Meijer opens new $20 million store Thursday in Valpo

May 23–This week, Valparaiso residents get a new one-stop-shop option for buying everything from clothes to bedding to electronics to vitamins to a gallon of milk.

Meijer is opening its new 195,000-square-foot big-box store, with a full grocery department, garden center and pharmacy, at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The new supercenter is at 407 Porters Vale Blvd. in the Porter’s Vale shopping center at Ind. 49 and Ind. 2. It is the Grand Rapids-based retailer’s 39th store in Indiana.

Meijer will be the largest store in a shopping center that’s also home to Dick’s Sporting Goods, J.C. Penney, Gordmans, Hobby Lobby and Cinemark.

Meijer, which has stores in Highland, Merrillville, Portage, Michigan City and Flossmoor, plans to open six more across the Midwest this year.

Its new Valparaiso location cost $20 million and will employ 300 workers. The gas station outside opened last month.

The Meijer will compete with more established Valparaiso retailers such as Strack & Van Til, Town & Country, ALDI, Target and Walmart.

More business openings and closings from Joseph S. Pete

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Griffith lands new seafood restaurant, boutique, and an events space in the old downtown bank building

One boutique departed downtown Griffith, and another moved right in.

Bee & Me has taken over the former Renovar space at 100 S. Broad St. on the corner of Main and Broad streets in downtown Griffith.

The five-year-old boutique had been tucked away in an industrial park on the southeast side of town in Our Textile Hive, an industrial laundry, uniform, and creative design company founded by Breanne Stover. The Dominican University graduate and lifelong Indiana resident bought the Great Lakes Naval Academy’s laundry facility, moved it to Griffith, and handles industrial laundry for contractors at the steel mills and a growing number of clients.

“The boutique was just in a tiny room in the laundry business,” she said. “It’s nice to be in downtown Griffith now. There’s a lot more visibility and traffic.”

The boutique, which takes its name after Stover’s nickname, sells Magnolia home decor and clothes for women, men and children, including flame-resistant clothing for steel mills, school uniforms and spirit wear.

“We travel all over and look for different popular styles,” she said. “Our clothing is comfortable and reasonable.”

Bee & Me has a kids’ play area to keep children entertained while their parents shop, and plans to bring in a Cute as a Cupcake express shop similar to a Starbucks in a Target.

“The cupcakes will be in little cake boxes and will be packaged to go home,” Stover said. “There will also be drinks. We want it to be a hangout place for families. We’ll have the kid’s area and things like yoga.”

Bee & Me, which employs about 10 workers, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.


Stover is further expanding her growing business empire by buying the former Griffith State Bank across the street at the southeast corner of Main and Broad streets in downtown Griffith, which she’s transforming into an event space that will be called The Bankquet.

The stately Colonial Revival-style building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will host weddings, company functions and other events.

“I always loved that building and saw it was for sale,” she said. “My husband works in historic restoration.”

They plan to add a glass conservatory onto the building for baby showers and cocktail hours. They plans to work with local caterers once the events venue is up and running later this year.”

The historic brick and limestone-trimmed bank building at 101 E. Main St. was built in 1920 with a temple-like appearance, a terrazzo floor, pedimented entry, Doric columns, a barrel-vaulted ceiling, a raised stone portico in the center bay and friezes with engravings of money bags and quills and ledgers.

The original inhabitant, the Griffith State Bank, closed briefly during the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and then was shuttered for good in 1933 when it became insolvent during the depth of the Great Depression.

It became the Samuel B. Woods Branch of the Griffith Public Library, and served in that role until 1967. Most recently, it was home to a sign shop.

Renovations are underway, and Stove hopes to have The Bankquet open later this year.


The Shipwreck Bar & Grill is sailing into Griffith.

Alexandra Hobby and her parents Joe and Cindy Drish are opening the beach-themed seafood restaurant at the site of the former Romano’s and Soprano’s at 840 S. Broad St. in Griffith.

“Our inspiration comes from 25 years of spending vacations as a family in Clearwater Beach, Florida,” Hobby said. “Our menu consists of all of our family favorites seafood items from Florida as well as sandwiches, specialty pizzas, Nashville Hot chicken, steaks, and salads.”

They’re working to transform the building into a beach vacation-themed oasis with murals of dolphins, sea turtles and other aquatic creatures. Shipwreck Bar & Grill will seat 180 diners and another 80 in a 2,000-square-foot patio with bags, fire pits, and a Tiki ring toss game. The bar and grill will often host solo acoustic acts on a music stage to add to the relaxed vibe.

“We will also have live entertainment for our guests to enjoy,” Hobby said. “We are so excited to offer our guests a relaxing and enjoyable experience while serving up some delicious meals. The vision for this restaurant came from a family and we truly want our guests to feel that.”

The patio will likely be open from April to September or October, and diners will be encouraged to eat there. It will have a selection of 20 craft beers on tap and put a focus on “fun drinks” like Hurricanes, Mai Tais, daiquiris, and margaritas.

“This corner needed to be brought back to life,” Hobby said. “We want people to feel like they’re on a little vacation in Northwest Indiana. We don’t want people to just come to enjoy a good meal. We want them to relax and enjoy some live music because we’re selling that experience.”

Chef Gale Wismiller, who most recently worked for a catering company in Chicago, is crafting a seafood menu that includes the grouper that’s popular in Florida, red snapper, mahi mahi fish tacos, blackened halibut, salmon and fish by the pound.” Everything will be made from scratch in the kitchen.

“We’re really excited to be part of Griffith. It’s been built up so much over the last few years,” Hobby said.

Shipwreck Bar & Grill is currently looking to hire around 50 workers.

For more information, call 219-513-8342.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Romano’s and Tequila Restaurante returning, Casa Vieja and Family Video bowing out

Romano’s, the Region legend known as “The Home of the Hoagie,” will soon make its triumphant return at a new location in Griffith.

The 70-year-old institution, which specializes in pizza, pasta and its celebrated Ham Hoagie, closed last year after the owner of its longtime home at Broad Street and 61st Avenue in Griffith sold the building.

Romano’s, which originally opened in Highland in 1948, has relocated to 1927 45th St. in the Griffland Plaza shopping center. Owner Myke Romano said he hopes to open as soon as May 15, but more work remains to be done.

The restaurant’s Ham Hoagie — Polish ham and secret pizza cheeses stuffed into a Vienna bun — was honored as an icon of Region cuisine in The Times’ 50 Dishes of the South Shore.


Tequila Restaurante, a Mexican restaurant that once had locations in Crown Point, Dyer and Las Vegas, vowed it would return when its lease at 110 S. Main St. on the Courthouse Square in downtown Crown Point ended to make room for the tony new Provecho Latin Provisions and its high-end tapas plates.

Though such promises sometimes prove empty, Tequila is in fact coming back for another rodeo.

The restaurant posted on Facebook it would bring back the menu at Pheasant Valley Golf Course at 3838 W. 141st Ave. in Crown Point. The new location will seat 150 and another 20 at the bar, and have ample parking.

“Opening date will be posted soon,” Tequila Restaurante posted on Facebook. “Can’t wait to cheers with all our loyal customers.”

Tequila Restaurante was known for its margaritas, guacamole made table side and unorthodox items like Mexican crab cakes, cilantro-rita and Mexican-style lake perch bathed in a jalapeno/cilantro butter, which one online reviewer claimed was the best lake perch in the Region since Phil Smidt’s closed.


Casa Vieja Mexican Grille, which moved into the space at 275 Joliet St. in Dyer that Tequila Restaurante vacated back in 2016, has apparently closed.

The eatery hasn’t been open for business for days, the shades are drawn, and no one answers the phone. The Facebook page hasn’t been updated since February. An employee at the neighboring Bin 27 restaurant said the sit-down grill and cantina was closed, but the owners could not be reached for comment.

Casa Vieja was well-reviewed online, ranking as the 15th most highly regarded restaurant in Dyer on Trip Advisor. It had a wide array of seafood entrees and was praised for its queso dip. A sample menu item was “Pedro’s Dinner,” a hefty meat-apalooza that pours its house specialty cheese sauce atop chicken, steak, shrimp, chorizo, bacon, bell pepper, tomatoes, grilled onions and pico de gallo.


In a streaming age when people can watch movies on-demand or on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Cracked without ever getting up from the coach, it may have been some time since you last set foot in a video store.

So it shouldn’t be that surprising that the Family Video at 1208 E. 45th Ave. in Griffith is closing. It’s the one by the big yellow Griffith water tower and the Griffith/Black Oak branch of the Lake County Public Library.

Anyone who will miss the Glenview-based chain, which carries an array of DVDs and video games for rental and sale, can travel 2 miles west to the Highland store on 45th Street, which will remain open.

No explanation was given as to why it’s called Family Video and has an adult movie section.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Xfinity Store coming to Valpo, Highland to get upscale salon complex, St. John a boutique

Valparaiso residents will soon be able to venture to Xfinity and beyond, or at least have someone to complain to when their internet router keeps cutting out.

