BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Before the start of every NFL game, the stadium’s grounds crew uses a Clegg Impact Tester to determine the hardness of the field and to ensure the playing surface is safe for athletes. Developed in the 1970s in Australia by Baden Clegg, a geomechanical engineer and a lecturer at the University of Western Australia, the instrument contains an accelerometer, or hammer, that is dropped from a predetermined height to measure how quickly weight stops upon impact.
NFL rules dictate the reading must produce a score under 100 before a game can be played. The higher the number, the harder the playing surface and the higher the risk for a player to suffer a concussion if his head hits the ground. And every Clegg Impact Tester used by the NFL is manufactured by Lafayette Instrument Company, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
“People drive by the building and see the word ‘instrument’ and they think we make musical instruments,” says Brian Brown, sales manager for Lafayette Instrument. “We actually make and sell scientific instruments in more than 100 different countries, working with corporate clients such as the NFL, American Airlines and FedEx.”
In addition to being the sole distributer of the Clegg, Lafayette Instrument is the world’s leading manufacturer of Polygraph instrumentation and equipment and offers innovative technologies to support neuroscience research and instruments for human evaluation used in education, temporary staffing, human resources, occupational medicine, rehabilitation and other professions.
“For the past 75 years, we’ve been able to reinvent ourselves to meet customers’ needs,” says Jennifer Rider, president and CEO of Lafayette Instrument. “What started as a partnership with Purdue University expanded to partnerships with numerous universities, government agencies and other organizations around the world. Our product line and massive reach sets us apart from other businesses in the area, and even in the state.”
Lafayette Instrument was founded by Purdue electrical engineering graduate Max Wastl in 1947. What began as a small operation in a shed with one employee has grown into an international leader in scientific instrumentation manufacturing with the Lafayette-based headquarters and primary manufacturing facility that employs 48 people, and a second location, Camden Instruments, acquired in 1998 and located about one hour northeast of Birmingham, England, that employs around 20.
“Our Camden Instruments subsidiary focuses on neuroscience products exclusively,” Rider says. “They do some machining and a lot of their own assembly. They have their own engineering and tech teams, much like Lafayette, just on a smaller scale.”
Rider’s father-in-law, Roger McClellan, bought the company with two partners and restructured it in the 1990s with a focus on vertical integration, a business model that became critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Lafayette Instrument has the capability to not only conceive product ideas and iterate on them but also build them out in full-scale production within our own facility,” Rider says. “Over the past 10 to 20 years, vertical integration isn’t quite as critical as it used to be. We have many options available to us, using providers around the state and sourcing equipment internationally. We still do as much as we can in-house because it saves money and it certainly saves us time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when other companies were waiting on vendors and suppliers, we were able to fulfill orders.”
The orders Lafayette Instrument fills range from simple instruments such as a pegboard used to test fingertip dexterity and gross movement of the hand in an ergonomics lab or basic calipers used for physical ability testing, to sophisticated computerized instruments used in health care, law enforcement and research facilities that can communicate instantaneous results digitally.
The Polygraph is one such instrument that Lafayette Instrument continues to innovate. The paper readouts depicted in the movies have been replaced with a computerized system that connects to a digital interface.
“The need for credibility assessment solutions has remained steady and increased,” Rider says. “The organizations that use Polygraph know it’s the best tool and technology available today, outside of basic interview and interrogation techniques, to try to determine if a person is being deceptive. But it doesn’t mean it is the exclusive technology that will always be used forever.
“There are academic endeavors, institutional endeavors and our own research and development to find ways to make it better. But the need for products like these aren’t going away. Whether it’s cybercrimes or terrorism or criminal investigations, the data acquired through these types of instruments is incredibly valuable.”
Customers approach the company with ideas for specific instruments they need. Occasionally those will be large-scale custom manufacturing orders, but most often they are tools that Lafayette Instrument can bring to market.
“We’re very ingrained in the industries we serve,” Brown says. “People recognize the Lafayette Instrument name and come to us for solutions. The confidence our customers have in our company to be on the leading edge of innovation and provide instrumentation that is going to benefit them is what keeps me excited.”
As Lafayette Instrument looks to its next 75 years, capitalizing on the strength of its employees — many are long-tenured like Brown — and its drive for ingenuity will propel its growth for years to come.
“To reach 100-year-plus milestones, you can’t be afraid of change and disruption,” Rider says. “We don’t want to be complacent and think we’ll have another 75 years of success doing exactly what we’ve been doing. We have to understand the value that we bring to the market and to our customers and build on that. We have to know ourselves. When you stray too far from your core strengths, that’s when a company starts to falter.”
Whether it’s working with governmental agencies, neuroscience researchers and industry, health care practitioners or the NFL, Lafayette Instrument offers solutions that advance safety, security, science and medicine.
“Every product that goes out our doors is helping someone or protecting someone,” Rider says. “There’s a lot of purpose in that work that gives meaning to what you’re doing. It’s easy to be fulfilled by that.” ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
Medical history has had its moments of accidental discovery that led to life-saving drugs and procedures.
A stack of uncleaned petri dishes eventually allowed Alexander Fleming to produce penicillin. Experiments with cathode ray tubes, gas and electricity would lead to the X-ray.
A slip of a catheter during a routine imaging test sent dye into a patient’s nearby coronary artery, producing the first coronary angiogram.
For Purdue University researcher Dr. Philip Low, the invention of an imaging drug that will help surgeons identify cancer cells began innocently 35 years ago from simple plant cells.
The drug, Cytalux, was approved in November 2021 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Marketed by West Lafayette-based On Target Laboratories, Inc., the drug uses fluorescent technology to identify cancerous lesions and cells.
“Plant cells took up the vitamin biotin and would gobble up anything biotin was attached to, so we could attach biotin on any number of different molecules and fool the cells into gobbling them up,” says Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the Purdue University College of Science.
“So after we accidentally discovered this as a mechanism to deliver anything we wanted into plant cells, I asked the question whether something similar might be possible in human cells.”
Performing a similar study with folic acid, a vitamin you can find listed on the side of a Wheaties cereal box, Low learned that only cancer cells took up folic acid and folate-linked molecules.
“We immediately saw the obvious benefits of that; we could deliver drugs selectively to cancer cells simply by attaching them to folic acid,” Low says.
“That selectivity would avoid the collateral toxicity that always occurs when good drugs go into healthy cells. … The healthy cells ignore the folate-targeted drugs.”
Low admits to many high and low moments over the 35-year process. The highs included the moment he discovered that folate linked to a bright fluorescent dye would ignore healthy human cells in a dish while causing all cancer cells in the dish to glow.
A low point came during a study of live animals that had cancer. The drug was found to be absorbed not solely by cancer cells but kidney cells also.
“Then we found the kidney cells actually weren’t damaged by the drugs,” Low says. “They didn’t retain the folate-linked drugs very long. After the kidney cells captured them from the urine, they transferred them back into the blood stream.”
A number of drugs were then tested on humans, and the results were encouraging.
“We find that within an hour after injecting the Cytalux … the tumor-targeted fluorescent molecule helps the surgeon find a lot of hidden malignant lesions, nodules, and tumor masses that would have otherwise gone undetected because they glow very brightly. The surgeon opens the patient up, turns on the fluorescent lamp, finds the brightly glowing cancer tissue and cuts it out.”
Cytalux was demonstrated on ovarian cancers first. A recent demonstration on lung cancer patients was eye-opening. In 57 percent of the lung cancer patients, extra disease was found that would have been missed otherwise.
“That’s extraordinary,” Low says. “That tells you first of all that the surgery without this new tool is not highly accurate. It also tells you that with this new ability to see malignant nodules the chances of removing all the cancer and creating a cure are greatly increased.”
The next step is to test Cytalux in other cancers and obtain broad FDA approval to use it in all cancers.
Those of us who have sat through lengthy prime-time commercials for prescription drugs for such ailments as asthma, type 2 diabetes and overactive bladder have wondered about the expense, not only of the time on network TV but for developing the drug itself.
Low says the average cost of bringing a new drug through clinical trials from discovery to the hospital is about $2 billion. Not to mention the years-long process to gain FDA approval.
In comparison, Cytalux was done “on the cheap,” Low says. Venture capitalists put up more than $100 million to run Low’s studies, beginning with the elaborate studies on animals, through the human clinical trials.
“These are FDA-overseen clinical trials,” Low says. “They are very carefully monitored. You have to record every ‘hiccup’ of a patient, so you follow them like a ‘helicopter mom.’ ”
In all, approximately 232,000 documents were turned into the FDA to obtain regulatory approval for Cytalux. Listed in those documents were everything that happened in manufacturing, the stability of Cytalux, toxicity in the animals, all the therapeutic data in humans, the benefit to the patient, the percentage of the patients in which surgeons found extra cancer and detailed description of how the drug would be shipped.
“You can’t just go down to the post office and send a package to each hospital,” Low says.
The work really began once Cytalux was approved by the FDA: Hiring a company to do the manufacturing, followed by hiring a sales staff to visit surgeons across the United States, Europe and the Far East.
A few months later, Low received approval from the FDA for a drug that targets prostate cancer. One form of that drug also can be used for fluorescence-guided surgery of prostate cancer.
“But more importantly, we also made a radioactive version that is targeted specifically to prostate cancer cells,” Low says. “This was given ‘breakthrough status’ by the FDA on March 23 … because it successfully treats drug-resistant prostate cancer.”
Almost one-third of patients who have the metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer respond to Low’s drug, whereas only 2 percent of the same patient population respond to other available therapies.
Switzerland-based Novartis saw such promise in the prostate cancer treatment that it bought the company Low founded, Endocyte, for $2.1 billion just to obtain the drug.
“They expect it to be a blockbuster drug,” he says. “It significantly exceeds the capability or performance of any other prostate drug.”
It’s been quite a career for the son of a Purdue faculty member. Low caught the science bug while taking chemistry courses from Jim Guy at West Lafayette High School. It wasn’t all work and no play for Low, who played basketball for Hall of Fame coach Bill Berberian.
Seeking to be a chemistry major, Low ventured west to Brigham Young University for his bachelor’s degree. He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California-San Diego.
Originally not planning to be medically focused, Low’s life changed when he happened upon “this crazy discovery that plant cells would eat up biotin along with anything attached to it, that I got the idea to look for something similar in animals. It just turned out fortuitously that folate went specifically into cancer cells.”
Even though he is 10 years past many people’s retirement age, the 75-year-old says it’s been too difficult to retire.
“I’m just grateful to be part of the process,” Low says. “It’s very rewarding. I enjoy what I’m doing.”★
BY KEN THOMPSON
A large number of Tippecanoe County residents cannot remember a time when Caterpillar Inc., wasn’t a major part of Lafayette’s east side landscape.
The Deerfield, Ill.-based company is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, off-highway diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives.
Caterpillar is celebrating its 40th anniversary in Lafayette, a partnership that Tippecanoe County commissioner Tom Murtaugh says is beneficial to both.
“Caterpillar has played an essential role in the growth of this community and the region,” Murtaugh says. “In addition to creating great employment opportunities for hundreds of families over the past few decades, Caterpillar has been a generous community partner and supporter of the United Way and countless other community initiatives.”
In 2021, employees and the Caterpillar Foundation provided approximately $548,000 through the United Way for their communities, according to Joe Markun, Large Power Systems Operations vice president for Caterpillar Inc. The Caterpillar Foundation also provided grant funding of more than $290,000 to non-profits in 2021.
Additionally, the Lafayette Drive Team – an employee-led advocacy group, makes donations to local sports teams, food banks, scout troops, transitional housing centers, Habitat for Humanity efforts, the YWCA, and other organizations.
Caterpillar is stepping up its community involvement with a 40 Days of Giving program that launched in early August.
“This is a facility-wide initiative to engage our employees and give back to the communities that have supported us continually over the past four decades,” Markun says.
“Teams across engineering, supply chain, human resources and more are finding needs in our communities and providing their time and resources to address them. While we have much to celebrate internally with the 40-year milestone, none of this would be possible without our community partners.”
It was big news in 1977 when rumors began to circulate that Caterpillar was interested in building a plant in Lafayette.
Murtaugh’s family played an important role in the plant’s location. His was one of four families who sold a combined 425 acres to Caterpillar in 1977. The deal was so top secret that Murtaugh remembers “company X” buying his family’s farm.
Even after officially announcing the land purchase on Sept. 22, 1977, at the downtown branch of Lafayette National Bank, Caterpillar chairman William L. Naumann had little to say publicly about the decision to bring the manufacturing of its new Series 3500 diesel engines to Tippecanoe County.
That morning, members of those four families — James Murtaugh, Richard Smith, Donald Lecklitner and Paul Hamman — learned who “company X” really was.
Journal & Courier business writer Judy Horak reported that Naumann cited four factors that attracted Caterpillar to Lafayette. First was the site not only being large enough for a Caterpillar facility, but it also had excellent access to I-65, railroad transportation and good utility services.
“We find a strong spirit of community pride and cooperation here,” Naumann said of the second reason. He was just as succinct with the other two factors.
“The quality of local government and community services is excellent. Finally we are attracted by the quality and character of the Lafayette-West Lafayette-Tippecanoe County area.”
While the courtship was completed, it would be five years – November 1982 – before employees began pre-assembly work on parts for the Series 3500 high-powered diesel engine. The first Series 3500 engines were assembled in December 1982.
Tony Roswarski was on the verge of beginning a career in law enforcement 40 years ago. Today, he’s approaching 20 years as mayor of Lafayette.
“Caterpillar has been an important piece of our economic foundation for the past 40 years,” Roswarski says. “Its global presence helps put Lafayette on the worldwide economic map. Closer to home, it creates great paying jobs, pays taxes that help fund the police, fire and parks department along with great schools.
“Caterpillar helps families build their future and have a high quality of life. They have been a wonderful corporate citizen, giving back through the company and its employees. Thousands of people a year enjoy CAT Park, and more now will have the opportunity as the new all-inclusive sports field will be finished soon. Caterpillar truly has made a positive impact on Lafayette over the past 40 years.”
Look no further than these numbers to measure Caterpillar’s impact on Lafayette’s economy. When it announced in early January 1982 that it was taking applications for 40 maintenance positions, the company received approximately 600 resumes.
As more job openings were posted, Caterpillar’s local post office box overflowed with resumes. More than 3,400, in fact, by March. As Lafayette celebrated the new year 1983, approximately 300 management, salaried and production workers were in place.
Today, Markun says the Lafayette Engine Center machines and assembles diesel and natural gas engines that power the world – the 3500, the 3600 and the C175 engines.
“When our facility opened, we were developing and manufacturing 3500 engines,” he says. “Over the 40 years, this engine platform grew to be the industry standard for heavy-duty diesel and gas engines worldwide, and we introduced two more platforms – the 3600 and C175. These units are custom-built to ensure our customers get exactly what they need.
“The 3500 engine primarily helps support the electric power, oil and gas, rail and marine markets around the globe. The 3600 is a huge player in the oil and gas segment, and the C175 is largely utilized in mining and electric power applications.”
These engines power mining trucks carrying ore to be processed, tugboats guiding ships to harbor, drill rigs tapping oil and gas reserves, and generators bringing electricity to communities, hospitals and data centers.
Caterpillar may be celebrating its 40th birthday locally but it also is looking ahead to the next decade. The Lafayette facility will play a key role in Caterpillar’s effort to “integrate sustainability” into its core business.
The company website boasts how Lafayette’s facility is meeting the goal of recycling power into the day-to-day operations.
“When a new engine or component is offered, it is important that we conduct many testing hours on each product to provide confidence to our customers that they are buying the highest quality engine available.
“The amount of energy created by the testing process is tremendous. Rather than waste it, the team explored various options to harness the energy. Understanding that endurance testing is a necessary and critical means to assure product quality, they looked for a way to use the electricity-generated power to support facility operations which would otherwise have been wasted.”
Caterpillar states that the electricity generated by the endurance test pad provides supplemental energy to power the Lafayette plant. With roughly 130,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions avoided over the last five years, Caterpillar has saved more than $11 million.
“Harnessing the power from their endurance testing is just one example of the Lafayette facility’s sustainability journey. Through their continuous improvement projects, the team has implemented several programs resulting in general reductions in greenhouse gases, water usage and waste.” ★
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
The Lafayette Life Insurance building on the corner of Teal Road and 18th Street in Lafayette has been transformed. The building, vacant since 2011, now houses a modern center for learning, for exploring. Students from all area high schools get career training that will prepare them for either postsecondary education or to enter the workforce.
The idea for a career academy was the inspiration of area school superintendents. Les Huddle, Lafayette School Corp. superintendent, took a look one day at the building, which sits conveniently across the street from Jefferson High School, and had an idea. So he made phone calls to Rocky Killion and Scott Hanback, his counterparts in West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County respectively, to discuss the potential for that property and what it might do for students.
“The original vision was for the three school corporations to partner together and build a facility that would serve the students from all three corporations,” says Huddle.
And the Greater Lafayette Career Academy was born. It provides opportunities for students in their junior and senior years to seek training and certification in a variety of areas, all of which will help prepare them for their future, says Miranda Hutcheson, director, Career Technical Education at GLCA.
The vison grew, with partnerships from Ivy Tech, Purdue University and area industry.
“Once GLCA entered into a design stage, the partnership was expanded to include others as [Greater Lafayette Commerce], Ivy Tech and local businesses and manufacturers,” Huddle says. “This inclusive model provided the design team with the ability to match the students’ needs with the community needs. The result of the multiple partnerships resulted in a quality facility that offers quality career pathways for students in our county to explore and succeed in.”
The courses vary in their offerings, their style, and their ultimate goals. In some cases, the courses are more introductory, giving students an idea of what to expect in certain fields, helping them decide if they want to continue in that career path. In other programs, students will leave with a certification or dual credit.
As a public school building, the Career Academy is held to those same requirements as the home schools, Hutcheson says. Students with an Individualized Education Plan or who need classroom accommodations will receive any assistance they require.
The fully remodeled building boasts 65,000 square feet of space — about 20,000 square feet were added to house the construction, automotive and manufacturing spaces. The result of the $30 million project is state-of-the art classrooms, labs and workspace, all of which help students achieve their goals of workforce preparedness.
Students who enroll at the GLCA remain enrolled at their home schools. They will take courses on that campus in the morning and then move to the GLCA for the afternoon session. Students drive themselves or, in some cases, transportation is provided.
The programs offered are designed to help students prepare for the future. Current offerings may include automotive services, aviation operations and flight, aviation maintenance, computer science, construction trades, cosmetology, criminal justice, culinary arts and hospitality, education careers, emergency medical technician, engineering design and development, fire and rescue, manufacturing, medical assistant, networking and cybersecurity, precision agriculture, pre-nursing (CNA), radio/TV, and welding.
Program offerings will vary. And not all programs are offered every year, Hutcheson says. They will differ based on student enrollment and staffing.
Purdue has been a partner in some programming, and industry partners have already stepped up; some are offering incentives — which can include guaranteed job interviews, increased base pay and signing bonuses — to students who complete the Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate, a statewide competency-based program that rates competency in categories such as persistence, respectfulness, initiative, dependability, efficiency, academic readiness and discipline.
Because the courses are so different, the work in each varies. Much of it is hands-on — students in culinary arts work in a test kitchen, while students in the automotive program work on cars.
And the result, at the end of the year, is that some students take their skills to actual customers. In construction, the students build — and sell — playhouses. In the culinary program, the group opened and operated a lunch bistro for three weeks.
Not to mention fun perks for students: When it was time to test out auto detailing, students got to bring in their own cars for that custom service.
Each Friday is Life Skills Friday. Students have a chance to rotate through all he programs, seeing what each offers, learning skills and touring the building. Each program will offer a different activity — students learned about personal finance, how to hang a picture, and how to change a tire.
Most instructors bring some real-life experience to the role. Lafayette Police Department officers help teach the criminal justice classes, for example. But there can be challenges for instructors in this environment, Hutcheson says. In a new facility with a new program, they may be the only instructor in that area, without any colleagues to directly work with. Thus, she says, the administration works to help provide resources and networking, such as the statewide conference it hosted in the spring. Because, Hutcheson says, she knows the instructors want to bring the best they can to these students.
“They are committed to education,” Hutcheson says. “Most of them have industry experience. Their knowledge is invaluable to these students.”
Goals for the students will vary, Hutcheson says. Some will gain enough knowledge or earn a certification that will allow them to find employment in their field after high school graduation. Other students will go on to seek a two or four-year degree. And some students, having tried out a program, will determine that it is not the best fit and move in a different direction. Which, she says, are all successful outcomes.
Because, she says, there is a bit of a misconception about the students who attend GLCA. It is not a repository for students who lack motivation or drive; it’s quite the opposite.
“We serve all students who are interested in a career, with all abilities and all interests,” she says. “Kids choose to be here. The programs are competitive. They know that to be here is a privilege and not a right.”
Enrollment continues to increase; Hutcheson is seeing a 50 to 70 percent increase each semester. The facility is designed to house about 950 students, but Hutcheson says they can be flexible and creative, using sone offsite locations.
The goal is to help all students find their passion — whatever it may be. But it is, Hutcheson says, about the whole student. This is a place where they can spend some time figuring out and exploring who they want to be as they move into their postgraduate life.
“It’s a safe space to transition to adulthood,” she says. And in the halls of the GLCA, there are no limits.
“Now that the GLCA has been operating for several years and the pandemic has slowed, we are seeing more and more students enrolling in a variety of career pathways,” Huddle says. “Many of the GLCA students will continue on to some form of higher education, and many will leave the GLCA with skills that will allow them to enter the local workforce.”
And, Huddle says, it has truly been a boon to the entire area.
“The GLCA success is due to the local school corporations and our community partnering together to provide a unique educational opportunity for all of our students,” he says. “With the school and community partnering together, the GLCA can now be looked upon as a valuable community resource for our entire county.”
The students, though, truly benefit, and they say it best. Harrison student Elijah Froiland shared his thoughts in a Tweet in February 2021:
“Choosing to go to the GLCA has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The instructors are extremely kind and you can tell that they really want you to succeed. This has really made my senior year special.” ★
For more information, go to: glcareeracademy.com
BY KAT BRAZ
BizTown buzzes with activity as middle schoolers engage in an experiential learning program that allows them to run community businesses, receive paychecks, conduct bank transactions and purchase goods and services. The daylong visit to Junior Achievement’s interactive, simulated community is the culmination of an integrated teacher-led curriculum that teaches financial literacy and work and career readiness.
“It’s an opportunity for students to model good citizenship in addition to learning about personal budgeting, managing a business and exploring career paths,” says Resa Hodnett, capstone manager at Greater Lafayette JA. “Prior to arriving at BizTown, the students have learned about business operating expenses, how payroll works, how to manage their credit and their checkbook, and they’ve applied for a job. Arriving at BizTown is like their first day on the job.”
Storefronts lining the mini Main Street, located inside the James Kirby Risk Family Junior Achievement Learning Center at the Lafayette Family YMCA, bear signage of area companies that sponsor the program including Kirby Risk, Purdue Federal Credit Union, Arconic, Wabash National, IU Health Arnett, State Farm and Freckles Graphics.
Each branded storefront represents its respective company, so a medical facility is designed differently than an insurance office. The students are assigned specific roles within each company (e.g., CEO, CFO, designer, engineer, sales associate, clerk) and work together as a team to run the business. Community volunteers, including some from the respective sponsor businesses, coach students throughout the day.
“BizTown is an opportunity for our partner businesses to build their workforce pipeline over time,” Hodnett says. “These students are getting their first look at the types of jobs available within their community. Sponsorship support enables JA to deliver our Indiana State Board of Education-approved programming free to the schools. Teachers can have confidence that the content correlates to the core curriculum and students learn they can stay in their community and have a really fun job.”
The space is dual-purpose, serving as BizTown for fifth and sixth graders and as Finance Park for lder students, highlighting some different sponsor businesses. When seventh through ninth graders visit Finance Park, each student is assigned a persona with a specific job tied to an annual salary and other varying factors, such as a spouse or partner, children, credit card debt or education debt. The students learn more in-depth finance skills, such as making a monthly budget, understanding their debt-to-income ratio and applying for credit.
“We make the students save at least 2 percent of their net monthly income, which for some of them can be a challenge,” Hodnett says. “They start talking about jobs in different industries and average salaries for different positions. It’s a great time for them to start thinking about career pathways. The job they want might require a college degree or perhaps they’d rather go into the trades. Experiencing Finance Park helps start those conversations.”
While students might pass by these businesses every day in town, they often don’t understand all the various positions necessary to run a successful business. They may think a manufacturing facility only offers jobs in manufacturing or only doctors and nurses work in health care. The BizTown and Finance Park simulations demonstrate the range of positions offered within a single company.
