like the Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixle.

The pizzeria at 1191 E. Summit St. specialized in crispy thin-crust, offering a slice and pop for just $2.50 on weekdays. It was a small take-out and delivery place that also served big burgers and appetizers like mozzarella sticks.

"It’s the last day for Tim’s Pizza," the owners posted on Facebook. "We will miss all of our customers; you were the best."

The North Carolina-based chain Family Dollar plans to open a new store at 1421 W. 25th Ave. in Gary this week.

“Family Dollar is pleased to invite customers to experience our great value and broad assortment of merchandise in the Gary community,” spokeswoman Heather Briganti said.  “Our customers can rely on Family Dollar for everyday low prices on household products, food, beauty and essentials, seasonal merchandise, apparel and much more.”

A grand opening with giveaways, prizes, and a gift basket raffle will take place on Thursday. The first 50 customers in line on Saturday will receive a gift card.

The discount retailer has been in business for more than 55 years, and primarily serves urban and rural areas in 46 states.

"The city of East Chicago welcomes new small business in our community and wishes them much success," the city said in a press release.

The convenience store is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.

The Villa Park Illinois-based restaurant is opening in a strip mall outside the Shops on Main shopping center at Main Street and Indianapolis Boulevard, just south of the Highland border.

According to the Regency Centers website, it will occupy 2,338 square feet and replace Meatheads, which closed in January after a four-year run.

Porto's Peri Peri is named after the super-hot chili pepper used in cuisines in Portugal, India and Africa. In Swahili, peri peri means "pepper pepper," or "strong pepper." 

The cuisine has been gaining popularity in the Chicago area, with Nando's Peri Peri opening several locations in the city.

Porto's Peri Peri serves up chili-marinated chicken in portions that range from one-fourth chicken to a whole chicken, as well as platters. Beyond its signature entree, the restaurant serves couscous salad, quinoa salad, falafel, hummus, burgers and vegetarian options like paneer rice, along with sides like rice, steamed vegetable and flame-grilled corn on the cob.

"Our all-natural, vegetarian-fed chicken is fresh, never frozen and marinated for a minimum of 24 hours," Porto's Peri Peri said on its website. "Our unique Peri Peri sauces are made from African birds eye chilis mixed with fresh herbs and spices. Being nut, gluten and MSG free, our sauces are suitable for all."

The Venice Pizza restaurants at 1302 N. Main St. in Crown Point and 1233 Sheffield Ave. in Dyer have served their last slice of pie.

"It is with great sadness that Venice Pizza in Dyer is in fact closing its doors for good," Venice Pizza posted on its Facebook page. "As much as we appreciate and love our valued customers due to unforeseen and unfortunate property issues, we can no longer serve the Dyer community at this time. We are extremely sorry this didn't work out & for the abrupt closing. We thank all of our amazing customers! This isn't a goodbye, this is a hope to see you again. In the meantime, our Hammond location is still there & we recommend them to all. Thank you."

The pizzeria, known for its tavern-style square cut pizza and distinctive logo of a cartoonish mustachioed Italian chef, also delivered to parts of Munster, sold pizza by the slice and described itself as "a family tradition."

Venice Pizza is a 30-year-old family-owned business that grew to three locations, but only the Hammond location at 6940 Kennedy Ave. remains.

That pizzeria delivers to Hammond, Highland, East Chicago and Munster. In addition to specialty pizzas like taco pizza, The Hawaiian and chicken and broccoli, the eatery also serves Italian beef, pasta, chicken wings, calzones, cheese fries and shrimp dinners.

"We will be closing our doors permanently," a sign posted on the door said. "Thank you for two great years. Please visit our Mokena or Orland locations."

One of many submarine sandwich chains to spread around the country in recent years, Dallas-based Which Wich was known for offering made-to-order subs with a high degree of customization, such as a choice of four kinds of mustard and caramelized, red or crispy string onions. Customers marking their preferences on an empty paper sandwich bag.

It was the second restaurant after Angelo's Prime to close in that shopping center near the Crossroads of America intersection of Indianapolis Boulevard and U.S. 30 after the anchor Ashley HomeStore shuttered, greatly reducing foot traffic.

Firehouse Subs and Zel's also closed along that stretch of Indianapolis Boulevard in recent years. But there's still no shortage of places to grab a quick sandwich in the area, with nearby options like Jersey Mike's, Potbelly's, Penn Station East Coast Subs and two Subways.

The small butcher shop occupied a strip mall with a smoke shop, laundromat and martial arts studio at 507 E. Glen Park in Griffith, along the busy 45th Street corridor.

"FB friends and customers, GM is closing its doors," Griffith Meats posted on its Facebook page. "Thank you all for your patronage!!" 

Billed as "your shop around the corner," the old school butcher shop on Griffith's east side also served carryout food like sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers with no filler or preservatives. 

Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.

Buttermilk Pancake House in moving into the old El Salto space at Ridge Road and Calumet Avenue in Munster.

Petros House of Pancakes and Restaurant served its final omelet in Merrillville this summer, but a new diner stepped in to fill the space in the Crossroads Plaza Shopping Center.

Country Pancake House is now slinging eggs, biscuits and gravy and coffee at 6190 Broadway in Merrillville. The 160-seat breakfast-and-lunch pancake house, which employs 11 workers, opened two weeks ago.

Owner Jose Perez has worked in restaurants for years after starting as a dishwasher, and always dreamed of opening his own place. Now his dream has become a reality.

"He worked really hard all his life from the ground up," employee Kathy Taylor said. "After learning how to bus tables 30-some years ago, he worked really hard. He opened this restaurant through blood, sweat and tears."