Comcast will open an Xfinity Store at 2710 LaPorte Ave. in Valparaiso in mid-to late May.

Customers can learn about or sign up for Xfinity services, including internet, cable, mobile and home security. The store will have iPads and other mobile devises to let people test out Xfinity apps that, for instance, let people watch up to 200 channels and stream as many as 40,000 on-demand programs anywhere.

“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.”

Current Comcast customers can go there to pay their monthly bills, or pick up and return equipment.

“We’re pleased that Valparaiso is getting a new Xfinity Store,” Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas said. “Located within Valparaiso’s centrally located, dynamic retail scene, the new store will be able to serve thousands and thousands of existing Xfinity customers and attract new ones not just from Valparaiso, but from the surrounding communities as well.”

The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.


My Salon Suite plans to open a 5,500-square-foot upscale beauty complex at 2715 Main St. in Highland later this year, where hair stylists and other salon professionals will be able to rent 29 salon suites.

“When we started looking at different franchising concepts, we knew we wanted something that would fit with our lifestyle, personalities, skills and interests — we found all of this with My Salon Suite,” franchisee Robert Gerick said. “We love that My Salon Suite allows us to operate our own business, have a flexible work-life balance and work directly with talented beauty professionals from our area. We’re looking forward to introducing the Highland community to the suite life.”

The fast-growing company, which was founded in 2010, now has about 50 salon complexes across North American, and aims to have 100 nationally by the end of this year.

“We empower beauty professionals to become salon entrepreneurs with their own suites, while providing them with all of the resources they need to success,” Gerick said. “Plus, for our members’ clients, we offer an environment to escape from the stresses of the day in a quiet, private setting where they are treated to an upscale salon experience like no other.”

Each suite features a full-length style station, styling chair, shampoo sink and color station, and the building will have “a state-of-the-art security system, luxurious bathrooms and an elegant lobby.”


2 Old Goats Market opened last fall at 9726 Industrial Drive in St. John.

“The neat little hidden treasure” sells repurposed antiques, vintage items, women’s boutique clothing, man cave essentials and local artisan goodies, including from Mother Wilma’s, Smudge’s Organics, Simplify, The Gourmet Goddess, Into the Pines Jewelry and Wooden Jacket. It sells Dixie Belle Chalk Paint and teaches painting classes.

“We opened our store in the industrial part of St. John near 95ate5 Brew Pub in September,” owner Abbey Sylvester said. “The name was our biggest obstacle. My mom and I were going back and forth on what to call it. One day we were reminiscing about my grandpa that passed away last January and how he grew up on a farm with goats. On Father’s Day they bought him two goats, he named them Frick and Frack. Looking in the thesaurus, another word for an antique is an old goat, and the light went off. We wanted to remember my grandpa by giving him a place in our new adventure and 2 Old Goats Market just fit.”

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For more information, call 219-351-5457.


Meijer’s eagerly awaited 195,000-square-foot supercenter in the Porter’s Vale shopping center at Ind. 49 and Ind. 2 in Valparaiso, doesn’t open until May 24, but you can already pump gas outside.

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer opened the gas station on an outlot outside the superstore at 405 Porters Vale Blvd. Thursday. It will be open 24 hours a day offering, gas, diesel, propane, grab-and-go snacks, lottery tickets, cigarettes, phone cards and gift cards.

The growing retail chain now has 235 locations across the Midwest, including in Highland, Merrillville and Michigan City.


Aunt Sally’s, which fervent loyalists have described as the “best breakfast diner” and a place the Blues Brothers might have hung out at, closes at the end of the business day Sunday after 71 years.

The pancake house at 1215 Burnham Ave. in Calumet City served many lunch items like sandwiches, and of course breakfast all day. It had unique specials like a pizza omelette, a “conquistador taco” omelette and a Hawaiian omelette topped with pineapples and maraschino cherries.

The food was cheap, the booths were comfy, the coffee kept coming and ample sides like hash browns and pancakes left few hungry when they went up to the counter to pay the check.

It was usually always packed on weekends, and the crowds have only grown since the closure was announced on Facebook.

Owner Dennis Sidkey said he would consider opening another restaurant in the future, possibly in Indiana.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Relish brings hot dogs back to downtown Griffith, Bohemian Joe’s to close in Lansing

Boz left a hot dog-shaped hole in downtown Griffith’s heart when it closed in 2013 after 27 years, when its owners decided it was time to finally retire.

But encased meats have made their triumphant return to Broad Street. Relish has opened at 223 N. Broad St., offering traditional favorites like Chicago dogs, chili-cheese dogs and ballpark dogs with mustard and grilled onions, as well as more modern twists like a vegan Chicago dog and a barbecue bacon jam dog made with jalapenos picked in-house.

“I honestly though we needed another hot dog place when Boz was gone,” said Carly Haugh, who owns the hot dog joint along with her mother, Patti Haugh, who also owns Lady’s Gourmet Popcorn downtown. “We went with Relish because it’s a popular hot dog topping and when somebody really enjoys something. It’s a good play on words.”

Relish uses all-beef Nathan’s hot dogs, Polish sausages made at Mi Tierra in town and vegan dogs made in the Space Revival kitchen just down the street.

“We live in an awesome town where it’s like a big family,” she said. “We want to support other businesses here.”

One of the most popular hot dogs so far is a grilled cheese dog made with American and cheddar cheeses and green onion on a garlic butter bun that’s toasted on the flat-top grill.

“The reception has been really great, especially from the vegan population,” she said. “It’s been years since there was a vegan Chicago dog.”

Relish is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, find it on Facebook or call 219-293-6838.


Bohemian Joe’s, which replaced Popolano’s at 17940 Torrence Ave. in Lansing, is shuttering after a two-year run.

The restaurant served American fare such as blackened ribeye, honey lemon tilapia, a 14-ounce bone-in pork chop, burgers, salad entrees, pickle chips, beer nuggets pizzas and classic sandwiches like the Manhattan and Reuben in a slick-looking, newly renovated space. It got rave reviews, getting four stars out of five on both Yelp and Trip Advisor.

It will close on April 28 because the owners sold the building, which will be converted into an as-yet-unidentified new restaurant.

“It’s with mixed feelings that we are announcing that Bohemian Joe’s has been sold,” the owners posted on Facebook. “This really has been quite a journey for our family. Along the way we have put together an incredible staff and entertained wonderful people from which we take with us lifelong friends and memories. We have learned so much and have made our share of mistakes along the way. We apologize to anyone we disappointed for it was never for lack of trying or caring. I hope that we leave you with more positive memories than negative.”


Joe’s Barber Shop has come to Winfield to cut hair, trim beards and shave off facial hair.

Owner Joe Barsic, who’s taught barbering for 15 years, opened the barber shop at 10923 Miami St. “to bring the very best in traditional barbering to my community.” It’s deliberately old school.

“I offer haircuts — shear cuts, clipper cuts, razor cuts — hot lather straight razor shaves and shoe shines in a turn-of-the-century shoe shine chair that my father passed down to me before he died,” he said.

There’s a lot of family tradition in the barber shop.

“My wife Breanon is also a barber and will be joining the business with me,” Barsic said. “I guess this shop is my way of honoring my fathers’ 50-plus years in barbering by offering the best service possible in an area that is devoid of barber shops.”

Joe’s Barber Shop is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: St. John home decor store, The Simple Greek restaurant opening

A corporate refugee who wanted to strike out on her own started Sweet Home Indiana Home Decor and Gifts, which opens on April 28 at 8251 Wicker Ave. in St. John.

Lora Avecillas and her husband, John Matuska, decided to open the 1,200-square-foot home decor and gift shop in Lake Central Plaza across from Lake Central High School out of a love for visiting quaint shops and hunting for treasures while traveling.

Sweet Home Indiana carries many products in the country farmhouse, vintage, industrial and garden styles. It stocks jewelry, candles, stationery, clocks, handcrafted items, accent furniture and stuff for man caves, such as beer-infused soap. The shop has gifts for many occasions, including baby showers, weddings and holidays.

“I was in the corporate world for so long, and I just saw the opportunity for a home decor store in St. John with so many homes going up,” she said. “I was tired of working 14-hour days and thought about what my passion was. I like traveling and visiting cute little shops, and there was nothing like that here.”

She was inspired by stores like The Found Cottage outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the popular reality show “Fixer Upper,” which recently ended its run.

“Joanna Gaines is the reason we have a store,” she said.

Avecillas hopes eventually to expand the shop, hire more employees beyond family and get into online sales. For now, the focus is on providing as pleasant a shopping experience as possible.

“We’re very down-to-earth,” she said. “We want to make sure people have an experience. There’s a nice atmosphere. We want people to come stay awhile. We’ll have coffee, drinks, water, lemonade and cookies. We’ll have music, candles and a nice smell.”

She thinks such a store will thrive in St. John, where the population has grown by more than 12 percent since 2000 and has gotten an influx of new residents who have decamped from Illinois.

“St. John is a wonderful place,” he said. “We came out here, built out here and we loved it.”