“When students pass by a manufacturing facility, we want them to understand there are marketing, human resources, administrative and quality control jobs within those walls,” says Jen Edwards, executive director of Greater Lafayette JA. “We’re trying to help students understand that if they want to be a nurse, they don’t necessarily have to work in a hospital. They could work at a school, a small family practice or even a manufacturing facility. We want them to understand all the different potential pathways there are with different types of employers.”
JA is an international nonprofit founded in 1919 in Springfield, Massachusetts. J. Kirby Risk championed bringing JA to Greater Lafayette in 1956. The organization provides free supplemental K-12 programming that focuses on entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy. The in-school programming is delivered by community volunteers who are recruited and trained by JA. During the 2020-2021 school year, nearly 500 Greater Lafayette JA volunteers served more than 7,000 students in six different school corporations.
“Each program builds off one another,” Edwards says. “In JA Ourselves, kindergarteners learn about individual choices, the importance of saving and giving and how they contribute to their family. JA Our Families for first graders explores family members’ jobs and contributions to the well-being of the family and the community. In JA Community, second graders learn about other jobs and businesses in the community, paying taxes and how voting works.”
Through its programming, JA empowers young people to own their future economic success by enhancing the relevancy of education. The business concepts covered in JA prepare students for economically independent futures based on strong economic knowledge and solid personal financial management skills. A 2016 survey found that when compared to the general public, JA alumni have higher levels of educational attainment, career satisfaction, financial capability, entrepreneurial activity and household income.
“I truly believe we are making an impact on these students and preparing them for their future,” Edwards says. “We are fortunate to have sponsorship support from our community partners who work alongside us to develop this next generation of community leaders.” ★
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Volunteer for JA
Contact the JA office at 765-313-9586 or email Jen Edwards at email@example.com
Restaurant sponsor needed
JA is actively searching for a local business to sponsor the restaurant space for BizTown and Finance Park. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Jen Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org
Book the space
The JA facility is available to host community events, corporate trainings and small conferences. The space is free to use and is equipped with A/V technology. Contact Jen Edwards at email@example.com to learn more.
BY KAT BRAZ
[ INVESTING IN THE FUTURE WORKFORCE ]
Arconic Foundation, the philanthropic arm of one of the largest manufacturing companies in the region, invests in skill-building learning experiences that enhance individual opportunity, specifically within STEM education and manufacturing workforce development.
One initiative the foundation supports is Manufacturing Month, held in October. The interactive online portal launched by Greater Lafayette Commerce (GLC) teaches K-12 students about manufacturing and the wealth of career options available to them in the manufacturing sector.
The virtual experience complements Manufacturing Week, which includes in-person workshops, an expo at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds and tours of local manufacturing facilities, all geared to educate K-12 students about the vast opportunities and career pathways available to them.
“Arconic is a big supporter of Manufacturing Week,” says Scott Greeson, community advocate for the Arconic Foundation. “A number of years ago, the manufacturing industry began to see a shortage in the number of skilled workers. GLC and the mayor’s office wanted to develop a program to educate youth about careers in manufacturing, and Arconic jumped on board right away. Not only supporting Manufacturing Week but providing funding to convert those resources to an online format that instructors can access and integrate into their curriculum.”
Greeson held a number of jobs at Arconic before retiring in 2018 as a tool and die design engineer and transitioning to his role as community advocate for the foundation.
“I am very passionate about getting kids to realize that manufacturing is a respectable career path,” Greeson says, “that it is a good way to earn a living for your family, support your community as well as the entire state. With a little bit of planning, you can launch your career right out of high school and make an outstanding income from the get-go.”
Greater Lafayette Career Academy received funding from Arconic Foundation to outfit its makerspace, and the Lafayette Crossing School of Business and Entrepreneurship based in the Northend Community Center used grant money to furnish a computer lab.
“It’s not just about igniting a spark that leads someone to a career in manufacturing,” Greeson says. “It’s allowing kids to have access to the skills they need at the earliest possible age. Helping them to understand that they can use their hands and mind to create and build things that will make a difference in their community.”
[ PREVENTING YOUTH SUICIDE ]
In December 2021, North Central Health Services (NCHS) announced its commitment of more than $1.1 million in Preventing Youth Suicide grants and support to 12 school corporations throughout North Central Indiana. The grants will support schools in six counties launching evidence-based youth suicide prevention programs, reaching an anticipated 35,000 students by the 2024 school year.
“The schools will be working with an entity called Education Development Center (EDC), a global nonprofit that advances lasting solutions to improve education, promote health and expand economic opportunity,” says Stephanie Long, president and CEO of NCHS. “EDC is a national leader in the field of social and emotional learning, mental health and suicide prevention.”
In addition to grant funding for the program, participating school and district teams will receive support from EDC on how to integrate mental health within their education systems as well as technical assistance to provide schools with training and systems support to build robust evidence-based suicide prevention efforts. The program has six key components:
According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24 in Indiana and the second leading cause of death for ages 25 to 35. Centers for Disease Control data indicate that Indiana suicide rates have increased along with suicidal ideation for youth 10 to 24.
“We looked at not only national data, but Indiana data and some local data from our schools indicating that students have felt extra stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Long says. “Our community needs health assessment completed in 2021 identified mental wellness as an area that could use some impact.”
The Preventing Youth Suicide grants expand on work many of the schools have done to implement social-emotional competency, drug resistance and mental well-being curriculums. Coupled with the Resilient Youth Initiative grants, NCHS has granted more than $7.3 million back into community schools to support their efforts to maintain a protective culture for children and youth.
“We’ve got excellent schools and educators in our community who are always striving to grow what they are doing,” Long says. “The Preventing Youth Suicide grants are an opportunity to provide them with necessary funding to support their work and connect them with experts in the mental health field.”
[ EXPANDING ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY ]
Students throughout the region have benefited from a three-year e-learning project that Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN) launched in November 2020. Coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic when many students were learning from home, the project has improved internet access in homes across WHIN’s 10-county service region to enhance e-learning opportunities.
“WHIN allocated $5 million from our Regional Cultivation Fund (RCF) to enhance e-learning throughout the region,” says Pat Corey, vice president of engagement for WHIN. “Thus far, we’ve awarded more than $1.3 million in grants, impacting about 27,000 students. And we expect to fund a whole lot more.”
Established five years ago through a nearly $40 million grant from Lilly Endowment, WHIN is a consortium of 10 counties in north-central Indiana (Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Warren and White) leading the adoption of digital technology with the aim of becoming the first recognized smart region in the nation.
“WHIN’s 10 counties form a living laboratory for advanced technology,” Corey says. “It’s a unique organization. There’s no other 501(c)(3) in the country that has accepted the challenge of accelerating digitalization. Indiana has a 20 percent gap in productivity in its advanced industry sector, and the country as a whole has an 80 percent gap in productivity in its agriculture sector. Closing those gaps is what’s going to keep Indiana competitive.”
Community Schools of Frankfort were awarded $157,000 from the RCF in February to equip school buses with hotspots, add hotspots to outdoor learning areas and help students with MiFi devices at home.
A $10,000 grant to Frontier School Corporation turned FFA land plots managed by partner school districts into digital agriculture testbeds and living labs for students, area farmers and ag businesses to experiment with data collection in practice.
MSD of Warren County School Corporation received a $105,000 planning grant to create a Department of Education-approved, dual-credit precision agriculture course and externship program for high school juniors and seniors. The curriculum will be made available to all WHIN school districts.
Another grant in the works at Benton Central Jr.-Sr. High School will develop coursework in sensor-based technologies to get students excited about careers in data. Once the pilot career builder program is complete, all the school corporations in the region will have access to the new resource for their students.
“Students don’t realize that the world of big data is here, and they need to be ready for it,” Corey says. ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic made working from home mandatory for many workers, the concept of coworking spaces was beginning to take root.
The cofounders of MatchBOX Coworking Studio – Jason Tennenhouse, Dennis Carson and Mikel Berger – saw a need for a professional space for early stage entrepreneurs, according to Amanda Findlay, managing director of MatchBOX.
“The cofounders … were inspired to bring a coworking space to Lafayette because of their own involvement and interests in local entrepreneurship,” Findlay says. “The coworking model is loosely based on the concept of hackerspaces, or shared, community-run spaces for tinkering and tech.”
MatchBOX, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was ahead of its time in Indiana. Findlay says the concept of shared and community-focused workspaces started to emerge in larger cities during the late 2000s.
“Even before the recent and necessary rise in remote work, MatchBOX saw a need … founders growing their businesses, freelancers and contractors operating in the gig economy, and anyone dissatisfied with their home office.”
Breanna Benn, whose responsibilities as client relations and facilities support manager include The Purdue Railyard coworking space, has heard the dissatisfaction stories from some of its clients.
“They’ve worked from home, they’ve got small children and that’s been a distraction while they’re home,” Benn says. “They are coming to The Railyard for a place to go to concentrate and get out of their home.”
Both MatchBOX and The Railyard occupy large buildings. MatchBOX is located in downtown Lafayette and occupies a 12,000-square-foot space that once belonged to a car dealership. The Railyard’s site – inside Herman and Heddy Kurz Purdue Technology Center — is 26,140 square feet, which Purdue boasts is one of the largest single coworking spaces in the United States.
Each coworking space offers convincing arguments to lure potential clients.
“As an extroverted armchair anthropologist, I find community to be the most compelling value of a coworking space,” Findlay says. “Entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers are all susceptible to professional loneliness. Research has shown that a sense of belonging is a fundamental human need, and having ‘work friends’ has a positive impact on professional happiness, motivation and productivity. For someone without an office full of colleagues, there are few opportunities to build friendships in the workspace outside of coworking.”
Findlay adds that a coworking membership is much less expensive than rent for a private office. Access to shared resources such as printers, meeting rooms and fast, reliable WiFi are benefits included in MatchBOX’s membership. So is a coffee bar, phone booths and a reserved desk area. There’s also free access to the MatchBOX Makerspace and acceleration programs for members.
The Railyard’s amenities include a café, a mailbox and a business address at the Research Park.
“Being a member of The Railyard you also have access to our networking events,” Benn says. “We just started up a network event called ‘The Mix.’ We invite, essentially, anybody who wants to come. It’s a good opportunity for startup companies, entrepreneurs to really network with people in their industry.
Findlay says the most popular service MatchBOX provides is meeting rooms.
“For professionals interacting with clients face-to-face, the meeting rooms are a standout resource,” she says. “Renting rooms as needed or meeting in coffee shops or other public spaces can be expensive or distracting. Our members enjoy access to spaces that are accessible but professional to host and facilitate meetings.
“For entrepreneurs starting or growing businesses, our office hours program has proven helpful in getting more complex questions answered, especially for the first-time entrepreneurs who are still learning the ropes.”
Now that Greater Lafayette is moving out of the pandemic, Findlay believes MatchBOX will continue to grow.
“There will always be jobs that are more or less amenable to remote work,” Findlay says. “I think that the infrastructure for remote work was already decent and has recently been improved out of necessity. In-person or on-site work perhaps is no longer the default or assumed way that employees will get their jobs done.”
Another side effect of the pandemic was people coming to the decision that maybe their current job isn’t satisfying or paying enough to continue.
“One exciting potential outcome for MatchBOX and Greater Lafayette is that we might start to see that a person changing their career or employer won’t necessarily need to relocate and build an entirely new network,” Findlay says. “We’ve had several MatchBOX members change jobs while working in the studio, and their new employer is on the other side of the country, but their office and their routine and their ‘work friend’ circle all stayed the same. It’s a much less disruptive experience that allows people to detach the town they live in from the location of their employer and stay in a community they love while growing professionally.”
Membership numbers are beginning to grow at The Railyard, approaching 100.
“Before the pandemic we were probably within the 80s,” Benn says. “It hasn’t grown to a huge increase quite yet, but everybody I’ve talked to wants this for the same reasons, so we believe we’re going to grow even more.
“I’m planning to have more events and more networking opportunities. A lot of people are looking for that now. They’ve been in their houses and haven’t met new people. We’re just trying to come up with new ways to have people interact with one another.”
The Railyard has something else in common with MatchBOX, a tie to transportation.
There’s a homage to the Purdue Schenectady No. 1, the first full-scale locomotive used in the Purdue Locomotive Testing Plant in the late 1880s and early 1900s.
The Railyard boasts antique railroad memorabilia as well.
“It’s funny that a lot of people don’t know the whole story,” Benn says. “It is interesting to a lot of people.”
MatchBOX isn’t just a home for business professionals. It also appeals to artists, creative writers, podcast hosts, gamers and cosplayers.
“We’re definitely here for the hobbyists,” Findlay says. “For the makerspace specifically, the cosplay and gamer crowd enjoys building props for their costumes or game play. Custom mini-figures and carrying cases seem to be popular in the boardgaming community.”
MatchBOX also provides scholarship opportunities and programming in place to support early stage entrepreneurs and members of the Greater Lafayette community, Findlay says. ★
To find out more about MatchBOX, visit its website at mbx.studio or call 765.588.9295.
To learn more about The Purdue Railyard or to become a member, contact Breanna Benn at 765.588.3470 or email PurdueRailyard@prf.org
BY CINDY GERLACH
Teledyne FLIR’s slogan is “Everywhere You Look”.
For 20 years, this company in Purdue’s Research Park has been improving technology, “helping people around the world save lives, protect the environment and enhance productivity. We’re building more than innovative technologies; we’re striving to build a more sustainable, more efficient, safer future.”
Teledyne FLIR, a company started by two Purdue graduates who worked with Dr. Graham Cooks, is owned by parent company Teledyne, a large multinational conglomerate. FLIR is a leader for its applications in thermal imaging and chemical detection, says Clint Wichert, director; site operations.
The company is best known for its highly specialized chemical detection instruments. There are broad applications for these instruments, which use mass spectrometry, allowing for very specific chemical identification. They can separate specific chemical mixtures, allowing the identification of minute amounts of potentially hazardous chemicals.
“Our instrument is really the best to use in these applications,” Wichert says.
This highly specialized equipment can be used by the military, first responders and by hazardous materials units.
It can, for example, detect fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is highly addictive and possibly fatal when taken in high doses. It is often mixed with other drugs on the black market; this technology can detect fentanyl at even 2 or 3 percent, when it is mixed with acetaminophen — a dangerous and potentially lethal combination.
Improvements in technology have made these instruments smaller and more compact over the years, and they are now portable, meaning they can now be transported to a site. With a three to nine-month backlog in some modern forensics labs, this means less time to identify a substance, and less chance that substance will be contaminated during transport.
“This technology is really the gold standard for chemical identification,” says Wichert.
The instruments are sensitive and complex. For years, they were large; with the computer required, pumps and the power source, they took up a great deal of space. But the same technological progressions the world has seen in all other areas have helped make this technology more portable and accessible.
“We’ve worked progressively over the past 20 years to miniaturize the technology,” says Wichert. “Something that used to weigh 120 pounds is now down to under 40 pounds. This same kind of tech progression has happened and been pioneered in West Lafayette.”
The company employs around 50 people and hires many Purdue graduates but also gets talent from Indiana University and Rose Hulman. Employees are drawn to the Lafayette area and working in the Research Park, with its proximity to the Purdue campus and ability to continue the collaboration with Dr. Cooks.
As the company continues to grow and expand, it looks forward to expanding these life-saving technologies, Wichert says.
“It’s been great over the last 20 years to really have the support of the community and of Purdue,” he says. “We work with experts, and we like to be able to tap into this talent pool, both technology and manufacturing. We’re happy to be part of this community.” ★
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Sunlight streams through the windows of the red-painted brick building at 623 Main St., casting soft rays into the vintage space. On a white painted cabinet between the front door and the check-out counter, packages of walnut shortbread cookies rest on an elevated cake plate, while clusters of biscotti stand at attention in ivory mugs bearing the bakery’s logo. Nearby on the same wooden countertop, handmade doily bags bearing pieces of chocolate hang from the branches of a gilded tree, while a house plant on a marble-top stand adds a contrasting green to the vignette.
In this Pinterest-perfect space, gallery-white walls and honeyed wood floors serve as the backdrop for carefully curated displays of dozens of different pastries, all handmade by bakers Sergei and Natasha Vasili.
Founded eight years ago, their Scones and Doilies Bake Shop serves up European-inspired, made-from-scratch baked goods that are as delicious as they are pretty.
“Our products are unique, handcrafted and freshly baked using quality ingredients. Our recipes are all original, and you’ll see seasonal flavors and varieties. For example, during Easter we make decorated Easter cookies and Greek Easter bread,” Natasha says.
A fresh look
Natives of Albania – a mountainous coastal country situated on the western part of the Balkan Peninsula within the Mediterranean Sea – the couple worked in food service after immigrating to the United States. “We learned a lot about the industry – product trends, food safety and customer service,” Natasha explains. They baked on the side, getting rave reviews from family and friends for their pastries and decorated cakes.
Eventually, with the encouragement of their daughters, the two launched their business at local farmers markets, using a commercial kitchen for baking. Then they moved downtown into a space that they shared with City Foods Co-Op.
Two years ago, when City Foods closed its Main Street location, the Vasilis became the sole proprietors of the space, and they set to work on freshening it up. Rustic wood walls and corrugated metal trim gave way to a cheerful, neutral and slightly boho space that allows their intricately detailed pastries to be the stars of the show.
Their goal, says Sergei, was to make the place “feel like something different, something really unique. I think people in Greater Lafayette really enjoy that.”
Rustic and elegant
Albanian baking is a mix of Mediterranean, European, rustic and elegant, and all of that is on display in Scones and Doilies. On any given day, customers may discover gingerbread cookies piped with tiny flowers nestled next to delicately rolled pieces of baklava and berry galettes enveloped in flaky dough and sprinkled with sugar.
Menu items vary but generally include scones in such flavors as honey fig pecan and white chocolate raspberry, challah bread, rugelach, baklava, biscotti, cookies, cupcakes, and galettes in savory flavors such as roasted vegetable and ham and cheese. Several gluten-free pastries are regularly available, including scones made on site.
“We also craft specialty cakes, all baked to order, dense in texture with our signature buttercream icing and beautiful decorations,” Natasha says. Along with traditional flavors of chocolate and vanilla, the bakers offer specialty flavors in lemon blueberry, blackberry lime, raspberry champagne and carrot, in double-layer, triple-layer, half-sheet and full-sheet styles. Pricing varies by flavor and decoration. Some of these special orders are spotlighted on Scones and Doilies’ Instagram page, their colorful sprays of flowers puddling over iced layers.
Sales for a cause
The Vasilis love giving back to their adopted community of Greater Lafayette as well as communities around the world. In addition to being active in the International Center at Purdue University, the couple supports Gift of Life International (GOL), a Rotarian-based organization whose mission is to provide life-saving heart surgeries to children in developing countries.
Nine years ago, they helped to facilitate surgery in Indiana for their niece in Albania, who was born with a heart condition. Today, the couple says that Luna is a happy, healthy young girl – a testament to the partnership between GOL and Riley Hospital for Children. The couple continues to raise funds for the charity through the sales of some of their baked goods and handmade items such as doilies and mittens.
“We’re able to support them in bringing the babies here, or sometimes they bring the doctors there,” Sergei explains of the charity, which to date has treated more than 40,000 children from 80 countries, according to the organization’s website. ★
BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Everyone deserves a second chance. But for individuals in recovery from addiction, second chances can be hard to come by. A grant-funded partnership between Phoenix Recovery Solutions, a division of Phoenix Paramedic Solutions, and Valley Oaks Health provides peer-based recovery support to individuals struggling with issues related to substance abuse, mental health or homelessness.
“Our certified peer recovery coaches have lived experience and are in recovery from mental health or substance use themselves,” says Jason Padgett, the director of marketing solutions for Phoenix and one of the founding members of its quick response team (QRT), which facilitates the second chance program with support from the statewide Indiana Workforce Recovery Initiative. The QRT, which includes a warm line staffed 24/7, services nine counties: Tippecanoe, White, Jasper, Cass, Carroll, Benton, Newton, Fulton and Pulaski.
“As a person in recovery myself, I didn’t have many choices when I entered recovery 16 years ago for alcoholism,” Padgett says. “Alcoholics Anonymous has saved millions of lives, but recovery is not a one-size-fits-all journey. The beauty of peer support is that unlike saying ‘this is how I did it, you’re going to follow my same path,’ a peer recovery coach takes the view that your journey is your journey. We’re here to help show you your options and support you on your journey by connecting you to community resources. It’s up to you to decide what route to recovery you want to explore.”
One of the biggest challenges for persons in recovery is maintaining employment. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act protects addicts in recovery from a substance use disorder, relapses — not uncommon on the path to recovery — can lead to a positive drug screen, tardiness or missed work, which can lead to dismissal. Embracing a Second Chance Workforce, a new program offered by Phoenix QRT and Greater Lafayette Commerce, seeks to educate and empower businesses on how to support employees through addiction recovery.
“Our goal is to partner with local corporations, particularly manufacturing but any industry, to refer employees who test positive on a drug screen or are having trouble with mental health or substance abuse issues,” Padgett says. “The companies would contract with us to assign a peer recovery specialist to support that individual on their recovery journey. That allows the company to retain the individual on its workforce, which is much cheaper than hiring and training a new employee. There are tax incentives for companies that embrace second chance policies.”
A Lunch and Learn panel discussion held in April featured representatives from companies that embrace second chance policies geared toward people in recovery as well as individuals with felony records. As a follow up, a second chance career fair is scheduled from 1-7 p.m. May 18 at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds. In addition to showcasing companies embracing second chance policies, the career fair will also have representatives from community social service organizations.
“We want everyone who comes to the career fair to have access to every community resource they could possibly need,” Padgett says. “From peer support to treatment to ongoing education, they can even get help creating a resume or practice interviewing to make them comfortable speaking with potential employers.”
Holding a job is a large part of an individual’s recovery capital, the internal and external resources that can initiate and sustain long-term recovery. Phoenix, which embraces felony-friendly hiring and employs several individuals in recovery in addition to Padgett, will be among the employers represented at the career fair.
“I’ve had a relapse in recovery and I was supported by my employer,” Padgett says. “It meant the world to me. A bump in the road doesn’t have to mean going all the way back down to the bottom and starting at zero again.” ★
BY KAT BRAZ
The night of April 14, 2004, seems like a lifetime ago to Donte Wilburn, the Lafayette businessman honored as the 2021 entrepreneur of the year by the Indiana Small Business Development Center. That night, Wilburn, then 22 years old and a junior at Purdue University, sped through the streets of Lafayette, desperate to get his friend to the emergency room. The two had just been involved in a drug deal gone bad. Wilburn’s friend was shot four times.
“That night altered my life forever,” Wilburn says. “I had been living a dual life since I was in 10th grade at Harrison High School and someone taught me how to sell drugs. I continued selling in college, but that night was supposed to be my last big drug deal. I could have died.”
Wilburn’s friend survived the gunshot wounds. And eight months later, Wilburn pled guilty to conspiracy to deal marijuana, a Class D felony. He was sentenced to three years of community corrections. He went to jail but was allowed to leave to attend school and work. The only place that would hire him with his felony record was a local carwash. During that time, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Purdue.
“Underneath my graduation gown I was wearing an ankle monitor,” Wilburn says. “I asked the correctional officers if I could have one hour after graduation and they gave it to me. I took my girlfriend to Logan’s steakhouse and proposed to her. Before the food came out, I had to go back to jail.”
As a graduate and newlywed, Wilburn threw himself into his work. He wasn’t afraid of hard work, but he didn’t like what he saw in the carwash industry. Employees were paid minimum wage for grueling labor. They were treated poorly and looked down upon.
“I was complaining and thinking, ‘I’ve got to get out of here,’ ” Wilburn says. “Then I heard a small, still voice tell me, ‘Ya know, if you don’t like it, change the industry.’ ”
And that’s what he set out to do. He became a system manager and when that company closed down, he went to clean cars for Mike Raisor Automotive Group. In 2011, Raisor gave Wilburn the opportunity to reopen Premier Auto Detailing. Wilburn and his father renovated the facility, which opened on November 1, 2011, with 13 employees. Impressed with Wilburn’s tenacity and leadership in the company, Raisor offered to sell him the business and the property. Wilburn closed the deal in 2018 and became owner of Premier.
“When Mike told me he was going to sell me the business, I broke down and cried,” Wilburn says. “There were a lot of trying times, but God came to me and showed me a grand vision of how he would bless me if I blessed the people in this industry. When Mike says those words, ‘I’m selling you this company,’ I realized that the vision I had in the middle of the night in 2008 was real. It was unbelievable.”
