BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV (PAGES 11-17)
A longing for connection in a historic downtown. A desire to share a passion for the arts. The lure of a 19th century family homestead. From urban to rural, and from long-established to brand new, every small business in Greater Lafayette has a uniquely personal reason for putting down roots here. Here are the origin stories for five of them.
Mad Love Boutique
210 N. Sixth St., Lafayette
Stephanie and Chris Deckard, owners of Velvet Lotus Photography, lived on Perrin Avenue for nine years before moving to a westside subdivision. “We immediately felt so detached, even with our studio still in town,” Stephanie says.
Relocating their business from Kossuth Street to the heart of the city, the couple settled into their new digs. Then Stephanie had a brainstorm. “Having clothing to style my clients in felt like a natural shift, without being so overwhelming that I couldn’t work my photography as well,” she says.
Nearly two years ago, Mad Love Boutique opened next door to the photography studio. In a space that the couple renovated themselves, Stephanie sells women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories among antique furnishings.
Her favorite offerings: jewelry by Autumn Rose Designs, a mother-daughter team based in Greater Lafayette, and Hiptipico luxury bags, handmade in Guatemala. “All of the textiles and bags are made by female artisans, and that makes my heart happy,” she says. “I’m a proud supporter of BLM, LGBTQ+ and women’s rights.”
When businesses shut down in March because of COVID-19, the couple quickly moved all their inventory online. Chris took photos of Stephanie modeling the clothes, which range in size from extra small to 3XL.
Now that the store has started to reopen, Stephanie says she looks forward to expanding her hours again and seeing some familiar faces. “I love to talk, so if you come in to shop, you can expect a conversation,” she says.
Wea Creek Orchard
5618 S. 200 East, Lafayette
Perry Kirkham and his brother were both working in Washington, D.C., when, in 2007, they each relocated to Indiana around the same time. While they got settled, the brothers lived on the family homestead.
The farmland surrounding the house had been in their family since 1855, and they wanted to continue its agricultural legacy. But, “the fences here had been taken down and we no longer had access to any conventional farming equipment,” Kirkham says.
“We discussed various options and landed on fruit trees. We formed the orchard in January of 2008, planted 400 fruit trees in April of 2008 and here we are!”
Co-owned by Kirkham and his wife, Lisa, Wea Creek Orchard is located on Lafayette’s south side and sells 19 varieties of apples, four varieties of peaches, and pumpkins. “I like the Akane apples the best,” Kirkham says. “It is a wonderful combination of sweet and tart and is full of flavor.”
Inside the store are also jellies, preserves, salsas, butters and honey, along with succulents, hanging baskets and sunflowers. The orchard also hosts weddings, on average 27 a year, in the 1869-era barn. School kids also come on field trips.
“We decided long ago we would never charge to come on the farm, so theoretically anyone can visit and enjoy the property without spending a dime,” Kirkham says.
“Of course, we hope they don’t.”
Inspired Fire Glass Studio and Gallery
2124 SR 25, Lafayette
Sharon Owens, a Lafayette native and Indiana University art graduate, fell in love with glassmaking while taking a flame-working class at Purdue University in 1979. After studying the art around the United States and in Europe, she opened Inspired Fire Glass Studio and Gallery in 2002 to share her passion with her hometown.
Her shop, two miles off US 231 on the edge of Shadeland, promotes more than 30 local artists and provides a place for them to work and teach flame-working, fusing and furnace glass blowing to the Greater Lafayette community. Beginner and advanced classes are available, as well as field trips and custom parties. Due to the pandemic, the shop is open for limited hours. A gallery dog, Zing Zang, greets shoppers at the door.
Since opening in 2002, the Inspired Fire building has undergone several remodels and expansions, including a recent upgrade to the façade and the addition of viewing windows in the gallery so that shoppers can watch artists at work.
Owens’ personal specialty is crafting vibrantly colored vessels with techniques such as hand-pulled murrini, the making of patterns using long rods of glass that are cut into cross sections. “I draw inspiration from nature, and the glass vessels and jewelry I create are colorful interpretations of transparency and opacity swimming within layers of joy,” she says.
Blooms and Petals Fresh Flowers & Event Concepts
848 Main St., Lafayette
East Chicago, Indiana, native Paula Eve Davis came to Tippecanoe County for college, eventually settling down here with her husband. “I really felt that it was a great area to raise a family, and there were plenty of opportunities. I still feel that way,” says Davis, a master designer, certified balloon artist and founder of Blooms and Petals Fresh Flowers & Event Concepts.
The Purdue University graduate began her floral career more than 20 years ago, growing and selling flowers at the Lafayette Farmers Market and craft shows. Then she branched out to weddings and proms. “I had flowers all over my home, and eventually my husband decided I needed a retail flower shop,” Davis recalls. “He secretly found the space and leased it. For our wedding anniversary, he brought me the keys to my new shop.”
Davis’ store makes fresh arrangements using flowers from all over the world. “We like dealing directly with our growers to get the most variety and the freshest product,” says Davis, whose business is 70 percent retail and 30 percent event florals. Among her favorite events are celebrations of life and funeral floral tributes.
This spring, during the height of the shutdown, Davis founded the Good Samaritan Project to repurpose flowers she had preordered for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and prom. She donated bouquets and gift baskets to police departments, fire departments and nursing homes.
Escape Velocity Brewing Company
405 Sagamore Parkway South, Lafayette
Jason Behenna began homebrewing in 2007, and by 2015 he was winning awards. When his Irish Stout won Best in Show at the Indiana Brewers Cup in 2016, he and his wife, Heather Howard, began exploring the idea of their own brewery.
More than two years after moving back to Lafayette, the Purdue grads found a suitable space. As they were readying to launch in March, COVID-19 grounded non-essential businesses. “We have impeccable timing,” Behenna says.
After starting curbside pickup in April, the couple, along with managing partner Colin Jelliffe, finally opened their tap room doors in May.
Escape Velocity Brewing Company has a five-barrel Blichmann Engineering brewing system, which can produce around 200 gallons. Within the colorful, space-themed environment, patrons can choose from a variety of beers whose names are all space- or rocket-related.
Their bestselling beer is the Drogue Chute IPA. Another favorite is Behenna’s award-winning Magnificent Desolation Dry Irish Stout. The all vegetarian/vegan menu includes curried chickpea salad on sourdough bread and grilled cheese with either Irish cheddar, pepper jack or Chao vegan cheese.
It goes without saying that starting a new business during a pandemic is hard. But while Behenna continues to build a following, he hopes locals will support not only him but also his fellow restaurateurs and brewers.
“The pandemic is really hurting the industry, and local support is the only thing that will ensure there are restaurants and breweries to continue … for years to come,” he says.