Sweet Home Indiana is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

For more information, find it on Facebook or call 219-627-3061.


The Simple Greek, a fast-casual Greek restaurant that lets customers customize pita or bowl orders, will open its long-awaited Munster location in the new Centennial Village shopping center Monday.

“It’s been an enormous amount of work and planning, however, being this close to launching this restaurant, we find that we’re most excited to finally have a great team of people ready to serve a great community of people,” owner Adam Robertson said.

The restaurant at 9611 Calumet Ave. in Munster offers gyros, chicken gyros, chicken or steak that can be topped with hummus, tzatziki, olive oil, feta and your choice of fresh vegetables. It also has traditional dessert options like baklava.

The Simple Greek will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.


U-Haul added two more Calumet Region dealerships in Gary and Chicago Heights.

Gary Discount Motors at 1429 W. 11th Ave. in Gary and Country Squire Foods at 113 W. Joe Orr Road in Chicago Heights opened dealerships that rent out U-Haul trucks and trailers.

They will let movers borrow U-Haul trucks and towing equipment, and purchase moving supplies and boxes. People with smartphones can use the service around the clock, picking up or returning a truck at any hour day or night.

The Gary dealership is open for normal business hours from 10 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. through 1 p.m. Saturday. The Chicago Heights location is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Ryan’s Irish Pub closes, coffees shops and permanent makeup studio opening

Throw an Irish wake for Ryan’s Irish Pub in downtown Michigan City, which recently closed.

The owners posted on Facebook that they had sold the establishment, which had been open for 23 years.

No further details were available, and the pub’s phone number was disconnected. Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer said a developer hopes to redevelop the entire property to make way for new commercial businesses and residential units.

The dark and smoky bar at the north end of Michigan City’sUptown Arts District was known for its fish and chips, burgers and other pub fare. It drew crowds for its open mic nights and to its outdoor patio in the summer, where diners and drinkers could feel a gentle lake breeze, and was, of course, a popular destination after the lakefront city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.


Uptown Cafe, the longtime coffee shop on Lincolnway near the Valparaiso University campus, opened the drive-through at its eagerly awaited Crown Point satellite location for a trial run last week.

At first, customers could only get drinks at the coffee shop at 10641 Broadway in Crown Point. The beloved local coffee shop sells several varieties of coffee, espresso drinks, handcrafted sodas and specialty drinks, such as a Matcha Libre matcha tea latte and an espresso drink that tastes like a cinnamon roll.

The Valparaiso cafe also serves a menu of light bites such as avocado toast, lox, hummus and caprese, but the Crown Point location is still ramping up operations.

Business opportunity

New owners have acquired the former Marquette Perk building at 900 N. Shelby St. in Gary’s lakefront Miller neighborhood, and hope to lease it to someone who will operate it as a coffee shop/bakery.

Zygmunt Dyracz and Lela Headd Dyrkacz, who own the acclaimed Chopin Theatre in Chicago’s trendy Wicker Park neighborhood, want to see the 1,400-square-foot building a few blocks from the beach become a community gathering place again. They moved from Chicago to Miller in search of some quiet after having kids.

“It’s in the heart of Miller Beach two blocks from the beach,” he said. “It used to be a place for people to mingle and talk to each other. We’d like it to be a community gathering place for people to meet and connect.”

Most recently, the property hosted Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue and Deli and the Wonderland Stained Glass studio, until the married couple that owned the businesses died in a murder-suicide last year.

The Dyrkaczs hope it could again be a breakfast spot for Chicago commuters and locals, and a place for evening dining and entertainment, possibly a piano bar or cabaret. They also would love to see any new business that opens there incorporate a small grocery section that would carry necessities like fresh baked bread, milk, eggs and wines for neighborhood residents.

Anyone who’s interested in the property should call 773-396-2875 or 773-814-5352.


Kristine Johnson, a licensed cosmetologist with 20 years experience and the owner of Eyelashes Extensions by Kristine, a home-based studio in Griffith, launched Micropigmentation by K 2.0, which offers permanent cosmetic procedures that essentially tattoo makeup on lips or eyebrows.

“Why would you want permanent makeup?” she said. “Well, how much time would you save every morning if you didn’t fiddle with makeup? What if you are visually impaired, would it be easier for you each day? Shaky hands? Work out and sweat a lot? No problem, permanent makeup stays perfectly in place. There are many reasons why it could make your day better and easier.”

The business at 402 Miller St. is open by appointment only. Services include permanent eyebrows, eyeliner, microshading and tattoo lightening.

“I’m very passionate about what I do and I would love to share this passion with the community,” she said. “I pride myself on education and ongoing training.”

For more information, call 219-743-9077.

Shops on Main in Schererville is newer and more buzzed-about.

You can find better deals at Lighthouse Premium Outlets in Michigan City. The proposed 80- to 100-store outlet mall a developer wants to build near Interstate 65 in Crown Point likely would peel some traffic away.

Enclosed malls everywhere are not exactly at their height of popularity and cultural relevance, especially as department stores are folding across the country.

But Southlake Mall in Hobart remains the king of shopping in Northwest Indiana. The super-regional mall at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street, the second largest in the state of Indiana, continues to attract new tenants.


Mr. Kay’s recently opened a shoe store in Southlake Mall, its second location. The footwear retailer has been located in River Oaks Center in Calumet City since 2007, and specializes in shoes, socks and accessories for larger customers. It’s known for a “large stock of hard-to-find sizes,” including for formal occasions.

Southlake Mall already has many shoe stores, including Aldo, DTLR, Finish Line, Foot Locker, Journeys, Journeys Kidz, Kids Foot Locker, Payless ShoeSource, Skechers, Tradehome Shoes, and Vans, though many focus mainly on athletic sneakers.


On the lower level of the Southlake Mall near Sears, Fashion 5 opened a women’s clothing store that caters to younger customers. The retailer sells shirts, tops, blouses, cardigans, jackets, knit sweaters and fleece jackets in various styles, including casual, sporty and on-trend.

The growing chain says it lets customers “express themselves.” It has a few other Chicago area locations, including in the Woodfield Mall and Chicagoland Premium Outlets.


Kumar’s Jewelers also opened a new jewelry store in the mall. The locally owned business sells engagement rings, pearls, watches and jewelry make with silver, stainless steel, tungsten, titanium and contemporary metals.

The store offers financing and layaway, as well as engravings, jewelry and watch repairs, battery replacements and custom orders such as charms and dog tags.


About six months ago, Luxury Waist Training opened a health and beauty and women’s clothing store geared at slimming waste lines in the Southlake Mall.

The store sells shapewear such as cinchers, shapers, fajas and body wraps that are supposed to help female customers attain an hourglass shape.

“At Luxury, every woman deserves to look and feel her best everyday. Waist training/shape ware helps improve confidence and slims your waist line. It’s capable of really putting things in immediately,” the locally owned retailer says on its website. “It’s also going to help you activate muscle groups without any direct activity on your behalf — giving you work out like results throughout your whole day.”


Baseball Card Exchange, the Schererville-based sports card and collectibles store, opened an outpost on the second floor of the mall in August. The shop, which feels like a shrine to Chicago sports, sells baseball cards, signed jerseys, signed photos, signed footballs, and other sports collectibles for the casual fan, the hobbyist, the serious collector or the nephew you need to buy a birthday gift for.


There’s no more free tea in those little plastic cups for mall-goers, whether they pretended to be interested in purchasing a tea pot for a few seconds or just strode on.

The Teavana in Southlake Mall was one of the longest in the country to hold on, drawing visitors from as far as Missouri looking to stock up on its liquidated goods in its final days. But the tea shop finally folded along with all the others, as parent company Starbucks decided to close all 379 Teavana stores nationwide after acquiring the fancy loose leaf tea purveyor in 2012.


If you missed it in an earlier column, Oooh Wee Candy and Cereal Bar hopes to open in the Southlake Mall on April 20. The retailer, which also has a location at River Oaks Center in Calumet City, sells cereal by the bowl with 10 different types of milk and 25 topping options, as well as old school candy that can be purchased by the piece so it’s more affordable for kids.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Buona, Dunkin Donuts and Roberto’s Packman Pizzeria open, while Galactic Greg’s survives owner’s passing


Retail rebounding after major culling

The Buona Italian Beef restaurant under construction in February at the new Shoppes on the Boulevard in Schererville.

Joseph S. Pete, The Times

Buona is opening its first Italian Beef restaurant outside of Illinois at 24 U.S. 41 in ScherervilleMarch 27, when it will be giving out Italian Beef sandwiches to anyone who’s in line before 10 a.m.

The fast-growing chain sells beef sandwiches dry, dipped, baptized or the “Buona Way,” with an extra spoonful of gravy, at more than 20 restaurants across Chicagoland. Its locations include concession stands at Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field and at the outdoor beer garden for Big Ten graduates recently transplanted to Chicago on the North Side, where they play the song “Go, Cubs, Go,” expressing confidence that “the Cubs are gonna win today” after the game is already over, for whatever reason.