Wilburn continued to grow the business and opened a second location in Kokomo in 2020. He now has dreams of franchising 50 locations throughout the country. In 2021, he became one of four new owners of the Legacy Courts sports complex in West Lafayette. The partners have expansion plans to create a Legacy Park that includes fields for baseball and soccer in addition to its indoor basketball courts. Wilburn and his father also invest in real estate.
Nearly 20 years after that fateful night, Wilburn can hardly believe his good fortune. He and his wife, Tesha, are the parents of three children: Trinity, 13; Titus, 10; and Truitt, 4. Wilburn never had big dreams growing up. He certainly never imagined the life he leads now.
“If one shifts their direction, it alters their destination,” Wilburn says. “If I would have known the opportunities and possibilities that lay before me when I was 18, where would I be now? My goal is to live a life that inspires others to come behind me. I want to give them hope that no matter how bad your situation is, you can come up out of it. I want my children to know that whatever they dream, they can attain.” ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
From its modest beginning as a small repair shop founded by John M. Stall II in 1953, Stall & Kessler has become Lafayette’s oldest jewelry store the old-fashioned way.
Building love stories one diamond at a time, Stall & Kessler’s reputation for quality and service earned it Greater Lafayette Small Business of the Year honors for 2021. Stall & Kessler emerged from a list of finalists that included Mecko’s Heating and Cooling, Starr Associates, Richelle in a Handbasket, Indoff Office Interiors and Advantage Title, Inc.
Greater Lafayette Commerce has been selecting Small Business of the Year winners since 1993. No business was honored in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Small Business of the Year award is something that we consider to be a tremendous accomplishment,” says Kristopher Kessler, co-owner. “It has taken decades for us to become what we are to have received it and reflects on more than ‘just an award.’”
Kessler credits the award to his customers and the Greater Lafayette community, which has embraced the foundation of principles and policies created by John Stall II, John Stall III, Jeff Kessler and Sandy Utz.
“Without the loyalty and support of our customers and our community we wouldn’t be around today,” Kristopher Kessler says. “Some things never go out of style: consistency of quality, outstanding customer service and a dedication to excellence in all that we do are principles we strive for. Regardless of what happens in our time – past, present and future – we believe that these core principles will always be in style.”
Stall & Kessler boasts that it has been “celebrating 68 years of love stories.” One story in particular has remained with Kessler.
A woman in her 60s or 70s came in holding a small, delicate ring. She asked a typical question: do you repair jewelry? Oftentimes, the affirmative answer yields a story behind the ring. This lady’s tale, though, was unusual.
“This story took me a bit by surprise and it was that day that I realized the significance of what we provide to our customers,” Kessler says.
The lady’s grandmother had given her the ring when she was 13. Now, she wanted it repaired to pass along to her 13-year-old granddaughter.
“To this day, it gives me chills,” Kessler says. “With a little bit of respect, the products we provide can last for generations. That is why the quality of product is so important as well as the expertise and quality of service, so we can allow love to transcend the effects of time through jewelry.
“Love doesn’t live in what we do, but it can be represented through the products and services that we offer.”
Stall & Kessler often sees love stories at the beginning as well with couples shopping for wedding rings or gifts for special occasions.
“When people come into our store, it is usually a purposeful trip so people make an effort to come see us,” Kessler says. “We see relationships that we are privileged to be a part of and hope to develop for any occasion. Our hope is to be there to provide ring cleanings for a Saturday night out or a special item for a 50th wedding anniversary and everything in between.”
Like many professions, Stall & Kessler boasts an extra level of expertise. In this case it is home to Indiana’s only Master Graduate Gemologist. Stall & Kessler also has three Gemological Institute of America (GIA) diamond graders, two GIA pearl graduates and three GIA Retail-Jeweler graduates.
The Gemological Institute of America, Kessler says, is the utmost authority in the jewelry and gemological world.
“If you are diamond shopping, the ‘4 C’s’ of a diamond is something that you will become familiar with throughout the purchasing process,” says Kessler, referring to cut, clarity, carat and color.
A diamond’s cut refers to the quality of the angles, proportions, facets and finishing details. Color stands for how colorless the diamond is.
Clarity indicates how clean the diamond is of inclusions and blemishes. Lastly, carat is the weight of the diamond.
“Becoming a Graduate Gemologist takes a series of courses in jewelry, diamonds and gemstones. There are also three separate lab courses that are in person to delve deeper in diamonds, gemstones and overall gem identification. The Master Graduate Gemologist … takes the Graduate Gemologist degree a step further into the retail specialization.”
Those skills allow Stall & Kessler to use a CAD (computer-aided design) software system that allows the repurposing of existing jewelry that might need a new setting.
As small businesses begin to make a comeback from the effects of COVID-19, those that can adapt to change like Stall & Kessler figure to survive.
Stall & Kessler has evolved from a jewelry repair shop to selling diamonds and other precious gems at its present location, 333 Columbia St., since 1979.
“Sixty nine years in the jewelry business has allowed for plenty of change,” Kessler says. “We hope to improve (our current location) for a more pleasant shopping experience and develop our online presence. Regardless of what happens, we will continue to work on developing our quality and consistency of products and services. We will invest in the people who choose to work with us. Those things I can forecast with certainty.
“The rest we leave up to the Lord, a little luck and perhaps a spark of inspiration from our people.” ★
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
The Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration –
a contemporary, light- and glass-filled structure in the Discovery Park District of West Lafayette – provided a fitting backdrop last August for the announcement of an innovative, collaborative facility that will investigate the latest in hypersonic technologies.
The planned Hypersonic Ground Test Center (HGTC), revealed to a crowd attending a Hypersonics Summit hosted by Purdue
University and the National Defense Industrial Association, will be located in the Purdue Aerospace District adjacent to the university campus. The new facility is part of ongoing, long-term economic development plans for Greater Lafayette and Indiana.
“Creating this first-in-the-nation center is possible because we have industry partners that aren’t just on the cutting edge but are reinventing where the edge is. Couple that with the many thriving communities in Tippecanoe County, and a gushing pipeline of top talent at Purdue including researchers, students and graduates [that are] prepared to make the next giant leaps in both aerospace and hypersonic
i“It’s because of days like today that our economy remains strong and Indiana reigns as one of the best places in the world to do business.”
Paving the way
Driving along the western gateway of the Purdue campus where State Street meets the U.S.
231 bypass, you’ll notice a much different landscape from 10 or even five years ago. Rising from the flatlands are multi-story office buildings, R&D facilities, apartment complexes and $450K-plus single-family homes – all part of the $120 billion Discovery Park District development from Purdue Research Foundation and Indianapolis-based Browning Development LLC.
The planned community is designed to attract everyone from startup founders to corporate executives with luxurious homes surrounded by green spaces a short distance from where they work. The transformation, however, began with infrastructure made possible with the help of Greater Lafayette officials.
In 2013, a $46 million Indiana Department of Transportation project to reroute U.S. 231 was completed, bringing the road parallel to the southern edge of the Purdue campus, with its northwest leg meeting up at State Road 26 near the intersection with Newman Road. This rerouting opened up new possibilities for business development adjacent to Purdue, and later in the year, the West Lafayette City Council voted to annex 3,997 acres including the Purdue University campus and the properties adjoining the U.S. 231 Highway Corridor.
Two years later, with the consent of the West Lafayette City Council, Mayor John Dennis and his staff applied to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to certify part of the land as an aerospace district.
Then, in 2019, work wrapped on the $123 million State Street Redevelopment Project, a joint venture between the City of West Lafayette and Purdue University. No longer a state highway for through-traffic, the revamped corridor boasts wider sidewalks, bicycle racks, public art and landscaping from the Wabash River up the hill through Purdue.
That same year, crews completed two other critical projects: construction of a roundabout at the intersection of State Road 26 and Newman Road, and the rebuilding of a railroad bridge with a wider, higher underpass. A collaboration of Purdue University, the City of West Lafayette, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Purdue Research Foundation, the projects were designed to improve traffic safety and accommodate larger commercial trucks for the anticipated arrival of industry clients.
All of these improvements paved the way for the Aerospace District and the Hypersonic Ground Test Center.
The next frontier
Hypersonic weapons are missiles that can travel at Mach 5 or higher – at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The United States, Russia and China are all racing to develop hypersonics, seen as the next frontier in national security.
Purdue University boasts a large team of hypersonic researchers in a number of subspecialty areas, along with expertise in systems-engineering research – the ability to bring these experts together in order to solve complex problems.
The Aerospace District capitalizes on these capabilities as well as Purdue’s legacy in the broader discipline of aerospace education and research. To date, the university has had 27 graduates in space, and its aeronautical and astronautical engineering program consistently ranks among the top in the United States.
Aerospace and national security is one of four strategic focus areas of Discovery Park District. Boilermakers – and by extension, Greater Lafayette residents – are seen as an essential mix of its burgeoning workforce.
“At Purdue, we’re committed to research at the very frontiers of science, especially when it can contribute to the national security of Americans,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels at the announcement of the new hypersonic center. “Becoming home to the nation’s premier hypersonics facilities can make such a contribution, while providing enormous new opportunities for our researchers, aspiring entrepreneurs and job-seeking graduates.”
HGTC will further expand the district’s capabilities by offering a central shared facility supporting multiple laboratories. Rolls-Royce is the founding member of a new nonprofit consortium of national defense industry partners that will manage capital and operational costs for the facility.
The unveiling of plans for the Hypersonic Ground Test Center came last summer on the heels of two other major announcements.
In July, Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation officials reported on the planned construction of a 65,000-square-foot Hypersonic Applied Research Facility, which will house a hypersonic pulse (HYPULSE) shock tunnel and the only Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel in the world.
Then, in early August, Rolls-Royce announced a significant expansion at Purdue, with new test facilities for high-altitude and hybrid-electric engines that are expected to power the next generation of U.S. military aircraft. The company, which notes that it has more engineers from Purdue than any other university, already has a jet engine facility located in Purdue Technology Center Aerospace, the first new building that was constructed for the Aerospace District.
Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation will fund the construction of the HGTC. But, as with the infrastructure improvements ahead of the Aerospace District’s development, its expansion is the result of a team effort.
“That investment from Rolls-Royce, the university and PRF, along with support from the state, West Lafayette, Lafayette and Tippecanoe County, laid the foundation for creating the HGTC,” said Purdue Research Foundation President and CEO Brian Edelman. ★
BY KARIS PRESSLER
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Over the past 10 years, several key moments have led Lindsay Mason, the founder and designer of French Knot, a knitwear company based in downtown Lafayette, to where she is now.
First, the moment in 2012 when Mason told her parents that she would like to start her own company after being laid off from her job as a knitwear designer.
Mason’s parents, Carol and Ken, quickly set to work helping to incorporate French Knot and then create space in their New England barn for Mason to design and ship 12,000 hand knit hats and handwarmers made in Nepal that first season.
The second key moment was French Knot’s big move from Massachusetts to Indiana in 2017 when Mason’s husband accepted a job at Purdue University. Mason felt immediately welcomed and supported by the Lafayette community even if there was, and still is, the misconception that Mason and her Lafayette team knit all of the products they sell.
“We’re not up here knitting. We’re shipping over 80,000 pieces a season from our warehouse on North Street,” Mason says with a smile and then explains how wool sourced from South Africa and New Zealand is first hand-dyed and spun into a vivid color palate before being knit using a two-needle technique. Once Mason’s designs — that include hats, mittens, headbands, scarves, sweaters and slippers — are constructed, many items are embellished with tasteful beading and intricate embroidery that echo vintage design elements from the 1920s.
So who knits these timeless French Knot designs?
Sunlight pours into Mason’s work area on a Monday morning in her office above Third Street where jewel-toned swatches of fringed yarn festoon her work station. Next to one of the swatches, a picture of Mason and a Nepali woman hugging and smiling while surrounded by finished French Knot products reminds Mason of her “why.”
“She’s like my Nepalese grandmother,” Mason says of the woman who leads one of the knitting groups in Nepal that bring Mason’s designs to life.
Mason looks at the photo. “She’s amazing.”
“We’ve probably done over 1,000 designs. She knows every single number in her head, every color, every single purchase order number… She always asks how my parents and my husband are doing.”
“We’re very tight,” Mason remarks of her connection to the Nepali knitting groups. “My favorite thing is going to visit them for the two weeks that I go over there every year. Every time we go there, we see their businesses growing.”
Mason, a graduate of Syracuse University’s Fashion and Textiles Design program, relies on her years of industry experience along with her artistic eye to create each original French Knot design that she often draws by hand before transferring to a CAD (computer-aided design) program. Mason began building rapport with Nepali artisans shortly after college, and she has maintained connection ever since.
“I started working with Nepali knitters about 15 years ago,” she says and explains how at that time most of the hand knit items coming out of Nepal often used earth-toned yarns, had boxy pattern shapes and geometric color work. But Mason’s pull toward soft and flowing vintage design coupled with the use of vibrant yarns allowed
her Nepali colleagues to create something new and
dynamic — something that French Knot buyers such as QVC, Sundance Catalog and Anthropologie have never seen or sold before.
For Mason, her mission is not just to make French Knot’s products noticeable, but to also make the story of French Knot and the way the items are hand knit, hand embroidered, hand beaded, and hand lined both memorable and lasting.
She’s worked hard to build and maintain trust, community and connection with knitting groups half a world away by ensuring that French Knot’s artisans are paid a living wage. Mason also works exclusively with suppliers who are certified in ethical and environmental practices. Likewise, she strives to maintain a sense of family among those who work beside her locally.
French Knot has become more than Mason ever imagined it could be.
This moment of reflection quickly evaporates. Mason closes several windows on her computer screen before joining Ryan Casucci, French Knot’s marketing and sales manager, to discuss upcoming social media posts, newsletters and the much-anticipated French Knot warehouse sale this winter season.
Several blocks away from Mason’s Third Street workspace, Chelsea Erhart, French Knot’s operations manager, along with the warehouse team, begin to process an order of hats that has just arrived from Nepal. The walls of the North Street warehouse are lined with pictures of French Knot’s artisans, adorned in bright colors and wearing wide smiles while knitting Mason’s designs. This shipment of hats, a design that Mason first imagined eight months ago, will be quality checked and processed before being shipped out again to buyers and boutiques throughout the United States, the UK and New Zealand. It’s a Lafayette layover for hand knit items.
“Did you know that Johnny Cash wrote a song about the Wabash River from Lafayette?” Erhart asks as the group begins to sort and inspect the shipment.
Linda Emberton looks up from a grid of hats she has arranged into groups of 10 and chimes in, “I heard that song on Jeff 92 this morning on the drive in.” Emberton then randomly selects a hat from each row to check that its size and appearance, including the size of the pom pom, meets French Knot’s specifications.
The group briefly discusses the song’s merits, illuminating the fact that this song is different from Cash’s “Wabash Cannonball,” a song about a locomotive train. Erhart taps the screen on her phone a few times until Cash’s gentle guitar fills the space and he croons, “If it wasn’t for the Wabash River, I’d be going out of my mind.” The group listens while working, some counting hats in time with the music’s beat.
This multi-generational warehouse team gathers almost daily in the fall to process and prepare French Knot’s orders for the holiday season. It’s too early for holiday music, so when Cash’s Lafayette-inspired song concludes, Erhart allows Cash’s next song, “I Walk the Line,” to play as she steps away to call a shipping company and inquire about an order of slippers that has disappeared somewhere between here and Nepal.
Jeni Rider, a Lafayette native, shares how she first learned about French Knot from the Sundance Catalog well before Mason transplanted her business to Indiana.
“I had been following Sundance. It’s the Robert Redford magazine, you know? It’s one of my favorite catalogs.”
One afternoon, Rider’s husband, Jeff, a local real estate developer, told Rider about meeting Mason while she was scouting properties in Lafayette before moving.
“Jeff just told me, ‘You might love what she does… She designs those hats that you like. ‘That’s all he said, isn’t that funny? ‘She designs those hats that you like,’” Rider laughs. But when her husband and their three daughters brought home items from French Knot’s annual warehouse sale where the public can purchase discounted seconds and samples of Mason’s designs every December, Rider knew she had to connect with Mason after seeing her products in person. Rider has been working in the French Knot warehouse ever since.
She feels passionate about French Knot’s brand because the products have heart. “It’s these women’s livelihood,” Rider says while looking at a photo of Nepali women knitting. “It’s just beauty,” she says of both the individuals who create the products and the products themselves.
Rider and Emberton gather the inspected hats and pack them into several boxes that Kelley Brakstad, an HR consultant with French Knot who also helps in the warehouse when needed, has placed in front of their work tables.
“It’s all hands on deck,” says Brakstad, who first met Mason several years ago while working at MatchBOX Coworking studio, where Mason serves on the board. “This is a small business, we do what we need, right?” Brakstad declares before disappearing to make more boxes and retrieve purchase orders.
Emberton makes notes on a purchase order pinned to a clipboard while Rider slides a box of processed hats over to the shipping station several feet away where Mason’s parents, along with shipping manager Jonas Bellini, prepare and palletize the packages.
The group continues its work throughout the morning as Mason, Casucci, and the French Knot intern Sarobbie Hagen, join the warehouse crew to help process and ship.
Hagen, a media and mass communications major at Purdue, dives in with fulfilling boutique orders.
“We got an email yesterday about one of our hats,” Hagen shares. “This woman was like, ‘I love your Josephine cloche. I have three colorways and I just bought two new colorways on QVC.’”
Hagen’s experience at French Knot has helped her appreciate how the company’s story makes its products mean something to consumers.
“You can tell that people telling our story care more. Before they’d be like, ‘These hats are from French Knot and they’re warm.’ Now, on QVC they say, ‘These French Knot hats are designed out of Lafayette, Indiana, by Lindsay Mason and made in Nepal by women artisans. They’re beautifully handcrafted.’”
It’s been a whirlwind week for Mason. “It’s getting real,” she muses. “It’s getting real real.”
Between prepping for the holiday season, designing, packing orders and fielding questions from QVC about expanding her line from just seasonal cold weather items to include springtime products, the cherry on top — or maybe it’s the pom pom on top — is French Knot’s slated appearance on a Friday morning Today Show “Warm and Cozy” segment.
Casucci and Mason shipped an assortment of French Knot items to 30 Rockefeller Plaza last week, and now they anxiously await to see what products will be featured as they gather alongside the team of local French Knot employees at Ripple & Company for coffee and donuts.
“We’ve never been on the Today Show before. This is big for us.” Mason says as they wait for the segment. The anticipation along with the caffeination elevate the atmosphere as the group chats while always keeping an eye on the TV.
Mason’s parents stand alongside Mason and her husband. They have witnessed French Knot’s growth from the very beginning — from when they outfitted the family barn to become a makeshift shipping operation, to now, a moment in time when their daughter’s art along with French Knot’s story will be broadcast on national TV.
Brakstad sets a matcha latte in front of Pam Guarino. Guarino came to work at the warehouse only a few months ago. “I’m fortunate that I’m a part of it,” Guarino says. “That I’m working here. I may not be knitting or helping to design or anything. It’s just, I’m a part of it. Getting to watch it. It’s exciting.”
Hagen agrees while looking around at her co-workers. “I don’t know how this business is just full of amazing people. Not one of these people doesn’t feel passionate about this brand.”
For Mason, this is why she does the work that she does – to create beautiful products, watch people grow alongside her, and celebrate, right here in the heart of Lafayette. For French Knot, not only does every stitch matter, but so does every person who has contributed to the company’s growth and continued success. ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
A major presence in the Greater Lafayette economy since 1985, Wabash National has positioned itself to prosper during one of the toughest periods in our nation’s economy. The manufacturer is a leader of engineered solutions in transportation, logistics and distribution.
Instead of fighting for survival during the nearly two years of COVID-19 and its side effects, Brent Yeagy, president and CEO, saw this time period as a chance to regroup and make plans to take advantage of the post-pandemic business world.
“I think it has given us the opportunity to look at the world a little differently,” says Yeagy, whose degrees include a bachelor’s in environmental engineering science and a master’s in occupational health and safety engineering from Purdue University.
“Anytime we have something as disruptive as a national pandemic, things begin to change the world around us. Some for the negative and ultimately there’s things that have a positive nature to it, or at least an opportunity.”
Decreed an essential business due to the economic impact of its semi-trailer and tank trailer production, Wabash National and the more than 6,500 employees nationwide successfully met the social challenges that came with COVID-19.
“The biggest challenge was the initial speed of change and the uncertainty that would be provided by the national government in how best to manage the situation,” Yeagy says. “That gave businesses an unclear footing as to how best to take care of their employees, how to navigate the downturn in the economy and how to forecast what would come next.”
Yeagy had to balance critical decisions with both the Wabash National shareholders and his employees’ best interests.
Fortunately, the methods to protect those 6,500-plus employees were a far more simple task.
“We did an excellent job across the country in managing everything from how to use PPE, contact tracing and all those things that go around it,” he says. “What was hard is that underlying social impact that occurs. How do you manage a 6,000-plus workforce with schools closed? You don’t have child care. We really had to think of a very innovative way to manage those needs during a really hard time for our employees.”
Wabash National has altered its thinking to the new economic reality that puts more and more emphasis on e-commerce.
“For us, commerce has been a driving force in new opportunities for new products, new customers and new markets that we can position Wabash going forward,” Yeagy says. “We have altered our strategy to what we call ‘First to Final Mile,’ where we look at products and services that span across all logistics, including e-commerce.”
Among those new opportunities was the purchase of Supreme Industries, a Goshen, Ind.-based truck body business.
“We’re launching new products to meet the needs of these changing logistics accordingly. So we think for us, this is a sustainable change that will drive future growth for Wabash over the next decade.”
A noticeable change coming to the company is its name. Recently, it dropped the National part of its brand to become simply “Wabash.”
“We want to tell a story that we’re not the same Wabash,” Yeagy says. “We’re not Wabash National, we’re Wabash. We stand for something different. It’s a reflection of the dramatic organizational and structural changes that we have completed over the last two years that position us to truly grow across the company, to become the visionary leader across a growing transportation and product solution state.”
Greater Lafayette and Purdue University want to play a role in Wabash’s future. With $70 million in investments planned for its two Lafayette plants during the next two years, Wabash and the city of Lafayette agreed to a $25 million tax abatement during that period.
“I think first and foremost it shows trust in Wabash by the city of Lafayette and its leadership,” Yeagy says. “That allows us as a corporation that spans the entire country in terms of operating facilities to continue thinking of Lafayette as a place that we can invest as well.
“Specifically, it allows us to think about job creation opportunities that we have here in Lafayette to support some of the more high-tech product applications that we are bringing to market. As we think about re-capitalizing the equipment in Lafayette that’s been around in some cases for the last 20 years, it allows us to go deeper into the roots we have here. Which means that we can continue to be a contributing part of the community for some time.”
Lafayette is home to about 3,000 of Wabash’s employment force.
Greater Lafayette is also home to Purdue, whose resources are going to play a key role in Wabash’s future. Yeagy cites an unprecedented relationship forged with the Board of Trustees and Purdue President Mitch Daniels.
“We have connected with Purdue in a way that has never occurred in Wabash’s history,” Yeagy says. “We are now a major athletic partner. We are directly reaching Purdue students to the nature of technical skills we are trying to bring into Wabash as we execute our strategic plan.”
Wabash has a direct partnership with Purdue’s Data Mine, which is aiding the company’s multiple data science-related projects. Wabash also holds office space both at the Convergence center and the Railyard. An even longer term relationship with Purdue centers on welding safety and health-related research.
“It allows us to have a significant portion of our workforce to be closer to Purdue as well as we now have space for students, interns and other related academic project work to be done on campus,” he says.
“We are extremely excited about what it means, not only for Wabash but the Greater Lafayette community.”
As Yeagy points out, Wabash’s reach is nationwide. Just look at any highway or road and it’s a matter of time before one drives past a semi-trailer, tanker or truck body manufactured by Wabash.
“There’s the absolute pride you feel when you see something that you’re attached to so intimately as the product you produce on our nation’s highways and roads,” Yeagy says. “But as a CEO, being able to step back, you know the people that produced them. You know the work. You know the challenges that were faced to get that product on the road, especially the last two years. You know peoples’ stories that went into building that product. When I see it, I think of all that.
“People should understand they have a corporate entity in their community that builds the safest, most sustainable products in commercial transportation. I think that’s lost at times.” ★
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
If you’ve spent any time lately in the Wallace Triangle neighborhood of Lafayette, you’ve seen a number of formerly dilapidated houses rising from the ashes, with rebuilt porches, upgraded landscaping, fresh coats of paint and reglazed or replaced windows.
While it is true that several developers and homeowners have been renovating homes in the area, a significant amount of the work can be attributed to a single couple: Alec and Kenna Williams.