"We worked to make it nicer inside with a pleasant, clean atmosphere," Taylor said. "We try to give great service to the customers, who were glad to see the place come back. It is an entirely new entity with entirely new owners."

Country Pancake House has kept many favorites on the menu for the regulars who continue to frequent it. It serves omelets, burgers, skillets, biscuits and gravy, grits, homemade rolls, chili, burgers, soups like stuffed pepper and chicken lemon rice and, of course, pancakes, offering "big, generous portions."

A top seller has been the meat lover's omelet with sausage, ham, bacon, green pepper, onion and cheese.

"He loves to make breakfast," Taylor said of Perez. "We pride ourselves on customer service, good meals at an affordable price and being part of the neighborhood."

Also in pancake news, Buttermilk Pancake House is moving into the former El Salto space in the historic Old Town Hall at Ridge Road and Calumet Avenue in Munster. The new restaurant at 805 Ridge Road is now hiring and invites walk-in job applicants.

Sir Mix-a-Lot, who could not lie, likely would have liked Carlo's Pizza/Big Butt BBQ in Cedar Lake, but not enough people in town did to keep it open.

The pizza and barbecue restaurant at 13231 Wicker Ave., whose logo featured a cartoonish pig with an ample posterior, closed without warning. Its phone number was disconnected, its website was down, and the owners could not be reached for comment.

Opened in 2013, Carlo's Pizza/Big Butt BBQ was a family restaurant and sports bar that served barbecue styles from across the country, with a focus on South Side Chicago BBQ. It had an outdoor patio with cornhole games, and was known for its brisket and generous portions of ribs.

Vegas Cafe ran out of luck and closed in Schererville, but a new owner likes the odds of its succeeding.

The restaurant at 800 Cedar Parkway, a rare independent in a stretch of Indianapolis Boulevard that's heavily dominated by chains, opened in 2016. Vegas Cafe specialized in oven-baked, often open-faced sandwiches with Vegas-inspired names like the MGM Grand, Mirage, Venetian, Monte Carlo, Belagio, Excalibur and Flamingo. 

Splashy Sin City decor lined the walls, and daily raffles and live musical acts gave diners in the Tri-Town a little taste of the Vegas experience.

The restaurant shuttered without explanation, but signs in the windows Thursday said it would reopen soon under new management.

Also in Vegas-themed restaurant news, the Vegas Baby Cafe is looking to open in the former Zuchez Restaurant and Bar at 211 N. Broad St. in Griffith.

Zuchez opened just north of downtown Griffith in 2017, aiming to be a nightclub with dancing, 64-ounce margaritas, a downtown date night-like restaurant and a breakfast joint serving biscuits and gravy. It lasted less than a year.

Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete provides the details on what's coming and going in the Region retail and restaurant world.

The unincorporated community of South Haven in Porter County has been without a grocery store since Al's Supermarket closed in spring of 2017, but that will soon change.

“We are really excited for Save-A-Lot to join the center. There has been a great need for a grocer in the area since the last tenant left and I fully expect the community to completely embrace them,” said Brett McDermott of Latitude Commercial, a commercial real estate firm in Schererville that represents tenants, landlords and developers across Northwest Indiana and the south suburbs.

Save-A-Lot is a national discount grocery chain with local locations in Merrillville, Hammond, Michigan City, and Kouts. The local franchisee will run the new South Haven store, which will offer fresh produce and meats sliced daily.

An F45 Training fitness studio and a Freshii fast-casual restaurant are coming to Broadway in Crown Point.

Freshii is a Canadian fast-casual chain most commonly located in urban centers. It sells fresh, healthy food like burritos, salads, wraps, and yogurt. The lunch-oriented restaurant has multiple locations in Chicago's Loop.

F45 Training is a national gym chain with 1,300 locations in 36 countries. It offers 27 different 45-minute high-intensity interval training workout classes. Its workouts cycle through 4,000 different exercises so gym-goers don't ever do the same workout twice, and their fitness doesn't hit a plateau.

“This is a great first location in the area for F45," said McDermott, who represented F45 in the lease transaction. “I really think the community will embrace the concept as we have nothing like it around us.” 

Bin 27 Grille & Lounge, a fine dining restaurant that specialized in steaks and seafood, has served its last glass of wine. The restaurant at 275 Joliet St., Dyer, was named after its carefully curated selection of 27 wines.

“The stores are awesome places to visit and learn more about Xfinity products and services from the trained store staff,” said John Crowley, Comcast’s greater Chicago region senior vice president. “Visitors are welcome to come in and experience our products and services like they would at home.”

The store will sell Comcast services such as cable, internet, home security and mobile phone service. Visitors can use display iPads and other mobile devices to check out apps like the Xfinity Stream that lets people watch live TV on mobile devices when connected to wifi.

One of Comcast's biggest competitors, AT&T, just opened a new store at 7917 Indianapolis Boulevard in Hammond.

“It’s great to have this new space in Hammond where you can walk right in and quickly learn about AT&T’s many tools and services that benefit our residents, businesses and tourists,” Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said. “Improving the livability of our community is very important to us, and we’re excited that AT&T shares in our enthusiasm about the city.” 

The 3,500-square-foot store features many different screens displaying AT&T's video, internet and wireless services. Customers can check out tablets, smartwatches and VR glasses.

“We’re delighted to be opening this new entertainment-focused retail store in Hammond,” said Thomas Monahan, AT&T vice president and general manager of the Great Lakes region. “The Hammond store is designed for an evolution in connected entertainment, and customers will be able to interact with content across many different screens.”

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The AT&T store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. 

Hammond-based Korellis Roofing took home two of the roofing industry's most distinguished awards from Firestone Building Products, a global ve…

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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