“This move is the first wave of spreading some Buona Beef love outside of Illinois,” owner Joe Buonavolanto Jr. said. “We’re excited to share Chicago’s original Italian beef sandwich with the residents of Schererville — made exactly like it was in 1930s Chicago, spiced just right and free of additives and preservatives.”

The restaurant in Schererville’s new Shoppes on the Boulevard will serve a wide-ranging menu that includes hot dogs, pizzas, salads, gravy-dipped Italian bread, and pepper and egg sandwiches on Fridays during Lent. The chain, a competitor of Zel’s, Pop’s and Enzo’s, potentially could meet some resistance in the union stronghold of Northwest Indiana after a few of the family owners were caught in viral videos spraying a garden hose at and cursing at union picketers who were protesting that a Buona restaurant was being built without union labor.


It’s finally time to make the doughnuts in south Munster, not far from the Dyer border.

Dunkin’ Donuts opened its second Munster location at 10415 Calumet Ave. The modern-looking 28-seat eatery has a drive-through and carries a wide array of fresh baked doughnuts, bagels, breakfast sandwiches and coffee drinks, including those with Girl Scout Cookie flavors like Thin Mint and Coconut Caramel.

The coffee shop/doughnut joint is in a newly built strip mall that has another 4,600 square feet of space available for rent.


The popular Packman Pizzeria, first opened in 2014, was about to close in LaPorte after owners Don and Angie Kaczmarek died in a tragic car accident.

But the owners of Roberto’s Pizzeria at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in Michigan City acquired the 48-seat restaurant at 612 Lincolnway and reopened it as Roberto’s Packman Pizzeria, closing their mall location to consolidate the two pizzerias into one.

“The kids were running it but they want to close the door and our lease was up,” said Sean Montgomery, who co-owns the pizza restaurant with Robert Becker. “They have loyal customers, 4,000 Facebook followers and deliver within 15 miles. It’s the only place in LaPorte that serves deep-dish and Chicago-style pizza with the dough on top.”

The restaurant also serves salads, chicken wings, oven-baked fries and subs, out of which the Italian beef and Philly Steak are the two most popular. It delivers as far away as Westville, Walkerton, New Carlisle and Michigan City.

Roberto’s Packman Pizzeria is open from noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

“Galactic” Greg Karras, the owner of the popular Galactic Greg’s and Cosmic Trading Post comic book shop at 1407 Lincolnway in Valparaiso, died of cancer at the age of 51, but his namesake store will remain open.

“Greg was all those things to us because of his kind heart,” Galactic Greg’s posted on Facebook. “He gave many of us a place to hang out, a place to meet others with similar interests long before the internet, and sometimes just an ear to listen to our problems. He introduced us to heroes, which I believe is the same as introducing someone to hope. … Galactic Greg’s will continue. We hope to make him proud as we continue to serve you the way he did.”

Karras opened the “pop culture superstore” in Valpo where people have gone for comics, role-playing games, vinyl records and more for more than 25 years. His passing was met with an outpouring of mourning from loyal customers.

“I’ve been getting my subscription comics from Greg ever since I was in elementary school. Even when I moved away for college, Greg continued boxing up my favorite comics and sending them to me every month — he has always been a source of joy and friendship in my life,” longtime customer David Higgins posted on Galactic Greg’s Facebook page. “I teach college classes on Graphic Novels now, and Greg helped shape the person who I am today. He actually supported my very first comics-related research project: When I was at Winfield Elementary School, he loaned me a stack of 1950s comics from his own personal collection so that I could compare them with my own comics (from the 80s) to determine whether comics were becoming more ‘corrupt or violent’ as a science fair project.

“I was a wide-eyed kid, and Greg saw my enthusiasm and wanted to support it. That’s the kind of person he was — he loved people, he encouraged joy and wonder in everyone around him, and he had a huge heart. He was a real-life superhero who made the world a better place in countless ways.”

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Cereal bar coming to Southlake Mall, tea room opens, Starbucks closes


NWI Business Ins and Outs: Cereal bar coming to Southlake Mall, tea room opens, Starbucks closes

Oooh Wee Candy and Cereal Bar at River Oaks Center in Calumet City.


Oooh Wee Candy and Cereal Bar serves up dozens of cereals and old school candy by the piece at the food court in River Oaks Center in Calumet City, and plans to open a location in the Southlake Mall in Hobart on April 20.

The fast-growing concept also has a location on Chicago’sSouth Side and is also expanding to Waukegan. There’s no booze but there is an actual bar that people can belly up to to eat all their favorite childhood cereal such as King Vitamin, Waffle Crisp and Franken Berry while watching television. Ice cold milk is poured from martini shakers.

People can satisfy their sweet tooth with 75 different types of cereal, 25 different toppings like fruit, honey and mini Oreo cookies, and 10 different types of milk, including almond, coconut, cashew and chocolate milk.

Owner Mark Walker saw a cereal bar in Dubai, and decided he wanted to open one here.

Any cereal you can imagine, hot or cold, is stocked on the shelves, and customers get to mix two if they feel like blending Coco Puffs with Lucky Charms or have a hankering with Captain Crunch with Apple Jacks. Customers can dine in or get it to go, with separate containers for cereal and milk.

They also can order cereal “cocktails” named after celebrities like the Nicki Minaj with Trix, Fruity Pebbles, Pop Rocks and strawberry milk.

Oooh Wee Candy and Cereal Bar also has more than 250 “old school” candies, including gummy bears, gummy worms and many nostalgic and hard-to-find items. It’s sold by the piece, not the pound, to make it more affordable for kids.

Kids also can pose for selfies with life-sized cutouts of Deadpool, Batman, Harley Quinn and other pop culture characters. Still, many of the customers are grown-ups.

“Our customer base is mostly adults who come in saying they remember that cereal from their childhood and can’t believe they still make it,” Walker said. “It’s nostalgic. People come for the good memories.”


2 Chicks, a high-end consignment shop, has opened at 2817 Jewett Ave. in downtown Highland.

“We sell a lot of eclectic items, including name brands,” said longtime Cargill employee Terri Yovkovich, who runs the store with her mom Shirley Bell. “There’s a lot for the younger generation, a lot of cool clothing, shoes, jewelry and vintage. It’s a lot of shabby chic style. We’ve got decor and fun and cool stuff.”

The 2,000-square-foot consignment shop also is home to Tiffany’s Tea Room at 2 Chicks, which serves a formal tea every afternoon Monday through Saturday and by appointment for showers on Sunday. Tea is ported in from the neighboring Sip 2 Coffeehouse, along with a three-tier stand with five finger sandwiches, five pastries, scones, cheese, crackers and apricot jam.

The tea room, an extension of the original Tiffany’s Tea Room in Crown Point, can accommodate parties of up to 30 and is geared toward luring female shoppers into the store.

“The women come in and they shop,” Yovkovich said.

2 Chicks sells items on consignment but also buys its own inventory, such as from an estate after a death in the family. Merchandise rotates frequently.

“I might eventually open another one,” Yovkovich said. “I’m originally from Calumet City but now live in Griffith. I might someday open one somewhere back in Cal City or near where I live in Griffith.

For more information, call 219-301-5588 or find 2 Chicks on Facebook.

To reserve a formal tea appointment, call 219-306-0980.


Starbucks just closed one of its first coffee shops to open in Northwest Indiana, 2381 E. 80th Ave. in Hobart just north of the Southlake Mall.

The Starbucks was in a strip mall with an Ulta and a since-closed American Bagel Company. It dated back to the 1990s and was a product of a different age, lacking a drive-through that is now standard at Starbucks.

The Seattle-based coffee giant, which has lately been pushing white espresso on its notoriously loyal customer base, opened a new location not far down U.S. 30 in Merrillville last year after being forced to shutter its extremely popular coffee shop inside the Radisson at Star Plaza, which was torn down to make way for a redevelopment product.

Those jonesing for a Frappuccino or a cold brew don’t have to travel far to get their fix — Starbucks still has two other location by the Southlake Mall, one on Mississippi Street and another inside Target.


Highland Board Shop is now HBS now that it’s no longer in Highland.

The skateboarding store, which promises “West Coast Vibes and Steezy Rides,” shuttered its location at 8808 Kennedy Ave. in downtown Highland. The 3-year-old business moved to 132 N. Broad St. in downtown Griffith.

The shop sells skateboarding gear, apparel and accessories. It encourages its customers, who skew younger, to “shred the gnar.”

HBS is open from 12 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.


The Annex also vacated the same two-story building in downtown Highland that it shared with Highland Board Shop.

The funky boutique, which stocks many locally sourced and trendy items, has relocated to 8638 4th St. in Highland. It celebrated its grand reopening Friday.

The Annex carries artisan items from creators like WoodenJacket, Mythos, P. Goodys, Kinfolk Herbs, The Old Gray Goose, Smudge’s Organics, Lucia Handcrafted, Altered57 and Little Lotus Elixirs. It’s filled with a carefully curated selection of fashion, crafts, gifts and essential oils.