Owners of The Heartland Concept, a realty, renovation and rental firm, the Williamses have tackled over 20 homes in the neighborhood around their own house, an American Foursquare on Elliott Street. Like the mother-daughter duo Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak Hawk, whose adventures in fixing up their own Fountain Square neighborhood in Indianapolis are chronicled on the HGTV show “Good Bones,” Alec and Kenna Williams are setting out to revitalize their own city block, one property at a time.
The best neighborhood it can be
It all started in 2014 when the couple purchased their first home, a green duplex in the Wallace Triangle, a wedge-shaped neighborhood bordered by South Ninth, Kossuth and State streets on the southern edge of Lafayette’s Old City.
Both Purdue University grads, Alec had studied sales and management, with a concentration in entrepreneurship, while Kenna had studied management with a concentration in marketing. Kenna had worked for a home builder in town, getting to touch “every piece and part” of the business, from quality control checks to sales to design ele-
ments, before taking a job in finance at Purdue.
Alec was working in business development for a Midwest healthcare company, but he was looking for something different. An old-house aficionado, he had grown up in a Foursquare home that his dad had painstakingly rehabbed.
From nearly the first moment they had met, the couple had dreamed of building their own company. As they first tackled the one-bedroom side of their home, then the two-bedroom side, they discussed whether they could turn their avocation into a vocation. Walking their dog around the block each day, the couple noticed a lot of homes that needed some love.
“We’re very invested in this area, we love it,” Kenna says. “Alec says it best. If this is where we’re going to raise our family and have our children going up and down the street, we want this neighborhood to be the best it can be.”
Diy-ing as a money-saver
The Williamses soon got the chance to test their professional rehabbing chops when an 1868 home on 10th Street came up for sale. With a bay window, a window seat, wide painted woodwork and built-ins, the home was oozing with cottage charm. But other old-house details had become obscured under less-than-faithful remodeling efforts, like a teal garden tub with a matching toilet.
After hiring subcontractors for some of the work, the couple tackled as much as they could themselves. “Our belief was, if we’re going to make a business out of this, provide for our family, DIY-ing… that’s where you save money,” Alec says. Working late nights, early mornings
and weekends, the couple slowly turned the house back into a cozy cottage. A claustrophobic screened-in porch was torn out and rebuilt, minus the screening. Faulty wiring was replaced, and new shingles went on the roof. Layers of paint were scraped and recovered in a light yellow with white trim.
Inside, the 1980s bathroom gave way to a stand-up shower featuring subway tile, accented with a greenish arabesque. Board and batten replaced the dining room’s lower stamped plaster walls. Floors throughout were sanded, stained and top-coated, and the fireplace was painted and accented with crisp white shiplap. Inside and out, not-so-charming light fixtures were replaced with breezy ceiling fans and farmhouse lights.
Two days after the couple wrapped on the rehab, in May 2017, they accepted an offer.
Little slice of lafayette
Fast forward to 2022 and The Heartland Concept is now Alec’s full-time job. Kenna has cut her hours as a senior financial analyst at Purdue, and since the COVID-19 pandemic, she has worked from home at a small desk on their second-floor landing. As they continue work on their family home – current projects include renovating the basement and reglazing the original five-over-one windows – they continue to rehab homes and commercial properties in their little slice of Lafayette.
Their business model is simple: For each house that they renovate and sell, they buy another rental in their neighborhood, then fix up that one, and then rent or sell. Over the last few years, they’ve sustained an income with the rentals, which has allowed them to take their time with each house renovation — un-
like many developers, who have an imperative to renovate as quickly as possible in order to turn a profit.
“I really hate calling any of our houses a flip,” says Kenna. “We really renovate, we take it down to the studs when necessary. I try to incorporate with the finished design, the old features. That’s renovation to me.”
When floors can’t be refinished, the couple tries wherever possible to use engineered hardwoods for a vintage look. In bathrooms, many of which are much smaller than in newer homes, the couple can afford to use high-end finishes like penny tile floors and solid surface countertops. New light fixtures often evoke a vintage feel, like the wall sconces the couple incorporated into their own Elliott Street home.
One lesson they’ve learned: while aesthetics boost a home’s appeal, they are not all practical for long-term rentals. As a result, some of their newer rental renovations, like the tiny mint green bungalow they rehabbed, are outfitted with tub-shower surrounds that don’t need regrouting over time. Other finishes in the single bathroom, like the curved warehouse light and scalloped mirror, help maintain the vintage-modern balance.
With each renovation, whether for rental or resale, the Williamses aim to provide a level of workmanship they would expect in their own home. A case in point: the National Home the couple rehabbed outside their own neighborhood, near Columbian Park. Adding livable space in the basement was critical for resale value, and yet the basement leaked, which the couple attributed to water pooling outside the home because of a lack of gutters and downspouts.
Gutters installed, the couple went to work on the basement. Then winter came, with rains and melting snow, and the almost-renovated basement sprung leaks again.
After considering less costly and less permanent options for the exterior, the couple decided to start anew. “We both looked at it, and [said] if this is our house and our space, we don’t want an issue,” Alec says. “We tore out all the walls and electrical, having a full interior perimeter drain installed with a sump pump, guaranteed against everything, then rebuilt.”
Expanding their focus
As the Williamses continue to buy, rehab and rent or sell historic homes, they also have expanded their focus to the commercial side of the neighborhood – namely, the corner where the Wallace Triangle meets Historic Ninth Street Hill and Highland Park.
Last fall, as the City of Lafayette regraded the street and added brick pavers to help alleviate runoff, the couple continued work on the L-shaped structure. More than 100 years old, the building boasts large windows and red clay roofing tiles. Soon, its anchor spot will be the location of People’s Brewing Company. The venue will serve German cuisine, specially brewed German beers, wine and cider.
Although the parking lot along Ninth Street is ample enough, Alec and Kenna anticipate that many of the brewery’s guests will come from foot traffic, like England’s public houses. “People’s Brewery should do extremely well by how many community members around here have shown support,” Alec says.
Since moving to the Wallace Triangle nearly eight years ago, about a dozen of the Williamses’ friends have moved there as well and begun working on their own homes – a testament to the couple’s success in their one-house-at-a-time revitalization mission. “We love what we do and it’s good to have an impact in the town we live in,” says Kenna. ★
BY CINDY GERLACH
Greater Lafayette has been named Community of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes the community’s growth over the past decade and how it has prospered and thrived in a variety of areas, from infrastructure and jobs to beautification and quality of life.
This year’s award looked, too, for a municipality that was a shining example during a year of weathering the pandemic.
A large part of the credit for being chosen for this award goes to the various components that define our community, says Scott Walker, president and CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce, and their ability to communicate, to plan, and to work together. As the application was assembled and written, Walker says, it became evident just how much planning had gone into the progress of the past 20 years.
“We looked back at where we’d been over the course of two decades, the evolution of the community, the trajectory, and why we should be considered for this award,” Walker says.
Back at the start of the 21st century, the community looked very different. And community, Walker says, is defined as the entirety of the area, with both cities and the county governments all working together. All these governing bodies were collaborating on a vision of what they wanted to see over the coming years. Hence Lafayette Urban Enterprise, Vision 2020 and the Downtown Development Corp. all played a role, as well as incorporating input from all three school corporations, leaders in industry, the arts and recreational facilities.
Back in 2000, the population of Tippecanoe County was at 149,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Walker said leadership could see that the community was poised for potential growth, but it wanted to be prepared and for the growth to be intentional.
The result was these various entities examining where the community was at the time, what the trends were, and what Greater Lafayette wanted to accomplish. A clear goal was attracting business and industry that would provide good-paying jobs that would contribute to the economy and would enhance quality of life for residents. The area has a strong manufacturing workforce, and the focus on talent and workforce retention has resulted in more than 3,800 jobs being added in the past five years. This is thanks to companies as diverse as Caterpillar, Antique Candle, Copper Moon Coffee and Schweitzer Engineering Labs, to name a few.
And along with that, Greater Lafayette needed a community that would attract these businesses; needed neighborhoods, restaurants, parks, schools, and arts and culture that would make life attractive for families. This investment came in various forms, from public projects such as Lafayette Downtown Development Plan, the Hoosier Heartland Development Plan, the Five Points Development Plan and the Wabash River Development Plan.
Quality of life projects also contributed to the community’s revitalization, including a new Loeb Stadium, upgrades to the Columbian Park Zoo and Tropicanoe Cove water park, as well as other updates to Columbian Park. The Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds underwent a major renovation, and the Wabash Riverfront is looking at a $150 million investment, including the Riverfront Promenade, which was completed in 2020.
Ultimately, Walker says, all groups came together to work toward this common goal. Today, with the 2019 population at 195,732, the growth clearly did occur. And because of the planning, the communication, the collaboration, the county was prepared to absorb and accommodate that growth. As evidence? Many school districts in Indiana are seeing a decline in sizes of incoming kindergarten classes; in Tippecanoe County, schools have all seen significant growth and kindergarten class sizes have increased, says Walker. The area is clearly a destination; the $250 million investment in education over the past five years — including the implementation of the Greater Lafayette Career Academy — has paid off.
For Walker, this award speaks, in great part, to a process. And it’s a process that involved the input of so many entities — from the cities, the county, parks departments, Purdue and the public schools, and business and industry — partnering and working together.
“It appears that the city, the county, we’re all on the same page with the same goals and objectives,” Walker says. “We’re at a point where people are working together, collaboratively. We’re all pulling on the rope in the same direction. This is a well-run region.
“It’s that planning element that we’ve embraced in this community that works so well.” ★
The Greater Lafayette Region is on the cusp of something big!
On December 15, at 4 p.m., at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation Board Meeting, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that Greater Lafayette will receive $30 million to fund projects in the Regional Economic Development Plan created this past summer. You can find the plan and more information here: greaterlafayetteind.com/READI
The $30 million awarded to Greater Lafayette was part of the READI announcement of $500 million allocated across the state of Indiana. The governor’s plan is to increase quality-of-place and quality-of-life spending to enable regions around the state to compete for talent from across the United States and around the world.
As a destination for talent, Greater Lafayette has a head start. With Purdue University and the great companies that are well established in our region, people already make their way here from around the world. The Regional Development Plan with the READI Funds will accelerate that trend and help all of the participating counties — Benton, Fountain, Warren, Carroll, White and Tippecanoe — capture some of that growth.
While the ultimate decision on project funding will reside with the Greater Lafayette Regional Board of Representatives and has yet to be finalized, these were a few of the top ranked projects:
► Runway for Growth: LAF airport expansion to bring commercial air service to Greater Lafayette;
► Supporting Our Families: Expanding high-quality childcare across the region;
► Smart Relocations and Welcoming Veterans: Two projects to attract talent to Greater Lafayette;
► A Place to Call Home: Greater Lafayette Residential Development Plan; and
► Wabash River Greenways: Investments in trail systems around the Wabash River.
The process to create the Regional Development Plan over the course of the summer was the first time that the regional mayors and representatives from each county commission worked together.
Greater Lafayette Commerce was proud to serve as the organizer. It was an unprecedented level of collaboration, and the group will continue to work over the next four years to bring the projects in the plan to life and work together to make this place, this region, Greater! ★
Scott Walker is the president and CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce. He can be reached at 765.742.4044
BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTO BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Last summer, tensions surrounding issues of racial injustice boiled over across the country in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Locally, more than 1,000 peaceful protesters marched downtown on May 31 to rally for racial justice and take a stand against police brutality.
“Witnessing the energy of the young people and the memory, or the wisdom of the older people, together, that gives me hope,” says Rodney Lynch, pastor and director of the Baptist Student Foundation at Purdue University. “I was pleased with the number of people who were there. Most of them were white, that’s the demographics of this community. But standing up for racial justice is not a one-time moment; it’s a lifetime movement.”
Motivated by a desire to join like-minded community members to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), Lynch joined the Diversity Roundtable (DRT) when he relocated to Greater Lafayette in 2016. An outgrowth of Vision 2020, a 2000–2001 community visioning project for the future of Greater Lafayette, the DRT began in 2002 when a small group of citizens started meeting to plan a Diversity Summit held in April 2003. It became a biennial event and this month, the DRT held its 10th summit. The 2021 Diversity Summit, held virtually and free to all participants, focused on Strategic Doing: Turning Conversation into Action.
In addition to the summits, the DRT meets monthly to discuss DEI issues in the community. The meetings are open to the public and co-facilitated by Lynch and Barbara Clark, who retired as director of the Science Diversity Office and director of the Women in Science Programs at Purdue in 2015. An all-volunteer group, the DRT is a committee of Greater Lafayette Commerce.
“We are the only group in the community focused on diversity in general,” Clark says. “We’re not organized in response to a crisis or an issue. We’re focused on raising awareness and educating people about the diversity issues in the community — anything from race to sexual orientation to disability — and how diversity, equity and inclusion intersect with social issues.”
Many of the monthly meetings feature speakers from the community, such as city government officials, school superintendents, police officers and university administrators who share their perspective on how DEI is supported in their respective institutions as well as identifying areas that still need to be addressed. Clark, who has served as a co-facilitator of the group since 2009, says although the same core issues may resurface, often they’ve been redefined in some way.
“An issue that we’ve discussed a number of times is ‘driving while Black,’” Clark says. “When we first started talking about that, it was somewhat surprising to the white folks but certainly not surprising to the people of color. One of the things the DRT does is develop programming to educate the community on these issues.”
One of the programs facilitated by the DRT addressed implicit bias. Lynch, who co-led the training, would ask attendees how many of them had “the talk” with their children. Invariably, white attendees assumed “the talk” centered around sexual activity. Black attendees gave their children the “police talk.”
“Black people do not have the privilege of not educating their children about how to conduct themselves when they are engaged by a police officer, so they get home safe,” Lynch says. “White children are raised to believe the police will keep them safe. Whereas we’ve seen time and time again, Black people are afraid to even call the police because our loved ones may not live through that interaction.”
The depth of implicit bias is magnified through a video experiment shown in the training that posits two men of different races in the same scenario. In one instance, a white man is shown breaking into a car in broad daylight. In the other, the man breaking into the car is Black. The white man sets off the car alarm multiple times, fishing with a wire coat hanger for 30 minutes trying to pop the door lock. A police car drives by without stopping. When the Black man attempts to break into the car, a passerby begins filming him with a cellphone almost immediately and the police arrive within two minutes. The video ends with the Black man in handcuffs surrounded by five police officers.
“It’s assumed that the white guy is just locked out of his car,” Lynch says. “But the Black guy must be robbing that car. These are examples of the implicit biases we all live with.”
The difficulty of identifying implicit biases lies in the fact that we don’t always know we have them. These unconscious inclinations often operate outside of our awareness and can directly contradict a person’s espoused beliefs or values. The danger of implicit biases is how they affect our reactions and behaviors without our awareness. The goal of implicit bias training is to help attendees understand and acknowledge the systems of privilege in place that influence these unconscious prejudices.
These conversations are difficult to have, even among members of the DRT, who, by their very presence at meetings, are more inclined to be receptive to reframing their personal perspectives and committed to acknowledging and addressing DEI issues within the community.
“One of the things that keeps people coming month after month is that they can be honest and open at the DRT,” Clark says. “They feel safe talking about issues in a group where people have different perspectives because of their lived experiences.”
Another program offered by the DRT for the past few years centers around the book Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla F. Saad. The book operates as a workbook, outlining journaling exercises and conversation prompts that force white readers to reflect on the roots of their own unconscious bias, how they benefit from the systems in place and how white supremacy plays out in their everyday lives. Small cohorts of 20 to 25 people work through the book together, meeting for weekly discussions over the course of one month.
“It’s not really fair to expect people of color to educate white people on issues of diversity,” Clark says. “If white people care about diversity and want to make a change, they need to put some energy into educating themselves. That’s what Me and White Supremacy is all about. The journaling can be difficult. The conversations can be intense, but it’s all very worthwhile.”
Before the pandemic, approximately 30 people attended the monthly DRT meetings. After switching to virtual meetings last year, the DRT has seen a slight increase of participation with up to 50 attendees. Those numbers may seem small, but the impact of the DRT on the larger community is far greater.
“We’re not only touching the people who show up,” Lynch says. “The people who participate in the DRT are armed with information they can use when they encounter injustice at their job, in the community or in their family. That’s the beauty of what the DRT offers. If someone is serious about combatting injustice, DRT is a good place to start. We can inform and educate.” ★
To receive updates about the DRT and information about its monthly meetings, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit diversitytippecanoe.org.
BY RADONNA FIORINI
The fifth and most advanced generation of wireless internet technology is coming to a West Lafayette laboratory where innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs will put it to the test.
The 5G Innovation Lab opens this summer in the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration near Purdue University. Owned and managed by the nonprofit Purdue Research Foundation, the Convergence Center provides space and resources to bring new innovations and products out of the lab and into the marketplace.
The 3,000-square-foot lab is part of the Indiana 5G Zone, a public/private partnership launched in 2020 in Indianapolis, says Managing Director Sean Hendrix. The 5G Zone was created in response to a push from industry, economic development groups and government to invest in technological research and infrastructure, positioning the state to attract and support innovative, high-tech companies.
The first 5G demonstration lab opened in Indianapolis last year, so the West Lafayette site is the second in the state. These labs allow companies and innovators to research new technologies without having to invest in their own 5G infrastructure and networks, says Hendrix.
When completed, physical work spaces in the West Lafayette lab will be connected to 5G through technology similar to an on-site, dedicated cell tower. Businesses, university researchers and private innovators can lease space there and full-time staff will be on-site to help new clients learn how to use the technology. The staff also can provide help in any testing process, or act as an independent, third-party team with assessment capability.
“5G is not just the next generation of wireless technology. It provides a fundamentally different way to do computing over networks,” Hendrix says. “There are tons of opportunity because this is not an established technology. The lab can help government, industry and academia test practical applications for 5G technology.”
If you’ve heard of 5G, it’s probably in relation to the next level of cellular phone speed and capability, but so much more is possible, says Troy Hege, PRF vice president for innovation and technology. The benefits of 5G include:
• Faster speed – up to 20 times faster than current wireless technology.
• Larger bandwidth – meaning more information can be processed at one time.
• Less latency – the lag between requests and responses in data transfer is reduced.
This technology is critical in the Internet of Things (IoT) and its ability to wirelessly connect different devices so they interact remotely, in real time, such as thermostats and video door bells that can be controlled from a cell phone. But much more complex applications are being studied.
One possibility is using encrypted video in a smart street system that collects data from cameras and sensors at road intersections so traffic lights can be controlled in real time, allowing for better traffic management, Hege says. While some of that technology currently exists, 5G has the capability to link all the hardware to a central facility so data coming in from across the system can quickly be analyzed.
This technology may be invaluable for manufacturing, machine learning, factories using robotics, and even agriculture systems, health care, and cybersecurity providers.
To create new uses for wireless technology, Hege says three basic things are needed: a device or sensor; software that actively processes data generated by the sensor; and a network that connects to the software and transmits or analyzes the data.
“This living lab is the center of bringing those things together,” he says. “Companies can bring new devices to the lab for testing and collaborate with researchers and professors who are the best in the world. Data analysis and machine learning are shaping industry all over the world, and this lab is the front door for research and application deployment.”
The 5G lab falls under the umbrella of NineTwelve Convergence, a nonprofit innovation institute designed to promote collaboration between business, academia and governmental entities in deploying 5G technology.
Two private companies are building out the necessary infrastructure in the Convergence Center: SBA Communications is the cellular network provider; and Tilson is the fiber optic backhaul network provider, Hendrix says.
He adds that the fiber optic network is owned and managed by SBA Communications, and PRF has signed a long-term service agreement with the company. PRF will operate the “testbed” portion of the lab’s network.
This means the network is not owned or operated by a specific internet service provider and so is considered a neutral platform. Another advantage to working with the West Lafayette lab is that the private wireless network will eventually be linked throughout the Discovery Park District, a 400-acre planned development that will include businesses, manufacturing, housing, retail and entertainment venues. That connectivity will provide a living laboratory where researchers can pilot applications in the lab and test and refine them in a controlled, real-life environment, says Hege.
“Elements of 5G are already out there, but we are at the very beginning of learning about this technology,” he says. “This will be a decade-long process and it will take all of us working together. We are thinking about all the ways data and connectivity impact our lives across the spectrum of where we work, where we learn and where we live.” ★
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
NineTwelve Convergence —ninetwelveconvergence.us
Indiana 5G Zone — indiana5gzone.com
Discovery Park District: Building a Connected Innovation Community — youtube.com
BY RADONNA FIORINI
For the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration, that common focus is providing space and resources for academic research and private industry to collaborate, with the goal of seeing discoveries and innovations regularly make it out of the laboratory and into the world.
The Convergence Center, a 145,000-square-foot, five-story building located west of Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus, is billed as “Private Industry’s Front Door to Purdue,” says David Broecker, chief innovation and collaboration officer for the Purdue Research Foundation, the non-profit entity that owns the building.
Companies want to collaborate with the university, Broecker says, because that partnership provides access to student talent, engagement with faculty and professors on the leading edge of research, and facilities such as established modern labs and innovation centers. PRF, through its Office of Technology Commercialization, also helps connect researchers with private industry to move inventions and discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace, while protecting intellectual property with patents and licensing.
But collaboration can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming if a company is not physically located near campus. That’s where Convergence comes in, offering flexible workspace options for established companies, startups — even individuals needing office space away from home.
“We want (Convergence) to be the place where companies and external collaborators meet with their counterparts from Purdue University and PRF to solve problems and address the answer to the question, ‘What keeps you up at night regarding your innovation/business strategy?’” says Broecker. “We want to make it easy for companies and external collaborators to be successful.”
Construction on Convergence, located at 101 Foundry Drive, began in 2018, with the $32 million building opening in January 2020, says Wade Lang, PRF vice president and chief entrepreneurial officer. The building is already home to several PRF entities along with four agriculture and life sciences companies. Improvements continue in the tenant spaces on three of the five floors, and retail space is being developed.
This summer, the 5G Innovation Lab will open in Convergence, providing companies and researchers access to the latest wireless internet technology in a lab setting.
It is the second such lab in Indiana and will allow the private sector and the Purdue community a place to experiment with the cutting-edge technology.
PRF is actively looking for new tenants for Convergence, which is managed by Carr Workplaces, a company based in Washington, D.C. Carr is a national workspace provider that manages brick and mortar office space but also offers such services as mail management and phone answering for those who may work from home but want a professional address and help with administrative chores, says Michelle Mercado, Carr business development associate.
Carr Workplaces provides a step up from traditional co-working spaces in that clients who lease space in Convergence have access to a dedicated phone line, email, fax and binding machines, copiers, shredding and notary services, high-speed wireless internet, and onsite tech support. There is a fully stocked coffee bar and conference rooms with videoconferencing capability and digital white boards for virtual collaboration.
“It’s a beautiful space,” says Mercado. “It has all the bells and whistles, and it’s positioned to be close to the university, but far enough away from campus to be its own entity. We meet people where they are. We ask, ‘What do you need? What tools will help you?’”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have begun rethinking their office needs, Broecker says. While corporate headquarters are shrinking, PRF finds that companies want to expand in strategic locations, often near universities, to tap resources that can meet their innovation and business needs.
“Bayer Crop Science is a great example of this strategy,” Broecker says. “Bayer has relocated three of their employees to create their own ‘innovation hub’ at Convergence that will facilitate interactions with students and faculty, and provide access to the places and spaces they need to be successful. We believe all of these aspects of the Convergence Center make it extremely unique among other leading universities.”
Convergence is ticking all the boxes for Beck’s Superior Hybrids, says Brad Fruth, director of innovation for the family-owned, Indiana-based seed company that operates in 14 states across the corn belt and is the third-largest retail seed brand in America.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand what a treasure the center is,” Fruth says. “Our innovation team knew we needed to increase collaboration with different schools at Purdue. Having an office at Convergence means we have the opportunity to regularly connect with researchers and go to call-outs and make connections. All we had to do was show up and get our key. The Carr staff takes care of all the amenities.”
Headquartered in Atlanta, Indiana, Beck’s opened a Convergence office in summer 2020 and leases dedicated space that allows its innovation team to meet once a week in person, provides an office for team members to land as needed, and gives its intern a place to work. While the space might not be used every day, everything the team needs is available when it is on site.
And being close to Purdue means Beck’s team members are on campus more regularly. Companies have to be proactive about making campus connections, Fruth says, and he is always on the lookout for research and innovation going on at Purdue that can be applied in the real world to benefit Beck’s ultimate client, the American farmer.
While Beck’s is certainly connected with those doing agronomy research at Purdue, the company also is interested in leveraging data analysis, computer science and supply chain management research, Fruth says. His team’s goal is to be on campus regularly and make at least one new Purdue connection each week.
Fruth looks forward to the day, post-pandemic, when travel again becomes a bigger part of the Beck’s business model because the company can use space in other Carr Workplace sites around the country for a single-day meeting or extended conference.