For more information, call 219-765-8267 or find Shop The Annex on Facebook.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Provecho Latin Provisions, KISS-themed restaurants, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet opening


NWI Business Ins and Outs: Provecho Latin Provisions, KISS-themed restaurants, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet opening

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Chris Pappas opens Provecho Latin Provisions in Crown Point this week.

Rob Earnshaw, The Times

Anticipation has been mounting for Provecho Latin Provisions since Tequila Restaurante closed on the courthouse square in downtown Crown Point last year.

New owner and chef Chris Pappas, whose family owns several restaurants in Crown Point, has been transforming the prime space at 110 S. Main St. into an upscale Latin restaurant with tastes of Spain and South America. The wait is over.

“GRAND OPENING!” Provecho Latin Provisions posted on social media. “Months of dreaming, planning, hard work, and collaboration have come together to bring you Provecho Latin Provisions. Our grand opening will take place Tuesday, March 13th!”

The restaurant will serve traditional tapas dishes like grilled octopus and baked goat cheese in tomato sauce, as well as dishes like corn poblano soup and “Cuban-inspired empanadas with ribeye, green plantain, oaxaca cheese and roasted poblano.” Many ingredients will be sourced from local providers such as Five Hands Farm in Lowell.

Provecho Latin Provisions takes its name from the Spanish phrase buen provecho, which roughly translates to bon appetite. It will serve cocktails made with seasonal fresh fruits that are cold-pressed daily, as well as house-made orgeat, falernum, allspice and cinnamon syrups.

Reservations are recommended.


Schererville-based Latitude Commercial Real Estate is bringing a restaurant chain owned by KISS frontmen Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley to the south suburbs.

Rock & Brews, which combines comfort food, a wide selection of craft beers and a “family-friendly rock ‘n’ roll experience,” plans to open at the corner of LaGrange Road and 143rd Street in the Orland Park Crossing Lifestyle Center in Orland Park, and at the corner of Cicero Avenue and 111th Street in the Stony Creek Promenade in Oak Lawn.

The Rock & Brews menu includes “creative spins” on burgers, wings, pizza, salads, as well as an extensive tap list that is “always rotating to feature the latest and greatest in craft brew.”

“We are very excited to see the concept start their roots in these two locations and see the brand expand throughout Chicago in the future,” Latitute Commercial Real Estate President Aaron McDermott said. “We are currently exploring locations for an additional three to four sites within the next two years.”


Poppy & Pleets Boutique opened at 9735 Fran Lin Parkway in Munster. The store sells trendy women’s clothes, shoes, handbags, jewelry and accessories that are also affordably priced in a chic space with a quote by Coco Chanel: “The best color in the world is the one that looks good on you.”

Now Poppy & Pleets owner Meghan Edens plans to open a second location at 7958 U.S. 41 in St. John. A soft opening will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 25.

The boutique carries brands such as Kut From the Kloth and M. Rena.


An Ollie’s Bargain Outlet will bring one of its “semi-lovely” stores to LaPorte, where it will sell “good stuff cheap” with a 30-day “no hard time” return guarantee.

The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based retailer sells closeout merchandise, irregular items, discontinued products, liquidated goods, and overstock inventory of everything from flooring to food, sporting goods to housewares for “up to 70 percent less than the fancy stores.” On a given day, it might carry assorted miscellany like K-Cups, graphic novels, paperback novels, Yankee Candles and Himalayan salt lamps.

Its LaPorte store will be located by Kroger supermarket in the Pine Lake Shopping Center.

The 36-year-old company, which has more than 270 locations and more than 5,000 employees across the country, offers customers a treasure hunt amid ever-changing merchandise with “witty, humorous in-store signage.” The brand’s marketing prominently features the bucktoothed, leather-skinned, white-haired, wide-lapelled Ollie character.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Dairy Belle and Theo’s expanding, while Jansens closes


NWI Business Ins and Outs: Dairy Belle, Theo’s, expanding, while Jansens closes

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Dairy Belle in Hammond. The popular ice cream stand is expanding to Cedar Lake.

Joseph S. Pete, The Times

Dairy Belle, a walk-up ice cream stand in Hammond since 1950, has been called the best ice cream in the Region.

Two years ago, it spread its beloved cones, shakes, malts and ice cream treats south to a former Dairy Queen at 2034 Austin Ave. in Schererville. Now Dairy Belle is bringing its sweet treats, including the googly-eyed Monster and Poodle ice cream cones, to Cedar Lake.

The ice cream restaurant, which serves a wide array of sundaes, flurries and waffle cones, announced on Facebook it purchased Sundaes on the Lake, a similarly old school walk-up ice cream stand at 13134 Lake Shore Drive on the shore of Cedar Lake.

A staple of childhood for generations of Region residents, Dairy Belle is so popular it sells T-shirts.

“Prepare to be fat and proud. I’ve never known anyone to try Dairy Belle and not become a repeat user,” one Yelp reviewer wrote. “The ice cream here is to die for. The shakes and malts are equivalent to what I imagine to be nectar of the gods.”


The longstanding Dick’s Restaurant and Bar recently closed at 10808 Wicker Ave. on the south edge of St. John.

The nostalgic supper club-like eatery specialized in steaks and seafood including lake perch, walleye, gulf shrimp, frog legs and wild-caught Alaskan salmon.

But it’s been purchased by Theo’s Steaks & Seafood, the urbane, sophisticated chophouse at 9144 Indianapolis Blvd. in Highland that’s known for steaks, seafood and cocktails in an elegant setting. Theo’s plans to keep the Dick’s name for now, but is freshening up the place and the menu.

“We are excited about adding Dick’s to our restaurant family,” Theo’s owner Peter Klideris said. “Our family is thrilled to bring our love of food and serving our community to the people of St. John. We plan to keep the name for right now, but will be updating the menu to feature a variety of steaks and seafood.”

Theo’s also is extensively renovating the restaurant, which had drawn complaints for its dated decor. One online reviewer had complained last year it looked “like an old folks’ home … in the 1970s.”

“We are working around the clock to enhance the building cosmetically to give it more of a modern feel,” Klideris said. “The restaurant will also include a beautiful private room that will accommodate up to 120 guests. Perfect for any occasion. Stay tuned for more exciting plans!”


Two more diners are coming to Broadway in Merrillville.

The long-abandoned Broadway Cafe at 7454 Broadway is being reborn as Cafe Stelios.

Xioties Properties, which owned the family-style Delta Restaurant a fifth of a mile north, hopes to open in June a 137-seat restaurant in the 4,300-square-foot building, after an extensive renovation of the vintage Broadway Cafe, which had a 1950s look.

Broadway Cafe was shuttered so long that burglars looted all the remaining shelves and appliances in 2010. The new Cafe Stelios would be open from 6 a.m. to midnight.

And new owners plan to reopen the former Delta diner at 7600 Broadway as the Breakfast Society, a pancake house open for breakfast and lunch that would seat 94 diners.


Jansens Fruit Market has provided fresh, hand-picked seasonal fruits and vegetables to Hobart since at least 1954.

But the longstanding produce stand and garden center at 8190 E. Ridge Road has closed after more than six decades.

“It was a very, very hard decision and with a heavy heart and lot of tears I must tell you that we have closed our store permanently,” owner Jack Feurgye posted on Jansens’ Facebook page. “Most of you were not just customers, you were friends and always will be friends. It has been a pleasure helping and talking to you. I hope to see all of you at some point. I want to wish everyone health and happiness in the future.”

Unlike many produce stands in the area, Jansens Fruit Market was open year-round, offering pumpkins, decorative Indian corn, Christmas trees, wreathes and gift baskets during the less fruitful fall and winter seasons. It had a greenhouse filled with perennials, hanging baskets and tropical flowering plants.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Royale with Cheese brings hipster burgers to Michigan City


NWI Business Ins and Outs: Royale with Cheese brings hipster burgers to Michigan City

Royale with Cheese has opened in downtown Michigan City.

Joseph S. Pete, The Times

In one of the more famous, oft-quoted lines of dialogue in “Pulp Fiction,” an exchange that helped cement Quentin Tarantino as a virtuoso screenwriter and cinematic auteur, the hitmen Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield talked about Vincent’s recent trip to Paris.

“And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?” asked Vincent, played by John Travolta.

“They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with cheese?” asked Jules, played by Samuel L. Jackson.

“No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn’t know what a Quarter Pounder is.”

“Then what do they call it?”

“They call it a Royale with cheese.”

Royale with Cheese is the name of a hip new burger restaurant at 827 Franklin St. in downtown Michigan City that references the classic movie on its Facebook page. It’s decorated with modern art, chalkboard menus, Edison lighting, exposed ducts and a deconstructed motorcycle that’s hung up on the wall. There’s a pop machine pouring Jones Soda, which is made in Seattle with pure cane sugar, the slogan “because big soda sucks,” and features idiosyncratic flavors like Green Apple, Blue Bubble Gum, Fufu Berry, Strawberry Lime and Bacon.

The restaurant serves big beefy burgers with weekly specials — dubbed Bob’s Burgers after the cult TV show — like the “Jack-O-Lentil” with goat cheese, baby spinach and lentils; “Hit me with your Best Shallot,” with shallots, arugula and goat cheese; the “Sweaty Palms Burger” with Parmesan, spicy hearts of palm and artichoke Tapenade; and the “If Looks Could Kale Burger” with Gruyere cheese, rosemary tomato orzo and, of course, kale.

The menu includes salads, sandwiches, elote it calls “street corn,” bourbon-battered onion rings and “ghetto fries” with nacho cheese, beef, sour cream and jalapenos. Burgers include a chorizo-blend Mexican Burger with chipotle mayo, a Caprese Burger and a Pina Burger with pineapple. The namesake Royale Burger is an In and Out-style burger.

The place has a sense of humor — the menu description of fresh cut fries, for instance, is “you know what these are.”

Royale with Cheese, nestled in the heart of Michigan City’sUptown Arts District, also is working to set up a coffee bar.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. through 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. through 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 219-243-7106.


The Mama Pearl’s BBQ Restaurant, Banquets and Catering in downtown Gary closed in December after a run of several years.

The barbecue and soul food restaurant shared the building at 411 E. 5th Ave. across from U.S. Steel Yard with the ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen culinary incubator and cultural events space.

Named after the late Pearl Mason, who died last year at the age of 105, the southern-themed eatery was known for its ribs, rib tips, catfish nuggets, shrimp, chicken, sweet potatoes, cornbread, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and pinto beans. It’s one of the latest of a string of restaurants meant to capitalize on the Gary SouthShore Railcats traffic that have closed in downtown Gary, including Bennigan’s, Dustie’s Southern Style Buffet and the Stadium Buffet and Grill.


The Zuchez Restaurant and Bar at 211 N. Broad St. closed after a short stint as an eatery and nightclub in downtown Griffith.

The phone number is disconnected, the Facebook page and website have been taken down, and the building has been closed, though signs posted on the doors and windows looking for employees indicate the owners or new owners may be looking to reopen the space with a new Las Vegas concept.

The owners, who could not be reached for comment, had hoped the 260-person establishment would “bring date night back to the Region” when they opened last fall. Zuchez had live bands and weekend dance nights with country, salsa, merengue and house music.

In addition to being a nightclub, Zuchez offered everything from breakfast to dinner.

Online reviews were generally harsh, with customers complaining about prices, quality and service on websites like Yelp.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Buona, Hooters, tech repair shop all opening


NWI Business Ins and Outs: Buona, Hooters, tech repair shop open

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Buona opens in Schererville on March 27 and just opened in Flossmoor.


Buona plans to open its “Original Italian Beef” restaurant on March 27 at 24 U.S. 41 in Schererville and will open Feb. 28 at 19801 Crawford Ave. in Flossmoor.

The fast-growing local chain will give a free Italian beef sandwich to anyone waiting in line at the 130-seat Flossmoor location before 10 a.m. on opening day, as well as 1,500 prizes that include free Italian beef for a year. The festivities include an Italian beef-eating contest for high school athletes, who are generally not known for their bird-like appetites.

“We’re thrilled to join the Flossmoor community,” second-generation owner Joe Buonavolanto Jr. said. “We think its residents will enjoy our family’s flavorful Italian beef. We make it ‘old school,’ spiced just right and free of additives and preservatives.”

Buona, the official Italian beef of both the White Sox and Chicago’s other baseball team, started as a “beef stand” in Berwyn in 1981 and remains family owned. The menu includes many Chicago staples like Italian beef, Italian sausage, beef and sausage combos, Chicago dogs, and pepper and egg sandwiches. It also has some Italian fare like mostaccioli, lemon chicken and pizza.


Hooters opened Saturday at 1665 Oldstead Drive in the AmeriPlex at the Port business park in Portage. It’s by the Longhorn Steakhouse in the business park just northeast of the Ind. 249 exit on Interstate 94.

The sit-down restaurant and bar, which also has locations in Schererville and Merrillville, is known for its female servers wearing skimpy outfits, its chicken wings and showing pay-per-view fights.

It caters to a principally male demographic. The new 5,600-square-foot eatery will join El Salto, Starbucks, DQ Grill and Chill, Taco Bell, Subway, Islamorada Fish Co. at Bass Pro Shops and other restaurants at the business park in Portage.

Hooters would pose direct competition to the nearby Quaker Steak & Lube, which also has a menu that focuses on Buffalo wings.


The tech repair franchise UBreakiFix has opened at 5940 U.S. 6 Portage, in the Portage Commons.

Owners Angelo and Alexandra Giannakopoulos hope to open six more locations across Northwest Indiana and the south Chicago area.

“UBreakiFix specializes in the repair of smartphones and computers but offers repairs on anything with a power button,” the company said in a news release. “The brand has more than 350 stores across the U.S. and Canada, a partnership with Google, and founder Justin Wetherill was named among Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Consumer Tech last year.”

The Portage store off U.S. 6 is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.


Route 2 Brews owner Christopher Fast told The Times in 2014 when he and his wife, Gwendolyn Fast, opened their craft brewery and taproom, “I figure Lowell is ready for something like this.”

But less than four years after Route 2 Brews opened, the Fasts are closing the 3,000-square-foot steampunk-themed taproom at 141 Harding Drive in Lowell.

“Thank you for all the support over the last three years,” they posted on Facebook. “Our taproom doors are closed. All open gift certificates will be honored. Please message the brewery for a gift certificate resolution.”

Route 2 had distributed its beers in bottles at a growing number of retailers in Northwest Indiana, including Lowell Liquors, Holiday Liquors in Cedar Lake, Kennan Liquors in St. John and Dyer, Lake Liquors in Cedar Lake, Liquor Stop in Highland, and Liq Go in Crown Point.

The Fasts told customers on Facebook their beer would still be available at liquor stores, but it was unclear whether they would continue production. They have removed most of the information about the brewery and its beers from their website.

Route 2 Brews had often come under fire for labels and beer names many described as sexist, objectifying to women, in bad taste, and off-putting to female customers. Critics said the labels promoted sexual harassment and were “awful.”

Route 2 Brews is only the second craft brewery after Twisted K-8 in downtown LaPorte to close in Northwest Indiana after the explosion in new breweries between 2013-2016. Before craft brewing became nearly ubiquitous and took over many taps at local bars in the last few years, Valparaiso’sAberdeen Brewing Co., Michigan City’s Duneland Brewhouse, and Hobart’sBrickworks Brewing Co. all opened and closed.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Meijer, McAlister’s Deli, Anytime Fitness opening


Meijer, McAlister’s Deli, Anytime Fitness opening


McAlister’s Deli, a chain deli with a southern twist, opened its long-awaited Schererville restaurant Friday.

It’s the third Northwest Indiana location for McAlister’s Deli, which plans to open two more eateries in the area. The new fast-casual restaurant, in the vein of Panera Bread and Noodles and Co., is at 318 Indianapolis Boulevard in the new Shoppes on the Boulevard development.

“We believe McAlister’s handcrafted sandwiches, family-friendly atmosphere, and genuine hospitality will be a welcome addition to Schererville,” NWI Deli Inc. franchisee John Malesh said. “We look forward to opening our doors and becoming a part of Schererville and surrounding communities including Highland, Griffith, Munster, Dyer and St. John.”

McAlister’s, which also has restaurants in Merrillville and Valparaiso, serves up traditional deli fare like pastrami sandwiches, New Orleans-style muffalettas, giant spuds, salads and sweet iced tea. An example is the Big Nasty, a half-pound of Angus beef smothered in gravy and cheddar-jack cheese.

The 29-year-old establishment, which sets up in suburban locations, also offers takeout and catering.

The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, call 219-440-7681.


Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Meijer, which has 235 stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Indiana, is close to completing its new 190,000-square-foot superstore with a full grocery line in the Porter’s Vale Shopping Center in Valparaiso.

The store just east of Ind. 49 will employ 350 workers and be open 24/7. It will include a gas station and curbside pickup.

A company spokesman said it would be open by late spring or early summer.

Locally, Meijer also has locations in Portage, Merrillville, Michigan City and Highland.


Brothers Feras Musleh and Mohammade Musleh, with the help of their father Naser Musleh as an investor partner, are opening a Anytime Fitness gym in a brand new plaza next to CVS at the corner of Calumet Avenue and Main Street in Munster. An additional 2,700 square feet in the strip mall will be available for lease to retailers, restaurants or medical facilities.

The new gym at 821 Main St. will employ five, along with three more part-time class instructors. It will be open 24/7 and offer tanning, hydromassage, red light therapy, and live and virtual classes.

“Also, we will offer our new training program that will consist of one-on-one and group training sessions,” owner Mohammade Musleh said. “Clients will have access to our heart rate monitor system to track their calories as well as heart rate during sessions.”


Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore thrift store marked its second anniversary in Merrillville.