Carr has about 35 sites throughout the United States, the closest being in Chicago, and this perk for anyone who leases from them is particularly useful for businesses doing recruiting or collaborative work, says Mercado, adding that the Carr team can even help with travel arrangements and event planning.
“Flexible lease terms and networking spaces around the country are some of the reasons why we’re (in Convergence),” Fruth says.
Those flexible lease terms are attractive because clients can rent private office suites that will accommodate a team of one to five people, share a private office between a few employees, or lease a dedicated desk in a shared work space that still offers access to all the office equipment and administrative help, says Ethan Kingery, Car’s general manager at Convergence.
Kingery works alongside Chelsea Hulbert, the local Carr community manager, who serves as receptionist and liaison between every tenant and each guest who walks in the door. Hulbert helps with shipping needs, answers phones and supports all the tenants in myriad ways
“We have a hospitality mindset that you could compare to the quality you would find at a luxury resort,” Kingery says. “We work with every tenant to see how we can support and amplify what they need.” And as a Purdue graduate and former university employee, Kingery has insight into Purdue’s unique culture and can work with Convergence tenants to help them make connections on campus.
While established companies such as Beck’s and Bayer Crop Science find Convergence a good place to land, startups also can lease dedicated or community space and have access to office equipment and administrative support. As an example, Kingery cites an entrepreneur who has leased space for her fledgling apparel company in Convergence and is in the building many evenings and weekends when she’s not working her day job.
“If you need 3,000 square feet or less of office space, we can work with you,” Kingery says.
While most Carr Workplace sites are in large cities and cater to white-collar tenants such as lawyers or lobbyists,
Convergence is unique in that it is the only Carr site near a top research university and attracts more scientists and researchers, says Mercado.
Convergence also plays a distinctive role within the Discovery Park District (DPD), a 400-acre, mixed-use development that broke ground in 2017. PRF, which owns and manages the land west of campus where the district is being developed, is partnering with Indianapolis-based Browning Investments, Inc. on the project.
“Over the next 10 years, we are projecting over $1 billion in development (at the Discovery Park District) comprised of business, research, residential, retail, advanced manufacturing and community spaces that will eventually attract upwards of 25,000 people living, working, playing and learning across the district,” says Broecker.
“With the 50,000+ students, faculty and staff at Purdue, Discovery Park District will become an incredible community in its own right on the campus of a leading research university … and the Convergence Center is the ‘business front door’ to the DPD.” ★
For more information about Carr Workplaces, go to:
For more information about the Convergence Center,
go to: discoveryparkdistrict.com/the-convergence-center
Parkside | 1902 Scott St.
A Columbian Park staple for decades, Parkside reopened under new ownership just last year. The recently constructed patio opened in September and is nonsmoking, just like the reimagined restaurant. Outfitted with reclaimed lumber, polished concrete and a hanging garden, the stylish outdoor ambiance is a welcome respite. With dinner specials, smoked meats and “the coldest beer in town,” we don’t need an excuse to stop by and stay a while.
Digby’s | 113 N. Fourth St.
Tucked between two tall buildings, Digby’s patio may feel like an exclusive hideaway, and spaciously positioned tables along serpentine pathways dotted with trees lend an air of privacy. Its casual atmosphere belies what is arguably the best patio view in town. Gaze at the Tippecanoe Courthouse soaring overhead as local music emanating from the outdoor stage wafts over you. Reservations accepted, and your pup can come, too.
East End Grill | 1016 Main St.
A seasonally inspired scratch menu, creative cocktails and a modern, urban vibe have earned East End Grill a reputation as one of the hottest spots in town. The restaurant has become an anchor of upper Main Street since it first opened five years ago. Weekend nights, tables are hard to come by without reservations, even more so for the few available on the small dog-friendly patio. Reservations encouraged.
Lafayette Brewing Co. | 622 Main St.
The first brewery to receive Indiana’s small brewers permit back in 1993, Brew Co. — as it’s known to locals — brews traditional ales and lagers on site. The kitchen sends out generous portions of unique pub fare that would satiate any appetite. Whether you stop by on Pint Night (Wednesday), Flight Night (Monday), Seven Buck Sunday or any other night, a good time is certain.
Red Seven | 200 Main St.
Watch the world go by from your patio seat in the heart of downtown. From small plates to seafood to steaks, this new American restaurant offers an upscale urban dining experience for everyone. The extensive line up of seasonally crafted cocktails and local brews are enough to make you linger for an evening. Dogs welcome. Red Seven accepts reservations; although patio seating can be requested, it is not guaranteed.
Sgt. Preston’s of the North | 6 N. Second St.
Is there a more popular patio in town than Sgt. Preston’s on a sunny day? The Canadian-themed bar has been a staple in downtown Lafayette for decades, serving up delicious grub backed by a full bar with weekly dinner and drink specials. Often featuring live music on weekends, your best bet is to head over early to snag a table or visit on Monday for Schooner Night. 21+ only.
Rusty Taco | 3209 Builder Dr.
Relatively new on the scene, Rusty Taco quickly impressed with its diverse menu of street tacos that pack bold flavors. With its festive umbrellas and charming string lights, the Rusty Taco patio gives off the mellow vibe of a place where you want to kick back, relax and forget about your worries for a while. Rusty says, “Tacos are the most important meal of the day,” and we can’t disagree.
Teays River Brewing and Public House | 3000 S. Ninth St.
This comfortable outdoor patio bedecked with picnic tables maintains a communal feeling even with sufficient social distancing. An extension of the laid-back scene that permeates inside, outdoor dining at Teays River features the same unique pub fare and tasty local brews. Bring Fido along; the patio is pooch friendly.
Walt’s Other Pub | 3001 S. Ninth St.
Not only does Walt’s Other Pub have a patio, you might even be lucky enough to score a seat on the balcony. Its immense menu with family-friendly options is sure to please. With 12 beers on tap, a robust wine list and a full bar, you have plenty of choices to accompany your meal. And if you go for lunch you might get served by the friendliest, most outgoing waitress in town. Everyone’s welcome at Walt’s patio, even the dog.
The Bryant | 1820 Sagamore Pkwy W
When The Bryant first opened its doors in November 2018, it already sounded familiar to longtime residents. The restaurant’s name harkens back to the much-beloved Morris Bryant Smorgasbord, which occupied the site from 1951 to 1994. After only a few years, the Bryant has quickly gained a place in our hearts, too. Its upscale, contemporary atmosphere and ever-evolving menu are enticing enough. Throw in one of the most inventive cocktail menus around? We’re sold.
Town and Gown Bistro | 119 N. River Road
Don’t overlook this gem of a place. Although located on a busy thoroughfare, the landscaped patio has been outfitted with numerous pots and planters filled with lush greenery that transform this cozy patio into a delightful oasis. Billed as “unfussy American eats” the chef-driven menu features familiar fare exquisitely executed. In addition to lunch and dinner, Town and Gown also is open for brunch and features a variety of vegetarian options. As if we needed another reason to love it.
Whittaker Inn | 702 W 500 N
The Whittaker Inn’s picturesque country setting is the ideal location to enjoy a relaxing meal artfully crafted with locally sourced ingredients. Not just for out-of-towners, the Whittaker Kitchen is the heart of this inviting B&B just minutes from Purdue. The ever-changing menu offers new delights with each season, though we’re glad to see the scrumptious butterhorn bread rolls have become a mainstay. We could fill up on those alone. Reservations required.
BY RADONNA FIORINI
While much of life slowed or was outright canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, city improvement and development projects continued, and many will come to fruition in 2021. From penguins to new planned neighborhoods, here’s a peek at what’s coming for our communities.
Lafayette’s Columbian Park continues to be a beehive of activity with new attractions slated to open this spring and summer.
The recently constructed $20 million Loeb Stadium, located at the corner of Main and Wallace streets, will be dedicated at the end of January, says Lafayette Parks and Recreation Marketing Manager Samantha Haville. Some COVID-related delays pushed the project’s completion back a bit, but everything should be ready for Lafayette Jefferson High School’s baseball home opener in the spring.
The original Loeb Stadium, built in the 1940s of concrete, was long the site for Lafayette Jeff’s home games, the Colt World Series, and more recently the summer collegiate baseball team, the Lafayette Aviators, part of the West Division of the Prospect League. The new brick stadium, which will seat 2,600 people when suites and lawn seating opens later this year, is also designed as a multi-use space where concerts and family movie nights will be planned.
“We hope to make a big splash for the first Jeff home game and for the Aviators’ opener in early summer,” says Haville. “And we’re opening it up to community partnerships for a wide variety of events.”
The newest additions to the Columbian Park Zoo are scheduled to arrive before the zoo opens this spring. Nine African penguins will be shipped from California to inhabit the penguin house constructed in 2020. Their arrival was delayed because of travel restrictions, but the hope is that these warm-weather birds will feel at home and be ready for visitors by late April.
Another exciting addition, an updated blast from the past, will be a new carousel. Construction on a permanent building to house this family favorite has begun, located between the zoo and Tropicanoe Cove water park. The carousel will feature hand-carved and painted wooden animals that represent some of those found in the zoo, along with exotic species and traditional horses. Haville says no date has been set for the opening of this much-loved ride.
While some of these new projects will not be fully used until the pandemic is under control, several planned features in Columbian Park will be open for individual use this summer.
Phase three of the Memorial Island project is proceeding apace. A new amphitheater with upgraded sound system is planned. The lagoon was drained last year, and sea walls are being rebuilt. Lots of new elements are being added to make the area accessible for folks with disabilities including boardwalks, new bridges, and ADA fishing nodes that jut out into the lagoon and accommodate a wheelchair, Haville says. The parks department is working with Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to choose fish that will be stocked in the refilled lagoon this summer.
“We are most excited about the fact that paddle boats are coming back!” Haville says. “The boats will be located on the south side of the lagoon near the train depot. We hope to have them available
Cason Family Park
Keeping with the theme of public parks and outdoor spaces, West Lafayette has several projects in the works, says Erin Easter, director of development for the city.
Cason Family Park is a planned 14-acre prairie-style space being developed in two phases. The park, located on acreage donated by local farmer Lynn Cason at Cumberland Avenue and U.S. 231, is already home to the historic, one-room Morris Schoolhouse. Built in 1879, the school was moved to the property in 2017 and restored so it can be used for educational programs.
Construction on other park elements is slated to begin this year with completion set for 2022. Surrounding the schoolhouse will be outdoor play places, lawns and waterways. There will be picnic pavilions, public restrooms and several trails throughout the acreage.
“This will be a really fun, whimsical place to play that won’t feel forced,” Easter says. “There will be natural playgrounds with climbing rocks, wooden elements and rest areas.”
For bikers and walkers in West Lafayette, a planned 10-foot-wide pathway project will roll out this year. The path will run along Salisbury Street from Kalberer Road to Grant Street and end at Northwestern Avenue. The project will include shifting some traffic lanes and burying utilities, says Easter. Lighting and other amenities will be added during this two-year project, which will provide a safer way for pedestrians to move from the northern side of the city to the Purdue campus.
And the pathway will lead directly to the new Wellness Center just completed in Cumberland Park. This 73,000-square-foot facility houses a pool, gym, walking track, weight equipment and spaces for health classes, Easter says.
“A lot of our parks programming was put on pause in 2020,” she says. “It was difficult not to do those things last year, but we’ll have a beautiful new home (for those programs) when the time is right.” (See story on Page 22)
A New City Hall in West Lafayette
While anticipating summer activities, Easter and other city employees are spending these colder months settling into newly renovated office space at the Sonya L. Marjerum City Hall, formerly the Morton Community Center. Remodeling of the historic building began in 2019 and was largely completed in December when city workers began moving in.
The city offices have moved around for several years, but the more than $15 million renovations should allow the building on Chauncey Avenue to be a permanent home, says Easter. The name of the building was changed to honor the late Sonya Marjerum who served as West Lafayette mayor for 24 years.
“We moved into the building exactly two years to the date that construction began,” she says. “There are so many advantages to this space now. It’s ADA compliant and accessible. Four-fifths of the building space will be focused on parks or city programming and available to the community. And the new City Council chambers will serve as a true home for (the council’s) work. Before there was a sense of impermanence, but we hope this will be our final and forever home.”
City Hall’s first floor now has community space including two dance studios that can also host art programming and other activities. The first floor also houses the City Council chambers and other meeting space. The second floor is home to city staff including the mayor’s office, parks department, clerk’s office and other departments. A customer service desk is centrally located so visitors can easily get the help they need, Easter notes.
And additional community projects are planned between City Hall and the West Lafayette Public Library. Three public spaces will be added that include art pieces that also can serve as road barriers to temporarily block streets for festivals and large gatherings.
Lafayette also is completing some downtown projects and making plans for a new 70,000-square-foot public safety building and parking garage. The first public hearing concerning the facility design was held December 16, and the city hopes to begin construction this year with completion planned in 2023, says Lafayette Economic Development Director Dennis Carson.
The facility, which will be on property just east of City Hall at Sixth and Columbia streets, will house the police department and provide parking for city employees plus extra public parking spaces. The multi-story building will include open plazas for public use and be an asset to downtown living, Carson says.
Several Lafayette streetscape projects wrapped up in 2020 that have made downtown more pedestrian friendly and encouraged both investors and shoppers to see the businesses along Main Street as desired destinations. Paying attention to historic preservation and making the area more consumer friendly has paid off.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and people say being downtown is now a better experience, in a safer environment that is more interactive,” says Carson. “We’ve encouraged outdoor dining, which has been so important during the pandemic, and we have more retail than we’ve had in decades.”
While the growth of brick and mortar stores is a surprise in this age of on-line shopping, Carson says there are more clothing and other retail stores downtown than have been seen in years. That trend shows that the investment in improving sidewalks, installing public art, and focusing on local businesses has paid off as people feel more comfortable lingering and shopping downtown.
“We’re very excited about it,” he says. “It’s a testament that people like to experience things (in person). We know it’s been challenging for some of these shops but we think they’ll hold up and do really well when things open up again.”
Perhaps the biggest project coming to Tippecanoe County is back across the river on the west side of the Purdue campus. As part of the Discovery Park District, the city of West Lafayette, Purdue Research Foundation and Old Town Design Group from Indianapolis have launched a planned housing development called Provenance.
Work has begun on apartments at the southwest corner of State Street and Airport Road to be followed by condominiums, town homes and single family homes, says West Lafayette’s Easter, adding that commercial and retail spaces are also part of the mix.
According to information from Old Town Design Group, this multiphase project will eventually include walking paths that connect to nearby parks, golf courses, shops and restaurants. The development includes lots for 56 single-family homes and 30 townhomes.
So grab your mask and take a drive around our communities to see the changes coming. While it feels as if our lives are shrinking, there are brighter days ahead with much to celebrate. ★
BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
This year marks the 95th anniversary of Kirby Risk Corporation, founded in 1926 when J. Kirby Risk borrowed $500 from his father and joined Otto Keiffer to open the Keiffer-Risk Battery Company in a small, abandoned blacksmith shop in Lafayette. Keiffer left the company within the year and was replaced by George Tweedie. The company became Risk-Tweedie Electric Service, and Risk was able to repay his father that $500 loan.
After Tweedie’s departure in 1934, the company was renamed Kirby Risk Electric Company, expanded into wholesale distributions of electric supplies and moved to a new downtown location in 1941. Through it all, Risk remained committed to a concept the company now refers to as sacrificial service.
Risk’s son, company CEO James Risk III, describes sacrificial service to mean placing the highest value on customers, employees, vendors and community relations.
“My father felt strongly that your life’s activities and your business should be based on integrity, respect for people and valuing others,” Risk says. “My mother and father were an amazing team. I learned by watching them that true happiness comes from serving others or enriching the lives of other people.”
The second-generation leader recalls accompanying his father to the company warehouse on evenings and weekends as a child.
“I was fascinated walking down the aisles with all of the different products, parts and equipment,” Risk says. “I didn’t necessarily know their purpose or understand how they worked.
Risk first started working at the company during summers while he was in school. After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in management, he began his career at the sales counter and worked his way up to vice president of sales before he was named company president in 1972 at the age of 30. No stranger to leadership, Risk had already served as president of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce.
A commitment to community service is another value Risk learned from his father. According to Risk, his parents “left us a legacy of valuing others and having a sincere concern for your fellow man.” Among his many contributions to the community, the elder Risk championed bringing Junior Achievement to Lafayette and the younger Risk participated in the program in high school.
“The cornerstone to our company’s success is a commitment to long-term relationships with our employees and their families, with our customers, and with our vendors,” Risk says. “Equally important is having a presence in our communities. Our employees are encouraged to get involved in their communities, value other people and simply do more than what is expected. My parents lived their lives that way and I just tagged along for the ride.”
Eddy Del Real was 4 years old when his father, Jose, opened Del Real Auto Sales. Jose still worked at Alcoa at the time. He’d wake up at 6 a.m. to go to the car auction, report to the plant at 3 p.m. and get off shift at 11 p.m. His three sons, Alonzo, Eddy and Tony, began helping out at the lot as kids, washing cars and performing other odd jobs on weekends or after school. Now all three sons — and their brother-in-law — work for the family business.
“It wasn’t ever expected of us. We were raised to do what we love,” Eddy Del Real says. “For me, it’s an awesome opportunity. We’ve always been family oriented. We were all brought into the business. We each have investment in it. Dad showed us the ropes and we took it from there to broaden the business and expand it.”
Since its founding in 1987, Del Real has expanded into three locations. Eddy manages the flagship Del Real Auto Sales in Lafayette; Alonzo runs Del Real Auto Connection on Sagamore Parkway, Lafayette; and Tony opened Del Real Automotive Group in Frankfort.
In terms of his father’s leadership style, Eddy Del Real says Jose’s
approach has always been firm,
“There isn’t really a hierarchy of titles,” he says. “We were all raised as equals. We’ve never really had a boss. My dad has the knowledge, so we would ask him for advice and roll with it. He’s shown us that if you put your time and your investments into the business, you’ll reap the benefits. He’s done well for himself, and we want to continue that legacy.”
Eddy Del Real said one thing that sets the family business apart from other auto dealerships is the way they do business. Because their business carries the family name, the Del Reals are invested in every single sale. The company values stem from Jose’s strong work ethic and belief in transparency of the deal — no gimmicks, everything is sold with a warranty and deal the way you want to be treated. Though his sons manage the day-to-day operations, Jose is still involved in the business.
“We still go to the auction together,” Eddy Del Real says. “Sometimes we’ll talk business at the dinner table when we’re all together. It’s something that will always unite us. My mom and our wives are the ones that keep us grounded.”
Basim Hussain started hanging out at his dad’s place of work when he was still too young to be on the payroll. What kid wouldn’t want to spend all day in an ice cream shop? Sabir Hussain operates three Coldstone Creamery locations throughout Greater Lafayette. Once Basim was old enough, he sought employment at one of his father’s stores.
“He considered applying for other jobs, even interviewed for a few. But they just weren’t for him,” Sabir Hussain says. “The way we provide flexibility to young people in school and sports and other activities, we go above and beyond in recruiting and keeping young employees.”
Basim’s only concern about working for his dad? He was worried he’d be missing out on a real work experience.
“At the end of the day, your dad probably won’t fire you,” Sabir Hussain says. “But Basim gets admonished just like anyone else, and to be honest, a little bit more than others. There’s extra pressure if the owner’s son isn’t in proper uniform.”
Hussain takes a long-term approach in developing his young workers. He looks for opportunities to challenge them to see alternate perspectives. He encourages them to be problem solvers. He guides them in cultivating strong customer relations skills that could be applied to dealing with clients in almost any future career path. Basim, now a freshman at Cornell University, remained at home during the fall
semester due to the pandemic. While enrolled in online courses,
he still worked part-time in his father’s store.
“For all my young employees, I hope there is something they pick up from this job that stays with them for the rest of their life,”
Sabir Hussain says. “I truly believe
it takes a village to raise a young person. My role may not be
counselor or teacher or pastor, but at the same time, it’s not nothing. I’m not just a person who signs
their check.” ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
On a cold winter’s day, or even a warm summer evening, a bowl of soup can be a meal or a side dish to a grilled cheese sandwich.
A good bowl of soup can bring customers into a restaurant, and there are several Greater Lafayette establishments that offer a variety of homemade soups.
“Soups are comfort food,” says Jody Bahler, founder and owner of The Homestead, which has locations in West Lafayette and Remington. “It’s like balm to the soul to enjoy a delicious steamy bowl of homemade soup.”
The Homestead believes in offering a wide variety of soups each month. Including its tomato basil, which is available daily, The Homestead usually has nearly a dozen soups on its monthly menu.
“There is enough to satisfy everyone’s taste buds,” Bahler says. “Everyone enjoys a steamy bowl of soup, especially during these cold wintry months.”
The Homestead’s website, homesteadbuttery.com, has a daily lunch calendar that allows patrons to see what soups are available on a daily basis. The Homestead also packages its soups frozen for customers to heat up at home, a popular business strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked which is the most popular soup among her customers, Bahler couldn’t stop at just one. There are five on her list: tomato basil, baked potato, Boilermaker stew, chicken noodle and cheesy broccoli noodle.
“We have several that rank up at the tip top in sales. Those five are in constant demand, which thrills us that our soups are enjoyed by so many,” Bahler says. Bahler’s personal favorite is tomato basil in combination with The Homestead’s grilled cheese sandwich. She also recommends getting the Boilermaker stew topped with sour cream, crushed cheesy Doritos and extra shredded cheddar cheese.
“Our soups are hearty and do not contain preservatives or fillers,” Bahler says. “They are made completely from scratch in our Homestead production kitchen in Remington, Indiana.”
In case you were wondering, The Homestead offers several gluten-free soups: chicken and rice, chicken tortilla, Homestead chili, tomato basil and white chicken chili.
The Homestead’s West Lafayette location, which is tucked inside Bell Plaza next to Wolf’s Chocolates and Boutique & Gifts by Michele, boasts 22 different varieties of frozen entrees along with pies, cookies, breads and sweet rolls. If the food isn’t enough, The Homestead sells candles, chocolates, jams, Amish noodles, deli meats and cheeses and locally raised freezer beef.
At Trish’s Red Bird Café in Dayton, chicken corn chowder has the honor of being the most popular soup. Not far behind, though, is the breakfast soup.
“I believe that these are so popular because they are so fresh tasting and just warm you up on the inside,” says Red Bird Café owner Trish Brown, whose personal favorite is her tomato basil soup.
“It’s not a traditional tomato soup,” Brown says. “It is very chunky.”
Brown believes the secret to her soups’ popularity is simple.
“I would say our soups are so special because we make them completely from scratch and I can tell you every ingredient in every one,” she says. “Our soups are not the ‘normal’ soups you see in other restaurants. We offer several that were created just for us.”
Trish’s Red Bird Café sells homemade soups by the quart, hot or cold, for $10. The current list includes stuffed bell pepper, loaded potato, broccoli cheese, chili, chicken tortilla, chicken corn chowder, tomato basil bisque and the breakfast soup. All are gluten-free.
“I feel that the Greater Lafayette area likes soups and chili because it is a good way to fill up, and it just makes you think of family,” Brown says. “Growing up in this area most of us ate a lot of soup, so at least for me personally it brings back happy memories. It’s just good comfort, feel-good food.”
Partially for space reasons, Great Harvest Bread Co. doesn’t offer a variety of soups like The Homestead and Trish’s Red Bird Café. However, Great Harvest owner Jerry Lecy says a great deal of care goes into each batch coming out of Great Harvest’s kitchen.
“We make these soups from scratch, so it’s not easy to perfect so many options,” Lecy says. Those options include butternut squash, cheesy broccoli, cream of mushroom, cheesy potato ham, and chili.
Like The Homestead and Trish’s Red Bird Café, Great Harvest customers list tomato basil as a favorite along with velvet chicken.
“The popularity contest between the tomato basil and the velvet chicken is a toss-up,” Lecy says. “Both are desired just as much. My personal
favorite is velvet chicken. I just love the creamy taste and shreds of chicken. The seasoning tops it off.”
For customers who desire to have Great Harvest soups at home, there are dry soup mixes for sale.
“We offer over 20 varieties of these soups that are easy to make and tasty,” Lecy says. “They can be tweaked to a person’s liking with additional ingredients, or it’s simple to just add water and heat up.”
Just as easy is Lecy’s explanation for why he believes soups are a staple of Greater Lafayette dining.
“I believe soup is so desirous in our area for two reasons,” he says. “First, it is a simple meal – don’t need to figure out which main course you want or which sides you want with that. It’s one easy decision: which delicious soup do I want?
“Second, it’s a comfort food (which) warms the soul and body.” ★
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Small Business Saturday is a national movement launched in 2011, designed to get shoppers into smaller locally owned businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Locally, friendly neighborhood businesses partner with Greater Lafayette Commerce and offer specials and swag bags, resulting in a festive holiday shopping atmosphere.
Small boutique shops offer products that are often local and more specialized, says Richelle Peterson, owner of Richelle in a Handbasket at Market Square.
“We’re all about gifts,” she says. “We go back to the basics of giving with a purpose.”
At Richelle in a Handbasket, the shopping experience is very low-key and stress-free, very friendly. Customers are always greeted with a warm hello, Peterson says, and the shopping experience is very personal. There won’t be fighting in line or battles over items; instead, people will sit back, enjoy a cup of hot cocoa, and find exactly the gift they were looking for, as Peterson and her staff help customize gift baskets and selections.
“It’s like you’re coming into my house,” Peterson says. “It’s warm, it’s very laid back, very happy.”
Helping customers find exactly the gift they are looking for, and not just settling for what is easy, is part of the shop’s mission, says Peterson. They specialize in customized gift baskets, which can be tailored to meet a customer’s exact needs, thus creating the perfect gift.
“We help people put thought into their gifts,” she says. “We try to make it a little more personal. People can take their time. It’s about the thought — we help with that. We’re here to help, not to push.”
At Boutique LoriAnn, 101 N. Sixth St., the emphasis is on quality and catering to customers’ exact needs, says owner Lori Schlaifer. Holiday shopping in the boutique will be upscale and, again, more personal.
The shop won’t be as crowded as a women’s clothing retailer at a mall, she says. And because she only orders a very limited number of each item, a customer can be sure that she won’t see everyone she knows wearing the exact same item she buys.
Because her boutique is small, Schlaifer gets to know — really know — her customers, their likes and preferences. When an item comes that she thinks might suit someone, she lets them know.
“It’s more intimate,” she says. “It’s more personal.”
Down the road at Stall & Kessler’s, 333 Columbia St., the focus is also on personalization and customization, says co-owner Kris Kessler. The shop values all its customers, he says — “We’re excited to see anyone walk in the front door.”
As a specialty business, they do focus on high-end jewelry, and pieces are customized to each person’s needs — everything from earrings, bracelets and necklaces to cufflinks and specially designed rings. People tend to think that means a higher price tag, Kessler says. But that is not necessarily the case.
Plus, he feels they are selling much more than a mere product.
“We’re selling on a deeper level than most retailers,” he says. “We are selling quality pieces of jewelry that celebrate these moments in people’s lives. I really find the joy and the connection when people come in and are celebrating that engagement or anniversary.
“Yes, what we’re selling is rock and metal. But it’s part of these moments in a lifetime. We really cherish that.”
There are people who might find shopping downtown intimidating, fearful of finding — or, more importantly, not finding — parking, or of stores not feeling welcoming. That could not be further from the truth, say both Schlaifer and Kessler.
“One of the nice things we have downtown is parking that is 15 feet away from our front door,” Kessler says. “At the mall, it’s a lot longer walk.”
Schlaifer agrees — it’s one of the benefits of her location at the corner of Sixth and Columbia streets, which is surrounded by two-hour parking spots.
“It’s pretty easy to find parking,” she says.
When people shop in locally owned businesses, much more of the profit stays in town. According to shopsmall.com, for every dollar spent at a small business, about 67 cents stays in the local community. Locally, businesses noted an 80 percent increase in sales on Shop Small Saturday over a regular Saturday, according to Greater Lafayette Commerce.
Peterson says this is definitely part of the appeal of Richelle in a Handbasket, which proudly features locally made products.
“People shop here because we have Indiana products, a plethora of them,” she says.
The effects of COVID-19 will certainly affect how people shop this holiday season. Kessler says their store has never been cleaner as they focus on keeping their environment as safe as possible for everyone.
And Peterson says she has seen a huge shift in how people interact given the limits on how people can be together. She has shipped a lot of gifts so people can send a little love with a gift basket, because people can’t be near those they care about.
“I think people have forgotten how to be human in their giving,” Peterson says. “A lot more matters. Families, people, neighbors matter. I think it’s brought some humanity back.”
But the biggest benefit of shopping small is the relationships among people. Kessler says he has seen many people turn to online shopping during these days of the pandemic. Stall & Kessler’s is not set up for online shopping. However, he says, their staff can make that work. They were recently able to help a customer purchase a piece of jewelry as an 80th birthday gift — over the phone. It was an accommodation they were happy to make.
“We really appreciate the people who choose to support us,” he says.
Christmas shopping should be fun. Gift-giving should be about the thought and about the experience. Local businesses, Peterson says, are better able to make those connections with customers and make it happen.
“We like talking to people,” she says. “We want people to enjoy shopping and enjoy giving, not break the bank. In today’s world, that matters.”
Greater Lafayette Commerce and its Main Street committee are developing a series of scavenger hunts, using the GooseChase app, to promote local businesses this Shop Small season. The scavenger hunts will run through December 31. Participating small businesses will create missions for people playing the games. Players need only download the app on their phones and click the shop small missions.
The scavenger hunts will include missions where participants take photos of special items within stores, photos of the foods they eat, or videos of them making purchases. Players will compete for points; the more missions someone completes, the more points they earn. There will be prizes for top point earners (swag bags filled with gifts and gift certificates from participating businesses).
To help maintain social distancing the missions will be randomly ordered to drive players to different stores every day.
“We know our small businesses are gearing up this year to offer consumers unique products and gifts. We hope the players find the scavenger hunts to be a fun way to get their competitive juices flowing while getting them out to the retailers’ shops,” says Mark Lowe, small business consultant for Greater Lafayette Commerce.
You can learn more about Shop Small Greater Lafayette at greaterlafayettecommerce.com Or contact Mark Lowe at email@example.com. To participate in the Shop Small Greater Lafayette scavenger hunts, players can download the GooseChase app at goosechase.com or from the google or apple app stores.
BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE RESEARCH FOUNDATION
David Ross’ impact upon Purdue University goes far beyond the football stadium that has had his name for nearly a century.
Ross, a president of the Purdue University Board of Trustees and a prolific inventor, noticed that industry did not have access to Purdue’s knowledge and aid like farmers were provided through the Purdue University Extension Service.
So in the fall of 1930, Ross found a way to get around the limitations created by Purdue’s status as a public institution. With board member Josiah K. Lilly, of Eli Lilly and Co., matching Ross’ $25,000 in starter money (nearly $363,000 in today’s dollars), the nonprofit Purdue Research Foundation was created on Dec. 30, 1930.
“I think the bottom line is he wanted to make it easier for businesses to interact with the university,” says Greg Deason, Senior Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Place Making for the Purdue Research Foundation.
“I think the essence was that he thought this could be a vehicle that would allow the foundation to make and take actions that would benefit the university but could do it rapidly at the speed of business.”
Ross died in 1943 but Deason believes much of today’s PRF was part of his original vision. Deason notes that Purdue Research Park was the third great research park in the world in 1961, following the path of Stanford in 1952 and the Research Triangle Park (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina) in 1959.
“It is most likely he was concerned about creating the framework for which great things could occur,” Deason says. “I think he could have easily, based on the efforts he was making, conceived of clusters of businesses that began to operate near the university so they could benefit from these relationships that he had conceived. In many, many ways I think he could have conceived of (research parks) and I think in addition because of his background as an inventor and an entrepreneur it’s quite likely he could have conceived of a key function that we do where we license our patents. I think he would have come up with many of the things we are doing.”
The Purdue Research Foundation may be celebrating its 90th birthday in 2020 but it has changed with the times. The impetus for change began when former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels became university president in 2013.
“I believe because President Daniels brings the experience he’s had in both government and industry, he has been very helpful and supportive of making sure that the foundation did move into the direction of focusing in on the commercialization of Purdue’s technologies,” says Brian Edelman, who became president of the Purdue Research Foundation in 2017.
“Before President Daniels’ administration, the foundation really was somewhat of a real estate trust. We still are but … what we do as far as real estate and making building places is no longer the focal mission. We do it to make sure we have what’s needed to commercialize Purdue’s technologies.”
Simply put, the PRF’s mission is focused on improving the world through its technologies and graduates.
“That is why the office of technology commercialization is so core to our mission,” Edelman says. “It’s why The Foundry that helps create the startups around Purdue technologies is so critical.”
The Purdue Foundry’s mission statement says its existence is to help Purdue students, faculty and local alumni move ideas to the marketplace more quickly.
One of those startups is Akonacure Pharmaceuticals, which developed a platform to produce natural cancer therapies.
Sherine Abdelmawla, a Purdue pharmacy alumnus who earned her Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology in 2007, founded that startup with her husband; both work with The Purdue Foundry.
“They helped us at the beginning to learn all aspects of the business,” Abdelmawla says. “They helped us transition from a technical team to a management team. Perfecting the investors’ pitch. Putting together a business plan. It’s a great resource.”
Abdelmawla says Akonacure’s original investors were all from The Purdue Foundry and it continues to help the startup. “The Foundry doesn’t just connect me with people within the boundary of PRF, they will connect us with all the Purdue alum network,” she explains. “PRF has a big network of investors they can connect you to. They will be helpful throughout the life of the company.
“The best thing about the PRF is you’re almost immediately treated like you’re a part of the family. It feels a lot more personal than a business relationship. We’ll always feel very grateful, very loyal to The Foundry and Purdue.”
Johnny Park calls himself “a major beneficiary” professionally and personally of the Purdue Research Foundation. Park earned bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering at Purdue. He became a research assistant professor in the school as well.
With the PRF’s investment and a grant from the United States Dairy Association in 2008, Park started Spensa Technologies in 2009 with the vision of agricultural innovation that will reduce reliance on manual labor, foster eco-friendly farming and enhance crop production efficiency.
“As a young faculty member who had never started a company and really did not understand many aspects of the business, The Foundry and PRF was extremely helpful in not only mentoring me as an entrepreneur but also connecting the company to all the relevant customers, stakeholders, potential partners and investors,” Park says. “All those connections were very, very helpful.”
Spensa was acquired in 2018 by DTN, which continues to operate Spensa in Purdue Research Park. Meanwhile, Park remains in West Lafayette as CEO at the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network.
“I didn’t think I’d still be here but the opportunity Purdue provided us in this ecosystem was very wonderful,” Park says. “What Purdue has built in this town, the Purdue Research Park and all the office spaces that are available is incredible. At the cost, we’re getting quality. It’s not often talked about but it’s a tremendous value for a startup to have the infrastructure to take advantage of.”
Dr. Byron Pipes, the John L. Bray Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Purdue, had experience in the business world decades before coming to West Lafayette in 2004. As co-founder and director of the Center for Composite Materials at the University of Delaware, Pipes developed an industrial consortium of more than 40 corporate sponsors from nine different nations. Pipes also was president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York from 1993-95.
Pipes’ research, involving composite materials used in aviation and technology, is patented through the PRF’s Office of Technology Commercialization. He also took the lead in creating the Indiana Manufacturing Institute (based in Research Park), and is executive director of the Composites Manufacturing and Simulation Center.
“It was mutually beneficial for the relationship to happen,” Pipes says. “From my perspective from all the years I’ve spent in leadership and research is that having a place that is almost off campus gave the industry a view that maybe we weren’t so ‘ivory tower.’ Companies are attracted to us because we’re out in Research Park. We’re accessible.
“Whenever I get a company where the high-level people are coming to see me, I make a quick appointment with the president of the Purdue Research Foundation. He explains all about Research Park and what we’re doing to build relationships. It has an effect on them. ‘Wow, you guys are different.’”
One of the PRF’s newest partnerships is with the city of West Lafayette. Mayor John Dennis uses one word to describe his relationship with PRF.
“OUT-STANDING, with capital letters all the way through,” Dennis says.
Dennis remembers in his first term getting a lesson in what he calls “PRF 101” from then-PRF executive director Joe Arnett.
“It wasn’t just enlightening to me as a newly elected guy, it was enlightening for me as a tool to better understand how to improve relationships with Purdue,” Dennis says. “That was sort of the precursor to some of the great things we’ve been able to do over the past five or six years, including annexation and the explosion of development in the Research Park.”
Dennis uses the recruitment of Saab as an example of how the collaboration between the Purdue Research Foundation and the city has benefited Greater Lafayette.
“We were looking at a way to have an incentive package that would make us stand out amongst all the communities that were competing for a high-end development,” he says. “Purdue was in a position to provide some incentivization, and the city of West Lafayette was in a position to provide incentivization. Also, which is completely unheard of, the city of Lafayette participated in the recruitment of Saab financially. If you look anywhere else in the country, you will never find two cities that are going to do the same thing to benefit one city.”
The State Street Project had modest beginnings before a conversation between Dennis and Mitch Daniels changed the scope of the project.
“We had an urban corridor that looked like it hadn’t been touched since the days of the horse and buggy,” Dennis says. “It basically excluded anything involving Purdue University. The storefronts were ignored, parking was ignored, traffic flow was ignored. It basically inhibited any type of business development.
“Our original plan was to take State Street from University down to the riverfront. Basically, we would spend a few million dollars on it, dress it up pretty and make it more accessible. Hopefully improve our business corridor so that people would be more inclined to utilize it.”
Dennis felt obligated to share that plan with Daniels and his staff. It must have been some presentation because Daniels wanted Purdue to be a part of the State Street Project.
“OK, sure, bring your checkbook,” was Dennis’ response. “By golly, he did.”
“That’s when the project changed from being a local project to being a project that incorporated the university all the way to the point of its furthest west barrier, out to connect what was eventually going to be (U.S) 231.”
Daniels’ enthusiasm for the State Street Project led to Purdue’s annexation by West Lafayette, which when the students are on campus swells the population to more than 80,000.
“Which makes us one of the most densely populated cities in the state of Indiana,” Dennis explains. “That allowed us to give a lot of assurances to developers at getting a quick return on their investment.”
Edelman says Purdue’s nearly $100 million obligation to the State Street Project prompted the PRF to make a $40 million land swap with the university to be able to develop the Discovery Park district and the aerospace district.
“But we should have been doing that on our own,” he says. “The reason we should have been doing that is because having the land open has led to the expansion that is going on right now at the Rolls Royce building, the building of the Saab plant, the Schweitzer Engineering Labs. The real jobs that are coming to the Greater Lafayette area through that development is huge.”
Those jobs will bring in people looking for high-end housing, which PRF is providing with Provenance, a single-family home development planned for the former Black and Gold athletic fields.
“When we look to get a development, if we have a developable parcel somewhere in the city or on the west end at Purdue Research Park, people line up because they know they are going to be in good company,” Dennis says. “It makes the recruiting really easy. When it comes to hiring, they will get really high-quality workers.
“We’ve got advanced manufacturing, we’ve got one of the best universities in the country. We’ve got great leadership, Tony Roswarski on the east side and Mitch Daniels as president. We all have a unified understanding of what’s best for this community, not on just the short term but long term. We share resources and work collaboratively together. The Purdue Research Foundation has been pivotal in that.”
Dennis’ vision fits hand in hand with Edelman’s outlook for the future.
“I hope that we can get more captains of industry and captains of capital to land their G-IV jets at the Purdue Airport and visit what we’re building,” Edelman says. “I believe that the very expensive costs of starting a business and having employees on the East and West coast, maybe the false views that the only good ideas come out of the Bay Area or Boston would be shattered if we could get these captains of capital and industry to see what is going on in our part of the prairie at Purdue.
“What I want to do is get them to land their jets instead of flying over that so-called ‘flyover’ state of Indiana and see what we’re building in the Greater Lafayette area.”
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE MEMORIAL UNION
From the outside, the Purdue Memorial Union stands unchanged, a testament to the past hundred years. The stately brick structure, a mainstay of the Purdue University campus for the better part of a century, welcomes students and visitors alike, as a place to gather and commune.
Yet the once-familiar interior is undergoing a transformation. In some ways, it will look much as it always has, with its architectural themes remaining strong and constant. Yet in so many other ways — some obvious, some more subtle — the Union is recreating itself, thanks to a massive renovation project.
And all in the name of Purdue.
The Union, as so many students have experienced it over the past century, is much like its counterparts around the country. There was a wave of student union construction following World War I; these gothic-inspired buildings opened on campuses in the early 1920s as a monument to men and women from these universities who had fought and died in that war.
Pond and Pond, the architectural firm commissioned to build the Purdue Memorial Union, also built student unions in the 1920s at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the University of Kansas.
The Purdue Memorial Union opened its doors in 1924. Shops, restaurants and even a bowling alley, along with offices for student services, are all housed in the Union; the Union Club Hotel opened in 1929 when the building was completed.
The basic function of the Union has not, and will not change, says Zane Reif, senior director of the Purdue Memorial Union. But some intentional rebranding has been worked into the renovations.
“We didn’t have any kind of homage to Purdue,” Reif says. “You didn’t walk in and feel like you were at Purdue.”
The $47 million project was funded in part by a gift from Bruce White, an alumnus and founder of White Lodging, a hotel property management group. An additional gift comes from the Dean and Barbara White Foundation.
The first phase of the project, which includes a renovation of the Union Club Hotel, wrapped up in August. The hotel, whose rooms had felt a little tired and dated, has reopened and now sports an updated, more boutique feel. With 182 rooms, it’s still the largest hotel in Tippecanoe County, says Reif, despite losing about 10 rooms as the space was reconfigured.
The lobby, with its new skylight, has a more open and airy feel about it. With select Purdue-themed memorabilia on the walls, the connection to Purdue is much more evident. All guest rooms have been updated; the fitness center was enlarged and reconfigured. A new lobby bar and a hidden patio add to the amenities guests will enjoy.
And, of course, the hotel is a learning lab, as students in the Hospitality & Tourism Management Program take advantage of the real-life experience of seeing an actual hotel in operation.
Epicureans will delight in the new restaurant, 8Eleven Modern Bistro — the name is yet another Purdue reference, paying tribute to two of NASA’s programs, Gemini 8 and Apollo 11. The upscale menu features an eclectic mix of American dishes with French touches, along with farm-inspired cocktails and local craft beers. And the chef’s kitchen is on display, with large windows allowing visitors to watch food preparation in a space that doubles as a training ground for students.
Bundled with the Boiler Up Bar, which features a bourbon room and signature cocktails, guests will not have far to go to relax at the end of the day.
Inside the rest of the Union, changes are in store. Pappy’s Sweet Shop and the 1869 Tap Room are closed and will not return in those locations, though parts of Pappy’s will return in a different configuration in the Union.
Some shops and restaurants are moving around. When the food court reopens, it will not feature your typical student union fast food, says Reif. Instead, 11 new concepts are coming, with Asian, Latin and European influences. Included is Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux, co-owned by Drew Brees, the first appearance of that eatery in a student union, as well as a dining option operated by Scott Trzaskus, Purdue graduate and owner of East End Grill in downtown Lafayette.
The main floor of the Union will be updated and restored. But the building will retain its original character and remain true to the architecture, Reif says.
“It will have a traditional feel, but a modern traditional feel,” he says. “We’re returning as much original stuff as we can.”
The Purdue branding will continue, he says, and the historic arch motif, visible in the windows and also incorporated into the design of much original furniture — some of it still in use — will also remain.
Terraces are being built along State Street, on the south side of the Union; doors will open from inside, giving the area a trendy yet traditional feel. This will increase space for outdoor activities, making the Union much more of a destination for locals, Reif says.
Inside, the space will be modernized. Technology will be updated; there will be better restroom placement, including family and gender inclusive restrooms.
“We will maintain the best traditions of the building while including modern technology,” says Reif.
The project is slated to be complete by January of 2022, Reif says. When the building reopens, visitors will see the same Memorial Union they have come to know and love. But they will see it slightly updated and modernized. It will be more user-friendly to all visitors — more accessible, more welcoming. It will be the perfect space for students and the community alike. And above all, it will have its own identity, Reif says.
BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTO BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
In a region that has more than its share of locally owned restaurants competing with national chains, it should be no surprise that Greater Lafayette has a mixture of long-time favorite donut shops, two others on the way to earning that status and a newcomer that is growing its clientele.
Mary Lou Donuts opened for business in 1961, but the only thing about it that feels close to its age is its mid-century modern A-frame building on South Fourth Street.
That’s because owner Jeff Waldon is always thinking about the future while making the most of the present. What did Waldon see when he purchased Mary Lou’s in 2017?
“That it could be bigger than that little A-frame on Fourth Street,” says Waldon, a former teacher and Lafayette Jeff girls basketball coach. “The people who came before me – Mary Lou Graves, Keith Cochran and especially Brian Freed, who spent 37 years of his life there – 27 years as owner, 10 as a worker. They made that place. All we needed to do was not screw that up.”
Waldon and his son, Courtney, made sure of that by sticking to what makes Mary Lou’s so popular. They make their own glaze, whipped cream filling and icing.
“It’s a fresher product,” Waldon says. “The more you can make it like home-made, the better it’s going to be.”
COVID-19 affected Mary Lou’s like it has virtually every business in the United States. Closing time is now at 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Mary Lou’s is closed Sundays, and that will remain in effect even when the pandemic guidelines are rolled back.
Mary Lou’s counter remains closed but the drive-thru is doing good business. Even the regulars have found a way to enjoy their coffee and donuts.
“I used to have a 9 o’clock group, a 10:30 group and I had my 1 o’clock guys, motorcycle riders who would come by and eat every day,” Waldon says. “My 4 o’clock group that was there until we closed, and we usually had to kick them out at 5, now some of those people are coming in the morning and sitting in their lawn chairs in the parking lot.”
One of Waldon’s innovations – the food truck – also has been mostly sidelined by COVID-19. The good news is he’s getting ready to roll it back out this fall in smaller communities.
When the food truck hits the road, demand will be high for Mary Lou’s apple fritter.
“It’s the best one ever, anywhere,” Waldon says. “No one makes one like it anywhere.”
Like elsewhere across the country, the glazed yeast donut is popular. So is Mary Lou’s blueberry cake donut. Waldon looks forward to when he can reopen the front doors so he can sell more iced sugar cookies and cut-out iced cookies. Waldon boasts of having sold 15,000 cut-out cookies at Christmas.
“We just started doing blueberry muffins, chocolate, chocolate chip and banana nut chocolate chip,” he says. “Not everybody loves donuts and when you get something for the family, we want to make sure everybody gets something.”
Mary Lou’s will get a boost when the Big Ten Network airs its third season of “Campus Eats.” The production team spent the weekend of Sept. 12 at Mary Lou’s.
If Waldon gets the chance, here’s the message he’d like to send to Big Ten country.
“Wherever you came from, you probably had a favorite donut. And if it’s unfortunate enough to have been one of the big chain donuts, you really missed out. If you have a favorite hometown donut, you are going to go to (Mary Lou’s) and you’re going to forget about all those other places. The thing about our product—and I hear it over and over and over again—is that people will say I’ve never had another donut like this anywhere. The taste, the texture, the size of donut I get, the quality and the price, it’s ridiculous.”
This mainstay of downtown Lafayette has been around since the 1920s when William O’Rear opened the bakery. O’Rear’s moved to its current location, 312 N. Ninth St., in 1957.
Greg and Judy Lintner have owned O’Rear’s since 2005, coming from a family that owned a bakery in Rensselaer for 47 years.
“When we came from Rensselaer … we were more of a breakfast roll and cake bakery but we did everything: cookies, brownies, pies,” Greg Lintner says. “You name it, we did it, just like here. The only difference is we do a few rolls compared to a ton of rolls we did in Rensselaer. We are more of a pastry shop with all our cookies, cupcakes and brownies. I like it a lot better.”
Lintner admits that competing with the likes of Mary Lou and Corlew Donuts is difficult since donuts are “90-some percent of their business.”
“Whereas when you come in here you see just a few pans of donuts we make,” he says. “Sometimes what’s so frustrating is you make six or seven pans and sell three. The next day you sell them out and customers ask where are your donuts.
“My mother and father told me from the get-go when I first got into the business, if you can figure out the American public, you have done something that we have not done yet. You don’t know from one day to the next who is coming through that door.”
When customers do come in to O’Rear’s, they ask for pastries, cupcakes, cut-out cookies and regular cookies. Two big sellers are the butter stars and tea cookies.
“Judy makes those two or three times a week,” Lintner says. “She’ll always tell me, ‘You’re not going to believe this but we have to make tea cookies again.’ Just to show you the difference between Rensselaer and here: the red star cookies that we do are a staple here. In Rensselaer, it was strictly a holiday cookie.
In addition to closing six days a week at 1 p.m. (O’Rear’s is closed on Mondays), COVID-19 has affected business. With the churches being closed in the early days of the pandemic due to Indiana’s stay-at-home mandate, Sundays were no longer one of O’Rear’s most profitable days.