The thrift store relies on donations of lightly used items like clothes, home decor and furniture, reusing and recycling what would otherwise be pitched.

“I love to see how customers recycle items,” ReStore District Manager Kim DeRisi said. “The photos they show me are beautiful. I think people feel good when they get creative and recycle.”

The Griffith and Merrillville stores have diverted 1.5 million pounds of waste from the landfill and generate funds for Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, which builds houses that are sold to low-income families interest-free.

“ReStores are an environmentally and socially responsible way to keep good, reusable, materials out of the waste stream while providing funding for Habitat’s community improvement work. It’s a vital funding stream to help build Habitat homes,” DeRisi said. “ReStores mean we can help more families in need of safe, affordable housing get a home.”

With funding from Restore, the local Habitat for Humanity chapter hopes to put 10 more Northwest Indiana families in homes this year.

“It’s been a team effort cleaning it up, organizing and giving it a fresh look. We’ve made many changes over the years to make it better,” DeRisi said. “We have a wonderful, friendly staff and a place that I am proud of. We are open to the public and hope people come in to see what we have to offer.”

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Starbucks, Pita Pit, Beef Jerky Outlet coming


NWI Business Ins and Outs: Starbucks, Pita Pit, Beef Jerky Outlet coming

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Starbucks is opening another location in Michigan City, at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlet Mall.

Starbucks and a Beef Jerky Outlet are coming to Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in downtown Michigan City this spring.

Starbucks will sell its fancy, highly sugared or puckeringly bitter coffee drinks in a 1,580-square-foot space off the main parking lot near the 7th Street and Wabash Street entrance of the outdoor outlet mall. It plans to open in early April.

Beef Jerky Outlet will sell more than 100 varieties of jerky, including Cajun, elk, kangaroo, moonshine and venison in a 1,440-square-foot space near the 7th Street and Wabash Street entrance beginning in March.

Visitors to Beef Jerky Outlet, a Tennessee-based chain named to Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500, also will be able to buy other select foodstuffs such as sauces, spices, rubs, jams, jellies, cheeses, nut candies and peanut butters.

“We are delighted to share the news of two new store openings for our shoppers to look forward to,” Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets General Manager Chris Juricic said. “Both Starbucks Coffee and Beef Jerky Outlet will afford our shoppers the opportunity to enjoy some delicious treats from quality brands while shopping our center.”


Pita Pit plans to open its first Northwest Indiana location soon at 10611 Broadway in Crown Point.

The Canadian chain, a more Mediterranean version of Subway that has locations in Chicago’sLincoln Park neighborhood and downtown Indianapolis, sells its customized wraps with fresh meats and veggies in a 2,000-square-foot restaurant that will seat 40 people and another dozen on an outdoor patio.

Franchise owners Matt and Mari Davis is opening the Crown Point Pita Pit, which will offer a double drive-thru, catering services and the rollout of the brand’s new menu.

“What we’ve noticed is that some people want to go through the line and customize their order, while others want something that’s pre-built,” Vice President of Development Bill Wilfong said. “So to make everyone happy, we have a whole new menu of chef-inspired menu items, so you might get a pita with buffalo chicken, romaine and cheddar cheese and don’t have to choose every last item. It’s about 50/50 with what customers prefer and we want to satisfy everyone.”

The quick-service restaurant, which typically does a brisk lunch business, will employ 20 workers when it opens in mid-March. The franchise owners are looking to open three more Pita Pits across Northwest Indiana over the next few years.

“It’s a local family, and they’re super-excited,” he said.


The Dairy Queen Grill and Chill at 730 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville has closed.

The ice cream restaurant just off U.S. 30 that served Dilly Bars and Blizzards near the former Star Plaza Theatre and Radisson at Star Plaza is shuttered and the phone line is disconnected. A Dairy Queen customer representative said she could not comment on why it closed.

“Often, the franchise operator of a location may want to sell their DQ location and may be unable to find a prospective franchise operator that is willing and able to take over that location,” a “fan relations specialist” said. “As such, they may have to close their doors for good.”


Mastersque has opened a new barbecue joint at 2486 W. 81st Street in Merrillville.

The barbecue restaurant on U.S. 30 delivers to anywhere in Merrillville and serves an array of meats, including brisket, rib tips, pulled pork, turkey link, fish and jerk ribs. Sides include greens, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad and mac and cheese.

Customers have complimented the restaurant’s smoke flavoring, mild sauce and barbecue sauce in online reviews.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Grocery store and gyros stand close in Valpo


NWI Business Ins and Outs: Grocery store and gyros stand close in Valpo

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Petey’s City Grill in Valparaiso closed in December.

If you don’t want to grow up and just want to be a Toys “R” Us kid, you’ll have to do it in Hobart, home to the last remaining Toys “R” Us toy store in Northwest Indiana.

The New Jersey-based chain, which is closing more than 180 stores nationwide as part of a restructuring after filing for bankruptcy, shuttered its location at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets in Michigan City earlier this week.

The struggling toy and electronics retailer, which has been hobbled by e-commerce and mounting debt, said it was shuttering stores across the country that failed to meet its performance standards.

The only Toys “R” Us left in the Region is at 2020 E. Lincoln Highway in the Merrillville Plaza across from the Southlake Mall.


Petey’s City Grill ended a 17-year run serving gyros on U.S. 30 in Valparaiso in December.

The gyros restaurant at 255 Morthland Drive, which delivered and had a drive-through, had the slogans “We’re not just another Pretty Pita” and “You’re all friends and family here.”

In addition to “Petey’s Famous Gyros,” the restaurant served Chicago-syle dogs, Italian beef, patty melts, pork tenderloin and an “Avocado Grill” with items like an avocado bacon grilled cheese.

Founded in 2001, Petey’s had a more modern look than most Region gyros joints and unique menu items like a Mac & Cheese burger, a grilled veggie pita, a pretzel bacon cheese dog, and My Big Fat Greek Burger.

“It is with a heavy heart, we are announcing after 17 years of serving the community, Petey’s City Grill will be closing its doors for good,” the owners said on Facebook. “To our dismay, the new owners of the strip mall have decided to replace us with a bigger box brand store. And we have been asked to relocate. However after, great thought, a personal decision to retire from the restaurant industry was concluded. It has been our pleasure, but more importantly our privilege to serve the NWI area for over 17 years.”


The Wholesome Cupboard, a Valparaiso specialty grocery store in a strip mall just down U.S. 30 from Petey’s City Grill, also shuttered at the end of 2017.

“Valpo’s Affordable Specialty Market” at 201-9 Morthland Drive carried locally produced food, imported cheeses, artisanal pop, vitamins, Himalayan salt products, essential oils and more. A registered nurse opened it in 2015 for people with special dietary restrictions, such as if they can’t eat gluten or must watch their salt intake.

The Wholesome Cupboard carried an array of vegan, vegetarian, organic, non-GMO, low-carbohydrate and other healthy foods. Its expansive ethnic section include Italian, Thai, Asian, Indian, German, Irish, English, Serbian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern foods.


Planet Fitness, the gym chain known for its cheap prices, non-judgmental attitude and free pizza once a month, opened at 520 E. 81st Ave. in Merrillville.

The gym is the anchor in the new strip mall that replaced the popular Catch 22 restaurant on U.S. 30 in Merrillville, which will reopen in a smaller space at that site. The growing chain has other Region locations in Crown Point, Schererville, Hobart and Hammond.

Marketing to the casual “everyman” instead of bodybuilders and fitness fanatics, it entices customers by charging just $10 a month for memberships and offering freebies like free bagels.

The Merrillville gym is open from 12 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.


Dunkin’ Donuts opened a new coffee/donut shop at 328 W. 37th Ave. in New Chicago.

The Massachusetts-based chain, one of the largest fast-food franchises in the world by sheer number of locations, has 18 other restaurants in Lake County alone. It replaced a former Pizza Hut restaurant in New Chicago, where it’s open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

The location has a drive-through, on-the-go mobile ordering and Dunkin’ Donut K-Cup Pods and ground coffee available for retail sale.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: Harvest Room, Porkchop BBQ come to Region


NWI Business Ins and Outs: Harvest Room, Porkchop BBQ come to Region

Harvest Room in Palos Heights, Illinois plans to open a second location in Munster.

The farm-to-table Harvest Room restaurant, which has earned accolades from local critics like the Chicago Tribune’sPhil Vettel, plans to open another location in Munster.

The Palos Heights restaurant is known for its locally sourced produce, cage-free eggs, made-from-scratch cuisine and hand-crafted cocktails. A sample omelet is the “Super Fun Guy,” which includes balsamic caramelized onions, butternut squash, mushrooms and goat cheese. The “Mount Biscuit Skillet” features smoked brisket hash and a spicy sriracha swirl.

Harvest Room hopes to open a breakfast-and-lunch eatery in building D of the new Centennial Village in late spring. It will feature about 80 percent of the menu and include some new items.

Harvest Room’s owners Christ and Carri Sirigas said they saw Munster as “an untapped community of people that are knowledgeable, responsible and truly care about what they eat.”