But a couple of positives did come out of the COVID-19 regulations.
“Since coming back now, our cakes are even fresher than they used to be,” Lintner says. “Now we make smaller batches, so they are even fresher and more moist.”
O’Rear’s also changed the way it displays its baked goods.
“One good thing that’s immensely helped is everything is now packaged,” Lintner explains. “Whereas before people almost frowned on the fact that it was packaged. They wanted it from the pan, open aired. Now our shelf life has doubled or tripled because it stays fresher longer.”
The West Lafayette bakery gets the word out to Purdue University students and the public about its product mostly through social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Owner Michael Cho, who started working at Hammer Donuts as a manager, says marketing was a lot easier before COVID-19 sent most of his clientele packing from Purdue housing.
“We lost a few orders due to the impact of this pandemic. We used to have weekly standing orders from a few churches and wedding orders from time to time. However, we are fortunate that we still have the order from Circle K convenience stores, which can keep our business running,” he says.
The seven Circle K Stores in West Lafayette are now the only places to buy Hammer donuts. The pandemic forced Hammer to alter its sales from retail to a store-to-store business.
Cho believes in the potential for Hammer Donuts’ growth, so much so that he says he decided to take a risk and take over when the previous owner, a partner of Discount Den, was selling it.
Popular items include filled donuts, glazed yeast donuts and cereal topping donuts.
“We are a local business and we try our best to keep everything local,” Cho says. “Our employees are mostly Purdue students. Almost all of them are inexperienced and for many of them, this was their first job. We taught and trained them how to make donuts from scratch.
“We often support student events by donating free donuts. We are a new and growing company, but we are always trying our best to give back to our community.”
Rosa Cornejo is one of 10 children raised by Maria Ines Cornejo in the small village of Salazares Tlatenango in Zacatecas, Mexico.
There, Rosa Cornejo developed her personal philosophy of “everyone else’s ‘can’t’ is my “I can.’”
After moving to Lafayette and establishing herself in the community, Cornejo likely heard people saying “she can’t” when opening the bakery named after her mother.
What those doubters didn’t realize was that the decision to open a bakery was not made lightly. Rosa and her sister, Livier Alvarez, saw many Mexican restaurants in Greater Lafayette but not many bakers that were serving Mexican bread. That’s as much a staple in the Latino diet as donuts are to Americans.
From a modest beginning, a 1,000-square-foot location on Greenbush Street and Sagamore Parkway, Mama Ines made the big leap into an 11,000-square-foot building in 2014, once occupied by Ryan’s Grill, Buffet and Bakery.
Mama Ines’ authentic holiday Mexican fare of Day of the Dead bread and Sugar Skulls drew attention from the PBS show “A Few Great Bakeries” in 2015. In 2016, Cornejo was cited by the state of Indiana as the Latino Business Owner of the Year.
In addition to Mexican Sweet Bread, the bakery’s most popular items are tamales and burritos, cakes, flan and specialty desserts, cookies, fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Mama Ines also is proud of its wedding cakes, made with only fresh, all-natural ingredients.
The apple fritter is also a popular item on the menu at Corlew Donut Co., which has been in business since 1999.
Debbie and Tom Corlew were among the first to see the potential for business along what is now Veterans Memorial Parkway. They’ve been rewarded with a loyal following that indulges in cinnamon rolls, tiger tails, cream-filled bismarcks and blueberry cake donuts.
Corlew Donut Co. is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 11 a.m.
BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
The U.S. Census predicts that the world population will grow to more than nine million people by 2050. To keep up with the growing demand for food with fewer farmers and shrinking farmland acreage, it is estimated that agricultural production will need to double in the ensuing years. Smart farming is not only a good idea; it is imperative. Precision agriculture is the answer to become more efficient, productive, sustainable and affordable to both producers and consumers. Technological advances continue to evolve in agriculture, from fertilizer and irrigation systems, soil mapping and more efficient farm machinery, GPS systems and programmable tractors, to drones and genetic seed engineering. Necessity is the mother of innovation.
Inari is a privately held company founded in 2016 by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences innovation firm. Headquartered outside of Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Inari’s goal is to use genetic technology and computational tools to generate step-change products for independent seed companies and, ultimately, farmers. Its business is to provide the best parent seed through gene editing to independent seed companies who, in turn, can create hybrids or varieties for farmers. Inari’s product development center of excellence at the Purdue Research Park was established in November of 2018 and is the world’s first Seed Foundry.
Gene editing is different from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in that it does not necessarily introduce foreign genes into the seed. Targeted gene editing using the diversity of a plant species’ genome can enable farmers to select specific crop varieties that have features to enhance production.
Since agriculture is a critical industry, Inari continued working during COVID-19. It made recommended social distancing accommodations in labs and the office, but research and development continued. “If anything, COVID-19 reinforced the need for more products to feed the world; products which are better for the environment in terms of being more efficient in their water or fertilizer intake,” says CEO Ponsi Trivisvavet. “We are fortunate to serve during this period of time.”
“Our seed foundry approach is unique to Inari,” Trivisvavet says. “We start with a computational algorithm to gain genetic knowledge. The second step is gene-editing, and the third step is creating the parent seed that we will provide to independent seed companies. The deep knowledge from the very start gives us a continuous feedback loop from the lab and greenhouse to the field. Together with advanced genomic tools, this allows us to cut down the development time by 70 percent, and the economic costs down 90 percent.”
This process shortens the time for product development by about two-thirds as compared to traditional breeding products that can take about 10 years to commercialize, saving both time and money. The goal is to give independent seed companies, and ultimately farmers, a way to maximize yield and profit with products that are friendlier to the environment by designing them to be less dependent on fertilizer and water.
Inari’s expansion to the Midwest was intentional to be closer to the corn and soybean belt. It did a broad search and ultimately chose West Lafayette because of its proximity to Purdue University regarding collaborations with other scientists, technology groups and talent pools. Inari started with 26,000 square feet of space and in one year increased its footprint to about 80,000 square feet, with a greenhouse at Purdue Research Park, plus 80 acres of prime farmland in West Lafayette with two additional greenhouses. Corn, soybeans and wheat are the focus now, with other crops within its sights in the future.
Hoosiers may not realize that these staple crops provide products that are essential for everyday life, way beyond corn syrup, tofu and bread. Components within the corn plant are found in baby food, beer, bricks, cleansers, coated aspirin, cosmetics, diapers, gas and oil, glues, hand soap, jelly beans, matches, paint and varnish, pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, tires, Windex and whiskey.
Soybean components are found in AstroTurf, paintballs, candles, chewing gum, crayons (1 acre of soybeans can produce 82,368 crayons!), fire logs, ink and wood stain. Wheat components are found in adhesives, beer, cosmetics, hair conditioners, liquid laundry detergents, moisturizers, paper and particle board. Life in America depends on these versatile plants.
The whole process begins in Cambridge with computerized models of the plant’s genetic code. Through computational design, it can go through generations of breeding in minutes. Through technology, it can make changes in the genome. What started on the computer is then created in the lab, then taken to the field for more testing and research. The West Lafayette facility specializes in making precise changes in the plant genome in the lab and regenerating those plants to test in the field. Information is continuously fed back into the process to inform the best changes to make the plant exhibit the desired characteristics that are valuable to farmers. This method significantly speeds up the traditional plant breeding process because farmers don’t have to wait a season to gain knowledge.
Inari has a third facility in Ghent, Belgium, that specializes in plant research. It is closely affiliated with Ghent University and the VIB life sciences research institute. Altogether, the company employs 160 people. The West Lafayette location has 70 employees and anticipates hiring more in the next three to five years. Inari is a female-friendly company with a female CEO, Trivisvavet, and a balanced leadership team.
“We are grateful to Purdue President Mitch Daniels and Dean of Agriculture Karen Plaut for their support,” Trivisvavet says. “They have been very helpful, as has the entire community.” Inari hosts Purdue graduate courses for tours and career discussions and science-focused open houses at one of its Purdue Research Park facilities. On their own time, several Inari employees go to local schools to share science and technology with kindergarteners through high schoolers. Inari’s goal is not just to occupy space in the region but also to be an integrated, contributing part of the community.
“I am very excited about the Inari employees in West Lafayette, their experience, commitment and desire to make an impact in agriculture,” says Trivisvavet. “I’m extremely encouraged by the positive people committed to the company, the industry, and the community.”
BY CINDY GERLACH
Everyone loves eating out. Perhaps your ideal evening is sitting down to fine dining, with candles and linen napkins, a fine bottle of wine; maybe you like to be perched on a stool across from your favorite bartender, chatting with other regulars. Or maybe your idea of a fun night out is grabbing hamburgers or pizza with the kids. However you do it, it’s a treat to have someone else mix your drink or prepare your dinner and have it brought to your table, served with a friendly smile.
And suddenly, in March, it all stopped. Under orders designed to help contain the spread of COVID-19, restaurants around the state were forced to close to dine-in customers, relegated only to carry-out. Restaurants quickly had to adapt and change. Now, as they slowly reopen their dining rooms to customers, what does that mean? What changes have they had to make? And what does the future look like?
The popular restaurant on the corner of Main and Fifth streets in downtown Lafayette is not necessarily known for its carry-out menu, though it’s always been an option, says Theresa Buckley who, with sister, Cheyenne, and mother, Mary, owns and operates the restaurant.
Most people, says Buckley, choose the Bistro for its atmosphere and service. But when forced to shut its doors, having done carry-out, they were quickly able to adapt.
“We had to adjust what we were offering so it would travel well,” she says. They focused on a menu with entrées that would look appetizing when people opened the box.
Menu changes were made; staff members who had been servers were suddenly delivering meals — anything people could do to get hours.
Flexibility has been important. In general, Buckley says, they try to be as green as possible and not order a lot of disposable products. But with the carry-out model, they had to change. And change again and again, as food shortages might mean ingredients were not available, or a particular carry-out box or bag was suddenly not available through their suppliers.
They used the opportunity to unveil the Bistro Market, allowing customers to purchase specialty food items through the store, including dairy and eggs, bakery and breads, produce, butcher and fresh seafood, meal kits, pantry items (dried beans and pasta, deli items) and even household items such as hand sanitizer and paper products. It was an idea they’d been mulling, Buckley says, but with the shutdown, it seemed like an opportune time to try it. Yet it brought up its own issues, as many of the items purchased arrive in bulk, so plans had to be made for repackaging.
Following a deep cleaning, when the restaurant reopened in June, Buckley had to oversee a number of changes in protocol. The restaurant created a safety promise to its customers and implemented some changes, including one door for entry and a separate door for exits; all restroom doors have foot openers. Customers must have reservations. Employees are screened for their health every day and will be wearing masks, even in the kitchen. Tables are six feet apart, and parties must be six or fewer. Water service will be different, and salt and pepper will not be on the table.
Buckley is doing everything she can to keep the restaurant safe for both customers and her staff. She knows how much regulars miss sitting at the bar, but that reopening will have to wait until it’s approved.
It’s an unpredictable time, says Buckley, as she juggles the already challenging job of day-to-day restaurant business with the extra hurdles of life during a pandemic. Like many people, she has had difficulty getting the proper personal protective equipment needed for her employees. And she is sensitive to the needs of people struggling with anxiety and depression during these difficult days.
The restaurant’s bottom line has suffered, she says; with no Purdue graduation weekend or Mother’s Day brunch, Bistro lost business. With no downtown events, they know their revenues will be down. Ordinarily Bistro would have had its annual Lobster Bake and jazz Thursdays — sadly, not this year.
“We have a high ratio of high-risk guests,” she says. “It’s a lot to manage, and we’re trying to do so super-respectfully of our staff. We’re not comfortable taking risks with others’ health.”
Across the street at Folie, Hallie Gorup and her husband, John, were monitoring the situation long before many locals, as John is a local physician and their daughter was studying in Italy last spring. They were tuned in to what was happening with the novel coronavirus; thus, even before the state mandated closures, the Gorups had decided to shut Folie’s doors for a time.
“We were paying more attention than the average person,” Hallie Gorup says. “We decided the respectful thing to do would be to shut down temporarily.”
Many of their staff members are Purdue students, so when the university closed, they left, meaning Folie did not have to deal with layoffs.
As they pivoted to a take-out model, they dealt with many of the same issues Bistro did, as they tried to adapt a menu that is based on presentation, on a plate, to a box. The menu was scaled way back, and they used the opportunity to experiment with the menu; knowing that volume was down, if food items weren’t a big hit, they had not made quite the investment.
“It’s been a nice challenge for the chef,” Gorup says, as he would try out his creativity with different entrées. “Sometimes it was robust, sometimes it was nothing.”
When restrictions were lifted to offer wine as a carryout option, that helped boost the bottom line as well, Gorup says.
As the restaurant reopened, Gorup says the transition back was not too difficult.
“We were never a crowded restaurant,” she says. “And we have a small kitchen staff, which allows for better distancing.”
Folie has made accommodations to meet the guidelines, which means no bar seating and not filling the restaurant. And while there is a lot more cleaning, Gorup points out that they were already meeting those sanitation standards anyway. Staff members were already washing their hands frequently, and the sanitizing was already happening. Now they’re just more cognizant.
“Our biggest challenge is not being able to seat parties of six or larger,” she says. “But we’re more than happy to comply. You have to be a part of the solution.”
While the restaurant is not yet overflowing with business, they do have groups come in, pleased that there is someplace to go for a special celebration or an evening out. And they are weathering the storm. Summer has always been a slower time, and there is uncertainty about when large-scale entertaining will be back in full force.
“‘Recovery’ is a generous word right now,” Gorup says. “But I’m not complaining.”
For the Christos hospitality group, adding extra hygiene standards is just par for the course, says owner Manny Papadogiannis.
“For us, all the pieces were there — washing hands for 20 seconds, sanitizing surfaces,” he says. “Those are all in the health department guidelines.”
The restaurants have merely upped the work they were already doing. They’ve added hooks to bathroom doors, enabling customers to open them using their wrists; employees are wearing facial coverings.
Papadogiannis says they’re adhering to the county health department guidelines. But they are also tapping into other resources.
Customers are encouraged to use apps for reservations or to get their names on a wait list — available through the restaurant websites.
“Everybody has to step up their game,” he says. “You want to be safe wherever you go.”
Papadogiannis points out that, for all the worries about restaurants, they are much cleaner than other places. In a big box store, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people go through each day. Restaurants have much lighter traffic and they are cleaning so much more often.
“If you compare the number of staff and customers we have coming in, we can do that with that ratio,” he says.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment. But you do what you need to do to get through this. It’s going to take a while. It’s going to be a very long road for the restaurant industry.”
La Scala used to be known for its farm-fresh food and Italian fare in its historic downtown Lafayette locale.
But that was before. It closed the doors on its dining room right before the shutdown.
Owner Kirsten Serrano found herself reeling, trying to figure out what to do as the business she and her husband, Paco, opened 21 years ago was shuttered.
The couple’s first response was to found Community Comfort, a plan to feed the community — because, Serrano says, that’s what she does. With donations, they fed between 1,200 and 1,300 people in one week.
“It was a lot,” she says. They were working around the clock.
But what was next?
“I literally just sat with a pencil and paper one day, and thought, what can we do?” she says. “We have all these assets — a community kitchen, a farm, experience.”
And the answer came to her — not out of pessimism, but out of realism. Because she does not see herself reopening La Scala before the time feels rights.
Hence, she developed Good to Go, a meal subscription service. It is modeled after many other meal-kit services, except with this one, it’s not just ingredients, but food that is chef-prepared, ready to serve.
“Our stuff is cooked, it’s ready to go,” she says. “It’s farm-fresh food; we prepare it and deliver it to your door.”
Good to Go is delivered on Thursdays. Depending on your plan, you’ll get entrees, sides, dessert, and an extra surprise — local products, extra produce from the farm or promotions.
As the service grows, they’ll be able to bring back more of their employees. It’s satisfying, Serrano says. Because, after all, feeding people is what she does best. And this venture? It’s helping La Scala stay afloat.
“We’re building a model that can survive a pandemic.”
Opening a new restaurant is challenging enough. If your grand opening was scheduled for March 2020? Well, it’s tough to open a new business when the entire country is shutting down.
But Revolution Barbeque has simply rolled with the punches, says Debbie McGregor. They just turned the opening into more of a soft opening.
“It didn’t stop us!” she says.
McGregor runs the new restaurant — an off-shoot, if you will, of Revolution Bakery on Fifth Street — with her daughter, Sarah McGregor Ray (the creative force, her mother says) and her son, Jonathan. Her husband, Geoff, a contractor, has helped with the remodeling of the restaurant on Main Street. It’s a true family endeavor.
The restaurant was already set up for fast-casual dining, says McGregor. So take-out food was easy enough to accommodate.
Because they ended up rolling out their business a little slower than they had planned, it allowed them to defer some remodeling in the dining room. And when they did open, they had rearranged the space, removing some tables to factor in distancing requirements.
“Not many people are able to reconstruct their whole dining room,” McGregor says.
Like all restaurants, they’ve paid attention to hygiene and sanitation standards. But of course, she says, they would have anyway.
“You are cleaning all the time; you’re always washing your hands,” she says. “We always wore gloves.” They just added a few extra steps, such as how they take items to and from the table.
And, sadly, they had to put away the cute napkin holders they had purchased for the tables — they’ll have to make their debut at a later date.
McGregor knows that for some people, dining out is still filled with some unease. But she is anxious to make everyone’s experience as painless as possible. For people worried about the exchange of cash or touching a screen to sign for a credit card transaction, she will meet people where they are, at their level of comfort.
Customers who were already regulars at the bakery had been eagerly anticipating the opening of the new barbeque place, McGregor says. And they’ve all been very supportive. From a promotion through Greater Lafayette Commerce promoting purchasing of restaurant gift cards to generous tips from customers, McGregor has felt embraced by the city.
“It has been working,” she says. “We’ve had good support from the community.”
As restaurants work to keep their doors open, anxious to serve their customers, Gorup says she hopes people will stop and realize how vital these businesses are to the lifeblood of Lafayette.
“They live in the community and they’ve always been very giving. When people need donations, restaurants are on the front lines, the first asked,” Gorup says. “I do hope there is better recognition and support for the restaurant community.”
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
Sporting stained concrete floors, exposed brick, glass-walled conference rooms, and a mixture of bar stools and table seating, MatchBOX Coworking Studio is, as its website says, a “coffee shop mashed up with an office park in an old garage.” It’s also a cross between an open office rental space, a maker studio and a business incubator, all designed to grow Greater Lafayette’s entrepreneurial economy.
Launched in 2014 in an old car repair shop west of downtown Lafayette’s Tippecanoe County Public Library, MBX boasts 11,000 square feet with reserved and open office spaces, conference rooms and a lot of support for its members, including training and networking opportunities.
“MBX offers a pretty unique vibe and environment for our members,” says Amanda Findlay, MatchBOX managing director. “We also offer members access to the MBX Maker LAB, with laser cutters, 3D printers, and tools and kits for making, prototyping and small-scale manufacturing.”
MatchBOX has evolved over the last six years, says Jason Tennenhouse, executive director. “When we opened the doors, we didn’t know if anyone would come, so at the beginning we were just trying to cast a wide net and educate and survive — classic startup style,” Tennenhouse says. “We have been increasing our acceleration work and productivity steadily since then, and doing some pretty amazing things I think a lot of people don’t realize are happening in Lafayette.”
MBX may still be a best-kept secret among some locals, but not Kirsten Serrano, who co-owns La Scala Italian Restaurant in downtown Lafayette and joined the studio three years ago. “I needed to have a place where I could concentrate on finishing school – nutrition – and do some political advocacy work,” says Serrano, who was pursuing a degree from Bauman College at the time.
As part of her internship, Serrano conducted a series of nutrition workshops in MatchBOX conference rooms. After graduation, she began seeing clients in the facility. Since then, her nutrition business, Small Wonder Food, has expanded beyond consultations. In 2018, she launched the Food Smarts podcast with local marketing strategist Amie Mullikin. In mid-2020, she published the book “Eat to Your Advantage.”
MBX has been instrumental in that growth, Serrano says.
“I have made many key connections at MatchBOX, from my podcast partner to my book publisher and even the person who built my new membership site. I have also attended many great workshops and learning events,” she says. “The staff is just incredible. Every one of them has inspired me or connected me in some way or another.”
Seasoned entrepreneur Mikel Berger says that MatchBOX is the kind of place that he wished had existed when he started his first company, DelMar Software Development. “I worked from home at first, and it felt like a big leap to sign a one-year or multi-year lease, especially when I occasionally needed another office,” says Berger, a co-founder of MBX.
Berger’s latest project is Little Engine Ventures, a private investment partnership he started in 2016 with fellow MBX member Daryl Starr.
Starr, the founder and former CEO of an agricultural company, joined the coworking studio before it officially opened. While Little Engine Ventures has a private office a few blocks away, both men retain memberships at MBX.
“My membership at MatchBOX has secured several partnerships during the founding phase of Little Engine Ventures. As many members can attest, an invite to meet a prospective person at MatchBOX has a cool factor that makes working with a scrappy startup somewhat less crazy, and more fun,” he says.
Starr describes MBX members as “quirky and great.” Berger echoes those thoughts, adding, “We at MatchBOX like to think of ourselves as the right kind of misfits. We’re like the junk drawer of economic development projects. Isn’t all the cool stuff that you don’t exactly know where to put in your junk drawer?”
Indianapolis transplant Polly Barks says that MatchBOX helped her integrate into Greater Lafayette when she moved here in 2017. Barks, who had launched the website PollyBarks.com while living in Indy, was in the early stages of developing a zero-waste education and consulting business. After taking a five-week course for new and pivoting entrepreneurs, she joined the studio. She now supplements her freelance income as part-time marketing manager for MBX.
“Doing 100 percent freelance work meant I was constantly at home — too often that meant I was unfocused, and to be honest, probably watching YouTube videos. It was really nice to have a space so I could separate my work life from my home life,” Barks says. “I also really enjoyed the workshops since I could learn — for free — from other members or outside speakers.”
Two other newcomers to Lafayette, Tyler Knochel and Steven Sauder, participated in the first iteration of MBX’s Acceleration Program. Now, they use their MatchBOX membership for meeting with clients of their web development and digital strategy business, HustleFish.
“The ability to meet with clients in a professional space instead of at a coffee shop or our living room — we wouldn’t do that — is invaluable to us. Beyond that, the community has been huge,” Knochel says. “We’ve been able to do better work thanks to MatchBOX, we’ve gotten new clients thanks to MatchBOX, we’ve clarified our business model thanks to MatchBOX, we’ve been more creative and had better ideas thanks to MatchBOX, we’ve drunk gallons and gallons of coffee thanks to MatchBOX. We have benefited from MatchBOX in so many ways, but ultimately the most important thing MatchBOX provides is community.”
Much like the Great Recession of 2008, which sparked the coworking movement in the United States, the first half of 2020 has already been a time of economic upheaval. Findlay notes that some MBX members have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including restaurateurs and professionals who rely on in-person instruction. To respond, MatchBOX staff have added educational programs on concepts such as pivoting and product expansion.
They’ve also shifted to online instructional models. In early March, when cities and states began issuing stay-at-home orders, MBX staff decided to take their Entrepreneur Development Acceleration program online and open applications to participants across the state. The program yielded a record number of applicants, which Findlay attributes to layoffs, furloughs and uncertainty in the job market. The 12-week Venture Development summer acceleration program also was offered online this year.
“Times of crisis and uncertainty are ripe for innovation. When 9 to 5 jobs are threatened by furloughs, or the future of certain industries are unknown, or consumer behaviors shift significantly, people tend to embrace their entrepreneurial ideas or freelancing talents a bit more,” Findlay says.
“Greater Lafayette will need coworking communities, workshops and acceleration programming now more than ever. Small businesses will need community support, new founders will need guidance. I think MatchBOX is positioned to be a valuable resource for our members and our community businesses as we move forward. We’re really focused on being there for them, for supporting them in what’s next.”
BY CINDY GERLACH
If you think downtown Lafayette is looking picturesque these days, then you’ve been watching its evolution. Over the past decades, while the downtown had its share of charm, sidewalks were looking as if they needed an update, a little tweaking to enhance the ambience.
Rejuvenating Main Street, a streetscaping program that has been underway for more than 15 years, continues this summer, improving sidewalks, adding gathering places downtown and planting trees.
It’s a beautification project that not only makes the downtown scene more attractive, but it is a boon to business as well.
Plans for this project date back as far as the late 1970s, says Dennis Carson, economic development director for the City of Lafayette. Funding was made available in the mid-2000s; the first phase of the plan was rolled out in 2005.
So why the need to change the look of downtown? For decades, when people lived and worked near the downtown, it was the major shopping and business center, with retail shops lining the streets, anchored by the Courthouse, with restaurants and movie theaters. It was the shopping and business district.