“We make it our mission to make sure every fine diner has a unique experience and leaves with a sense of pride that they can tell their friends and family,” they said. “As far as other locations, we focus first to make sure we are doing our best for Munster and we will see where that takes us.”

Porkchop BBQ, a Chicago-based chain, finally opened its long-awaited Southlake Mall location. It joins other mall dining options like Cooper’s Hawk Winery, Schoop’s Hamburgers and Sbarro.

The barbecue joint promises “an urban interpretation of a Southern backwoods experience” that serves items like pulled pork sliders, fried ribs, smoked chicken, shrimp po’ boys and elote.

“It is an unapologetically unpretentious neighborhood party spot serving gourmet Southern comfort food and BBQ, and featuring an innovative ‘lowbrow’ bar program with some of the world’s top whiskeys,” Porkchop said on its website.


OrangeTheory Fitness, a heart rate-monitored group workout that purports to be based on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption science, has opened at 852 N. Superior Drive in Crown Point and at 835 Joliet Street in Dyer.

The gym chain claims its hour-long workouts burn up to 1,000 calories an hour and to continue to burn calories for 36 hours afterwards through “afterburn” that stimulates the metabolism. The Florida-based high-intensity, high-interval training gym now has more than 600 locations across the United States.


Charter Fitness has shuttered its Schererville gym at 1642 U.S. 41 at the intersection of U.S. 30 and Indianapolis Boulevard.

The low-cost fitness center chain lets members work out for as little as $10 a month, but Yelp reviewers complained about a dearth of exercise equipment and broken weight machines. It has dozens of locations in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, including on Broadway in Merrillville.


The Urban League of Northwest Indiana is looking to find someone to rent space in its headquarters at 3101 Broadway by the Indiana University Northwest campus in Gary.

“We are looking for people who are primarily engaged in the areas of education, health or business but are open to other considerations,” President and Chief Executive Officer Vanessa Allen-McCloud. “The space would be available from Monday through Thursday during the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A desk, chair, computer, access to phone service, conference room, copier and fax options are all included in the monthly rental fee of $700.”

Anyone who’s interested can call 219-887-9621.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: ChicagoLand Popcorn, The Simple Greek opening


NWI Business Ins and Outs: ChicagoLand Popcorn, The Simple Greek opening

ChicagoLand Popcorn has opened a second location in St. John.

ChicagoLand Popcorn first popped up on U.S. 30 across from the popular Albanese Candy Co. in Hobart in 2013, and now the gourmet popcorn place has planted a kernel in St. John.

The specialty popcorn shop, which carries more than 250 flavors like Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper, Pistachio and Pralines & Cream, opened its second location at 8329 Wicker Ave. in the Lake Central Plaza across from the sprawling Lake Central High School in St. John. A ribbon-cutting will take place at 2 p.m. Monday, and there will be popcorn.

“We are excited to add another location that is more convenient for our customers that live in and near St. John,” ChicagoLand Popcorn President Dwayne Walker said. “We’re excited to bring our flavors, event services, corporate gifts, and our established brand of customer service to this key geographic area of our expansion strategy.”


The Simple Greek, the Chipotle of Greek food, plans to open a fast-casual restaurant at 9609 Calumet Ave. in Munster’s new Centennial Village by April, franchise owner Adam Roberton said.

The exact timing will depend on when construction is complete in the mixed-use development, which will include condos, restaurants and a hotel.

“Like many living in Northwest Indiana, I am very excited to see our community embracing new and exciting restaurants, shopping and other concepts that complement many of the Region’s staples,” Robertson said. “Seeing a growing desire for a variety of healthier cuisine options in Northwest Indiana, I thought The Simple Greek and its modern Greek/Mediterranean, fast casual concept would be a nice addition to our community.”

Similar to a Qdoba or Chipotle, all the orders are customized. Customers pick out a pita or a rice bowl that can be topped with gyro, chicken gyro, steak, veggies, feta cheese, spices, hummus, imported olive oil and other toppings.

“I can’t wait for everyone to taste the Greek Fries,” Roberton said. “This delectable dish takes fresh-cut fries and adds feta cheese, imported vinegar, oregano and other spices for an amazing culinary experience everyone needs to try! We will also have traditional Greek desserts like Baklava, Rizogalo, Baklava Cheesecake and an array of other traditional Greek fare.”


Chicken wing restaurant Quaker Steak & Lube, which has a sit-down restaurant at the AmeriPlex at the Port business park in Portage, has opened its second Northwest Indiana location in a Travel Centers of America truck stop in Gary.

The new Quaker Steak & Lube Express will be located in the TA travel center at 2510 Burr St., just off the Burr Street exit of I-80/94 in Gary. The quick-serve restaurant will offer bone-in wings, boneless wings, breaded boneless wings, bottled wing sauces and and some non-wing options like burgers and salads.

It will be able to seat more than 110 diners and will have six televisions showing sports. Customers can order online or call ahead, as it will prioritize fast service for truckers in a hurry.

“We are excited to bring this new walk-up concept of The Lube to professional drivers, motorists and the Gary community,” Quaker Steak & Lube Vice President Bruce Lane said.


Renovar, the unique home decor and furniture store in downtown Griffith, is closing after two years. The store at the heavily trafficked and highly visible corner of Broad and Main Streets sold items like Farmhouse paint, catering to those interested in DIY home projects.

“Friends, these past two years at Renovar have been really good to us, thanks in part to wonderful customers like you,” owners Jenny Ann and Armando Del Real posted on Facebook. “We have met many talented people and have made new friends along the way. But now it is time to work on other aspects of our lives. Our family’s health and happiness are at the top of our priority list. For us, running a retail store location is no longer practical at this time. We will be closing Renovar at the end of January. We will continue to do what we love, but distributed in other ways. Meaning that our brick and mortar may be closing for the time being, but we aren’t gone forever! We are still available for custom orders and will be working out details on other things in the next few weeks.”

Renovar is currently having a liquidation sale to get ride of its remaining dressers, tables, chairs, candles, soap, handbags and other inventory.

NWI Business Ins and Outs: New oncology office, gym coming to Northwest Indiana


Region Retail Scene: New oncology office, gym, beauty store coming


Dr. Mohamad Kassar, a board-certified hematologist and medical oncologist who practices in Munster, is building a new oncology center at 1001 Calumet Ave. in Dyer.

Dyer Planning Director Bryan Lane said the doctor was constructing a two-story building under 30,000 square feet on a 5-acre site on Calumet Avenue, which has become one of the hottest corridors for new development in the town. There are long-term plans to build a second building for medical offices on the site, but no timetable for the future addition.

Kassar, who co-directs the Cancer Center at Community Hospital in Dyer and was the principal investigator for more than 15 National Cancer Institute-funded clinical trials, expects to complete construction of the building that’s now going up by the spring, Lane said.


Anytime Fitness, the fast-growing 24-hour gym chain, started construction on a new $2 million gym in Cedar Lake as part of a rapid expansion across Northwest Indiana.

Franchisees Atta Musleh, Muhanad Musleh, Moe Musleh, Yasmin Musleh and Ammr Musleh hired the Crown Point-based commercial contractor Integrated Construction Solutions to build out the new 7,200-square-foot gym over the next four to five months. It will be at 9708 Lincoln Plaza just off W. 133rd Avenue about a mile east of U.S. 41.

“We own several clubs around the Region: Dyer, Winfield, Lowell, and Schererville, and are very excited to be expanding into Cedar Lake,” owner Moe Musleh said. “The location will be in front of the Strack & Van Till.”

The Musleh family plans to build as many as nine new Anytime Fitness gyms over the next several years.

The Cedar Lake location is expected to open in the spring, and will employ about 12 workers.

Anytime Fitness, which keeps regular hours but which members can unlock to use at any time day or night, has more than 3,330 gyms nationally, including in Hobart, Merrillville, Highland, Portage, Winfield, Crown Point, Valparaiso, Schererville, St. John, Dyer, Hebron, Lowell, Michigan City, LaPorte, DeMotte and South Holland. Another Anytime Fitness gym is currently under construction in Munster.


Meatheads, a Five Guys-like “better burger” restaurant that cooks to order with all-natural ingredients, closed its Schererville location after a four-year run. The Bloomington, Illinois-based chain, which served gourmet burgers, canola oil-fried French fries, shakes, salads and New England-style hot dogs, shuttered its location at 69 U.S. Highway 41 Ste. 300 in Schererville.

“It is with great sadness that we share the closing of the Schererville Meatheads,” a sign posted on the door said. “We thank our loyal customers, neighbors and friends for your support over the years.”

The neighboring Firehouse Subs in a strip mall outside the Shops on Main outdoor shopping center in Schererville also recently closed. Both opened in 2013, when the much-awaited lifestyle center did.

Any fans of Meatheads burgers, which feature Angus beef and premium toppings such as cucumber wasabi sauce and avocado, still can visit the Munster location at 9140 Calumet Ave #101.

This article provided by NewsEdge.