The feel of downtown Lafayette began to shift and change in the 1960s and ’70s, as it did in downtowns throughout the United States. With widespread use of the automobile and people moving farther away from the city center into more suburban neighborhoods, a shift occurred. By the 1980s, many businesses had fled to Market Square or the Tippecanoe Mall; single-screen movie theaters — places like the Long Center and the old Mars Theatre — had been abandoned in favor of larger multiplexes.
Downtowns were in danger.
But, Carson says, Lafayette’s downtown fared much better than those of other, similar-sized cities.
“Fortunately, even in that time, there was a lot of interest in downtown,” he says. Along with the Courthouse, many law firms and banks remained, as well as the newspaper and other government offices.
So the city took the lead, focusing on historic preservation. Much of the downtown consisted of buildings dating back to the first half of the 20th century, and the city wanted to preserve that architecture, knowing its value.
“One of the early efforts was historic preservation, to establish the historic district,” says Carson. “They really tried to preserve the architecture we have. We lost some, too, but we’ve been able to preserve a lot.”
But the need went beyond historic preservation and into safety. The sidewalks were so old that many had the WPA stamps, dating them back to the 1930s.
“It got to a point where not only did we need to do it for aesthetics, but there were several safety and ADA issues,” Carson says.
Thus the streetscape plan for downtown was meant to enhance the district on several fronts. Clearly, part of the goal was simply to beautify downtown. Sidewalks have been widened, and the corners are larger, with benches added, making it easier for people to gather.
And with wider sidewalks, downtown restaurants were able to take advantage and add more outdoor dining space.
Bike racks encourage people to use other methods of transportation. And public art installations add visual interest.
If you’ve walked through downtown, you’ve seen the improvements. These all make downtown more accessible to people with a specific destination or those who just want to walk and browse, soaking up the small-town yet big-city aesthetic.
“One thing we really want to improve on is the pedestrian experience,” Carson says. “So they don’t park, go into the shop, then get in their car and leave. We want to encourage people to walk the downtown as much as possible.”
For summer 2020, the project expands to upper Main Street, between 10th and 11th streets. Both sides of 10th Street, from Main north to Ferry, will see the widened sidewalks, striping and tree installation. The next phase will see the same improvements on the south side of Main Street between 10th and 11th, as well as 11th Street between Main and Ferry. The final phase, wrapping up at the end of September, will take the project south on both sides of 10th Street to Columbia.
The project is paid for through Tax Increment Financing, or TIF districts. Business owners have been asked to contribute to a portion of the project in front of their buildings.
“There was a little apprehension at first,” Carson says. “But once it was done, everyone was really pleased.”
The energy and enthusiasm associated with downtown has increased over the past few years, with urban living opportunities and more retail and restaurants than ever, says Carson.
Over time, that value will continue to increase. With the variety of arts and culture opportunities, the festivals, and more shopping and dining
options, people will continue to see and enjoy the revitalization of the streetscape project.
“It’s really transformed Main Street,” Carson says. “We’ve gotten a lot of comments; it’s been pretty well received. Over time we’ll see increased property values. It helps, helps maintain these historic structures. It’s been a fun thing and it’s been well received.”
For details on the project, visit lafayettedowntownisopen.com.
While there are about 20 dog grooming businesses in the area, some newer ones focus on strengthening the human/animal bond or providing services such as doggy day care and spa experiences.
Paul Whitehurst, owner of Pooch Palace Resort, had an epiphany in 2016 when his beloved German shepherd Zoey passed away.
“She was my kid. She was everything to me,” says Whitehurst. “When she passed away … I was at a crossroads. For a long time I’d had this idea in my head to provide an upscale pet resort. I wanted to target other owners who are true pet parents.”
After 18 years in the corporate world, Whitehurst decided to pursue his dream, and in 2017 on the first anniversary of Zoey’s passing, he opened the first Pooch Palace Resort on Beck Lane in Lafayette. The business was so successful that in February he opened a second location on Sagamore Parkway in West Lafayette. While ruefully acknowledging that opening a new business during a pandemic is not the best idea, Whitehurst says many customers are grateful that the waiting lists for grooming and boarding are shorter.
Pooch Palace offers grooming, boarding, daycare and training. Dogs boarded there stay in private “hotel” rooms equipped with toddler beds and a television tuned to DogTV. The dogs get five potty breaks each day and absent owners can check in on, and even talk to, their pets through a private Webcam accessed through their phones.
The business also offers grooming and full or half-day care where dogs play in groups either indoors or out. The outdoor play park features a synthetic turf called Pup-Grass specifically designed for dogs. That means your pet will never come home muddy, Whitehurst says.
The business closed for a while as the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up, but it reopened with limited hours and services in April, and then more fully in May. Whitehurst hopes to be back to full capacity by August.
He affirms that one of the reasons his business has been so successful is pet owners are more invested in their furry friends than ever before. But a disruptive family member can bring chaos and tension into a home, so training and understanding is key to living harmoniously with a pet.
That’s where Julie Shaw and her business, Stepping Stone Animal Training, comes in. Shaw has spent her professional career focusing on animal behavior and is one of only 16 board-certified veterinary behavior technicians in the country. After spending many years in private practice and teaching Purdue vet students, Shaw became convinced that dog owners needed help understanding their pet’s behavior and learning how to work with the animal.
“Animal behavior is very complex,” Shaw says. “If owners get the information (they need) early on, it makes a big difference. We are not just treating the dog, but helping the owner understand the world through the dog’s eyes.”
Stepping Stone, located on Teal Road in Lafayette, is dedicated to strengthening and protecting the human-animal bond. To that end, the business offers programs lasting between four and eight weeks for puppies and older dogs. Puppy classes focus on training the littlest fur balls to be calm, happy and emotionally healthy pets. Small class sizes and academy-educated trainers also help older dogs that need to learn socialization skills and manners.
“All dogs have their own quirkiness and individual challenges,” says Shaw. “We encourage what is positive in them and help identify what behaviors they need to work on.”
Shaw emphasizes that the programs are not daycare, but provide a very structured environment in which the dogs are always learning, while still being allowed to be dogs.
Lafayette resident Diana Cavanaugh took her Bernese mountain dog, Jojo, to Stepping Stone in 2017, when the puppy was about three months old. The experience was a good one for the entire family and helped them work together and be consistent with Jojo’s training.
“It was great because we were able to get the entire family involved and everyone was on the same page when it came to training,” Cavanaugh says. “The team that worked with us was very knowledgeable and patient.”
While some of Stepping Stone’s services have been curtailed because of the pandemic, the company’s virtual services have taken off, Shaw says. She offers group, puppy and adult classes online that include videos, reading assignments and virtual check-ins each week.
Shaw is concerned about the many families that have adopted dogs during the pandemic and been home with little structure or opportunity for the pet to be in different situations. When school and regular work schedules resume and the house is empty, those dogs will likely have problems, she says, adding that puppies need to be socialized in their first eight to 14 weeks. In the spring, Stepping Stone began hosting pandemic puppy parties for dogs 16-weeks and younger. Once a week, the pups come to Stepping Stone for supervised play and interaction with new people and other puppies. Owners can watch the fun on their phones.
Shaw takes an holistic approach to each dog’s welfare, assessing both the animal’s physical and mental health. Some dogs have chemical imbalances in their brains and need medication, so understanding each dog’s behavior is critical, she says.
That holistic approach also informs grooming at Stepping Stone. Shaw calls the service fear-free grooming, and dogs are trained to cooperate with the groomer so that the experience is less stressful. For example, dogs are allowed to jump off the grooming table and come back when they’re ready. Each one receives a report card with suggestions for the owner of behaviors to work on.
“We are the first in the country to offer this,” she says. “You pay more because we are using behavior modification. Pain can be a factor in grooming so we are constantly grading them on their emotional and physical health.”
And another local business is training groomers in Shaw’s methods. Kerri Wagner, owner of Bark Avenue Day Spa on Britt Farm Road in Lafayette, and her staff of five worked with Stepping Stone to better understand animal behavior.
“(All dogs) teach us something,” Wagner says. “I believe all of the dogs that are scared and unable to be groomed … have taught us that dogs really do learn and react to everything so differently than us. Stepping Stone Animal Training has really helped us learn this and is teaching us how to help all the animals with their behavior.”
Bark Avenue groomers don’t usually cage dogs coming in for a bath and a haircut. Open-top kennels are used if necessary; otherwise dogs are together in the grooming room. And if Bark Avenue can’t effectively help a dog that comes in, Wagner sends that dog to a Stepping Stone groomer who helps with behavior modification.
And the word “spa” in the company name is not hyperbole. Pet parents can choose for their furry family member a variety of luxury experiences, including mud baths, blueberry facials with a mini face massage and hot oil treatments. If you live in Lafayette or West Lafayette, a groomer also will pick up your pooch from home and bring the freshly coiffed critter back at the end of the work day.
Good training and behavior bring many positives to dogs and owners alike, but some dog owners face the additional challenge of not having a fenced yard or much time for long walks. For those with high-energy animals, a trip to a dog park may be a real treat.
Dog parks give owners the chance to exercise their dogs and provide socialization with other pets and their humans, says Tracy Walder, director of operations for the Dog Park Association of Greater Lafayette. The non-profit oversees Shamrock Dog Park on Sanford Street near Lafayette’s Wabash River. The facility is supported by the Lafayette Parks Department.
“Shamrock Dog Park provides a secure off-leash area for dogs to interact and release energy,” says Walder. “Poor dog behavior is often a result of poor socialization and pent-up energy. The dog park helps owners satisfy the needs of their dogs. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.”
The facility requires a paid membership and has an extensive list of regulations designed to keep dogs and their owners safe and happy. Dogs must be healthy and up-to-date with vaccinations. Members receive a key fob that allows them into the park.
Shamrock Dog Park enjoys good support from some local veterinarians, who help with fund-raising events and provide information about vaccinations and health issues. Two vets write monthly articles for the member Facebook page and volunteer during special events, Walder says. The volunteer board also appreciates the working relationship they have with Buckles Feed Depot and Pet Supplies Plus, Lafayette companies that support the park’s work.
Walder, who owns CritterSitters (an in-home pet care service) and is a founding member of the park, says overall the members are a close-knit community, working to make their relationships with their dogs a healthy part of their lives.
“Most people are a little apprehensive about the first time letting their dog off leash in the park, and it is rewarding to see other members assure them that it will be just fine,” she says. “Our members find that their dogs are aware when they are headed to the park and are happy to interact with other dogs. People can socialize over a shared interest and also have a sounding board when there are questions about behavior, health, veterinarian or daycare choices.”
Sarah Huber has been going to the park since she moved to Lafayette in 2016 with her dog Hazel. Hazel has since passed away, but now Sarah goes almost every day with her goldendoodles, Juniper and Ike.
“I look forward to going to the dog park as much as my dogs!” Huber says. “Walking them on leashes, even long walks, doesn’t tire them out. They are running and playing the entire time (at the park) and it brings me such joy to see them both run in big circles across the field and play with other dogs. They just seem the happiest and their best selves at the park. Both can barely contain themselves as we pull up to the park each day.”
And there are other perks. Huber wanted her pets to be comfortable around other dogs and people, so the park gives opportunities for Ike and Juniper to have new experiences. She’s made friends there and says going is a great way to either start the day or decompress after work.
“I am as happy as the dogs,” she says. “The members are great. When you go, there’s no pressure to talk to people. You can do your own thing, but if you want to chat, it’s a great group of people.”
Huber’s advice to a pet parent who has never used a dog park is to evaluate your own pet’s behavior and take it slow. If you don’t know how your dog might react to other dogs off leash, first try one of the fields that don’t have many dogs. There are fenced areas for big and small dogs, and the park offers a day pass and occasional free play days. Those dates and other information about rules and requirements can be found on the park’s website.
The park closed for more than eight weeks when the pandemic hit, but it opened again toward the end of May. To help ensure safety, communal toys and water containers have been removed and soap has been added at the water stations. Members are asked to abide by social distancing rules, wear masks and bring their own hand sanitizer.
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
Street food in the United States dates back to the late 17th century, when vendors in East Coast cities began selling meals from carts and street kitchens. In the ensuing 300-plus years, food-truck offerings have grown from 19th century chuckwagons to 20th century ice cream trucks and hot dog carts and now to 21st century gourmet restaurants on wheels.
Today, in towns like Greater Lafayette, a growing number of food trucks can satisfy all but the pickiest of eaters. Here, we feature six vendors along with a more comprehensive list for your culinary journey. Check each website for details.
Amber Davis grew up during what she calls the “quick food era, where most of what we consumed involved cans of cream of … boxes or jars of … frozen microwaveable things … powdery mixes of who knows what.” Thankfully, she learned where food really came from by picking vegetables and collecting eggs at her grandmother’s rural home. Now, since 2012, Davis’ EMT (Emergency Munchie Technicians) Food Truck has tended to locals’ homegrown food needs with gourmet vegetarian and vegan menu items, including salads, waffle sandwiches and lemonades crafted from homemade simple syrup and fresh pureed fruit. If you want to kick it up a notch, try the Mac Nugget Poppers, dusted in panko crumbs and fried. “I think mac and cheese is something everyone can get down with,” Davis says. Some menu items are gluten-free. Visit the truck at the West Lafayette Farmers Market, Brokerage Brewing Company and various Greater Lafayette neighborhoods.
On most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during Purdue University’s academic year, around the corner from the line at Harry’s Chocolate Shop, you’ll find hungry college students waiting to feast on triple-layered grilled cheese, wonton wraps and other fried goodies that pair well with beer. Begun in 1995 as a push-cart business, Famous Frank’s first sold hot dogs, Polish sausages and Bratwurst outside the original Von’s Comic Book Shop. By 2005, owner Frank Farmer had acquired his first food truck, equipped with a fryer for expanding his offerings. Later, while cooking for hungry college men at a local fraternity, Farmer created his own version of Fat Sandwiches, which he describes as “some sort of concoction of mozzarella sticks, fries, steak and sauces all on a hoagie.” For people wanting a gluten-free and vegan option, Frank’s sells falafel wraps from a local restaurant.
Avocadoes seem to be one of those foods that you either love or hate. But even if you’re firmly entrenched in the latter group, you should find plenty to savor at the Guac Box. It’s owned by chef Matt Bestich, who tested his recipes at a Purdue fraternity before purchasing a truck “fully loaded and ready to go” in 2018. Bestich’s truck specializes in modern Tex-Mex tacos named after friends and family, including the Kelly, a taco with creamy queso and crispy shoestring potatoes, and the Nick, with street corn, cotija cheese and guac. All tacos can be made gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan; the chips – which you can get with hand-smashed guacamole – are made from gluten-free corn tortillas. Currently, the truck parks regularly at Brokerage Brewing Company and has been visiting local neighborhoods during the pandemic. “Food trucks are the original curbside service,” Bestich says.
Working in a coffee shop years ago, Ashley Huff dreamed of opening up her own place where she could serve brewed drinks with a side of positivity. In 2019, when a deal fell through on a building she had her eye on, Huff decided to take her idea mobile. The aptly named Gypsy Joe Coffee Shop sells brewed coffee, lattes, chai tea, lemonade and freshly brewed iced tea. Sugar-free syrups and non-dairy milks such as soy and almond also are available. Unlike most coffeehouse social media accounts, Huff doesn’t post much about coffee at all, preferring instead to infuse her followers’ feeds with words and photos of affirmation. “You will find daily posts from my heart, so if I can’t reach you with coffee, I hope at least that starts your day off right,” she says. For some joe to go, visit her regularly on State Road 43 just outside Battle Ground.
Gary Dowell has loved coney dogs since he was a child. Back then, while riding shotgun in his dad’s fuel truck, Dowell would disembark downtown at Lou’s Puritan Coney Island to pick up lunch while his father drove around the block. Later, when he was working at a local gravel pit, Dowell spent his winter months helping out at Main Street Coney, which had acquired the Puritan recipe. When that establishment closed, the owner gave Dowell the recipe for the savory sauce made of hamburger and several spices, which he used to open a food truck business in 2019. A café at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana followed in 2020. While coney dogs made with the 75-year-old recipe are still a specialty, nacho supremes are the number one seller. Customers needing a gluten-friendly option can ask for a hot dog without the bun.
Mac and cheese with pulled pork or brisket? Why not. For smoked-meat foodies – especially those who like to wash down their meals with a pint of local beer – RTB Chefs routinely parks next to Brokerage Brewing Company, selling sandwiches, wraps and salads, most with smoked meat. Owned and operated by Jordan and Krissy Mirick, the business, which launched three years ago, grew out of a catering company in Illinois. “Chef Jordan has worked in a variety of restaurants from high-end fine dining to a local bar and grill,” the couple says. “We always enjoyed creating food to bring people together.” The truck, which also can be found at Murphy’s USA gas station on Veterans Memorial Parkway, has some vegan and vegetarian options. The meats are gluten-free without barbeque sauce.
Here are some other food trucks in the area:
WoJo’s & MoJo’s Grilled Cheese & More, LLC: facebook.com/WoJo-MoJos-Grilled-Cheese-More
BY HANNAH HARPER
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
When Lafayette native Brittany Whitenack started making candles in her spare time, she had no idea that in five years, she would be the founder and CEO of a thriving company on the verge of expansion. In fact, she didn’t even anticipate having more than five employees. But with support from the community (in person and online) and a lot of hard work, Antique Candle Co. has grown to 34 employees who develop, market, make and ship candles all over the United States and Canada.
A graduate of McCutcheon High School and the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, Whitenack has always loved candles.
“I would always buy a candle when I went to the grocery store,” she says.
As a young professional, she bought a $100 candle-making kit as a creative outlet and admits that her first few batches of candles weren’t quite the high-quality products she sells today. “It’s as much a science as an art,” she explains. “I just kept making them and getting better and better.”
Once she had honed her candle-making skills, she used the business skills she’d learned at Purdue to create a five-year plan for a company; she reached her five-year goal in just over two years.
“I didn’t plan on all the growth,” Whitenack says. “It just happened. We kept hiring the right people.”
Due to exponential growth, Antique Candle Co. will be moving to a new facility, hopefully by the beginning of 2021. The company’s new home will be located at 1611 Schuyler Avenue in Lafayette in an old dairy factory built in 1950. At 10,000 square feet, the building is ideal for manufacturing and will provide Antique Candle Co. with a proper loading dock, air conditioning in the warehouse and office space. The $1 million renovations are scheduled to begin as soon as all permits are approved.
“This new home for the business — right here in Lafayette — will be the very first space that’s all ours, built just for us with everything we need so we can continue to grow in the town we love,” says Jaycie Tierney, brand manager for Antique Candle Co.
Tierney began as a part-time candle maker while still a student at Purdue. Her part-time job became a full-time job after graduation, and she now has the opportunity to use her degree working for a company she loves.
“It has been a blessing to grow with this company and work with some of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be friends with,” she says.
“This journey has made me fully understand the importance of supporting small businesses and the hardworking individuals behind the scenes.”
According to Whitenack, the employees at Antique Candle Co. are a constant source of the company’s success.
“Every single employee here, maybe their job isn’t to make candles, but they know how to make a candle,” she says. “They know the process. They know the product in and out. This helps with customer experience, social media, all marketing.”
One of Whitenack’s long-time employees is customer service specialist Ed McQuinn.
“I was Brittany’s first employee, so I have seen us manually stamping a few labels, and making candles on a stove, all the way to where we are now making thousands of candles every day,” he says.
The thousands of soy candles are each imprinted with a label that says “Made in Lafayette, IN” and include scents such as clean cotton, lavender vanilla, momma’s kitchen and many seasonal scents, including tree farm and pineapple coconut. Antique Candle Co. candles are sold in 400 retail locations in the United States and Canada, including The Homestead in West Lafayette.
Now entering its sixth year, Antique Candle Co. has seen much success through wholesale and retail business.
When looking toward the future, McQuinn says he “can’t wait to see what we will do in regards to wholesale, and branching into other markets.”
Whitenack also attributes a large part of the company’s growth to e-commerce and direct marketing through social media platforms. Antique Candle Co. has a robust Instagram presence where employees post to stories at least 10 times a day to help build relationships with customers.
“As an e-commerce business and a small business, creating those relationships is so important when we can’t always see everyone face-to-face,” Tierney says. “Despite not meeting most of them in person, many friends get to know our team as individuals through Instagram and other social media.”
And the company treats the relationships they build with candle friends, their customers and social media followers, like those they have with friends they know in their personal lives.
“At Antique Candle Co., we cherish our community so much and always have their interests in our hearts,” explains Tierney. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
The relational approach to business seems to correlate with Antique Candle Co.’s growth. According to Whitenack, the company has seen the most e-commerce growth in the years where their followers have grown on social media.
“Our social media is engaging and genuine,” she says.
Even as many retailers have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Antique Candle Co. has remained true to the value it places on taking care of employees by paying employees throughout the pandemic. The company makes sure that paying employees well is factored into its business plan.
“I always knew I wanted to pay our employees well,” says Whitenack. “Paying good employees well creates a higher quality product and better work environment.”
That work environment is something Whitenack and Antique Candle Co. employees hold in high regard.
“The best part of owning a business is cultivating a work culture that I would want to work in,” she says.
As Antique Candle Co. prepares to renovate and eventually move into its new space, it will continue to value its employees, customers and quality in its products as the business grows and shines light on the members of the Lafayette community who work hard and find joy in sharing their candle-making talents.
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTO BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Sure, Isaac Childres played some board games as a kid — who didn’t? He may have played games like Sorry or Clue. He even has memories of playing some of these games by himself.
“I have vivid memories of playing Monopoly by myself, moving all the different characters,” he recalls.
“I was very bored as a child.”
But neither those simple activities, nor his foray into high school board games, could have foretold his future in games.
Childres is the mastermind behind the popular board game Gloomhaven, described on the game’s official website as “Euro-inspired tactical combat in an evolving campaign.” The game involves collaboration in order to clear out dungeons and ruins in this corner of the world; the game evolves based on players’ decisions and their skills, which change as the game progresses. It has swept the market by storm, with rave reviews from users on sites such as boardgamegeek.com
It might be worth mentioning, too, that prior to designing and developing this game, Childres had another sideline as a career option; he had a few opportunities afforded him when he finished up his doctorate in physics at Purdue University.
So where did this passion come from? Because it was not instilled in him by weekends playing Dungeons and Dragons when he was in high school, as so many teenagers do. Some kids are self-proclaimed board game nerds; Childres was not really one of those kids.
Growing up in California, Childres did play — some — but it wasn’t his primary hobby. His friends were the ones with the characters and the dice, though Childres may have managed a dungeon or two.
“My parents were pretty conservative,” he says. “It took some convincing.”
It was during his time at Purdue that Childres became interested in role-playing games. He joined a group that met at the Purdue Memorial Union on Thursday nights, opening his eyes to this world of games.
After spending time with friends playing these sorts of games, he began to think about what it might be like to create his own game.
“I started thinking about my ideal board game,” he says. “It started as a challenge — can I develop a board game?”
As it turns out, the short answer was yes. The product of his first attempt was a game called Forge War, which its website describes as a game where players are blacksmiths in a kingdom “rife with marauding harpies, cursed dungeons and fire-breathing dragons.” Players must gather ore from mines and create weapons, which they will use on quests.
Childres launched a Kickstarter campaign, a crowd-funding platform that helps fund creative projects. The game took a fair amount of work — perhaps more work than he had first imagined, as it went through several iterations. It took lots of preparation, and he realized at one point that he would need to hire out the art and design work.
“How hard can cards be?” he laughs now, recalling his mindset when he started — before he brought in the pros.
And yet, in the meantime, he still finished his doctorate, knowing that he might not end up using that degree. But he also knew it was something to fall back on.
“My philosophy was this is going to be a degree that says that I’m smart,” he says; he knew he could always find a job if he needed to.
When he ventured out with that first attempt into game design, he knew it was a risk. But he wanted to give it a try. He and his wife had that difficult conversation. His first game netted a profit, but not enough to live on.
“Let’s do this for a year, see if I can be successful at it,” he told her. “Then I kind of hit the lottery and came out with the perfect game at the perfect time.”
Board games are nothing new; evidence of prehistoric board games predate the written word. Some games come and go; others — games like Clue, Yahtzee, Monopoly and Risk — have been around for the better part of the last century. These mass-market games are widely popular and commercially successful, available in every big box store.
But thousands of board games are released each year to more niche markets. These games often require hours to play and have elaborate, complex rules and procedures. Dungeons and Dragons was one of the early examples of these role-playing games, popular among teenagers ever since.
More complex games, adventures that take five to six hours to play, have become more commercially successful over the past several years; the popularity of mass-market games like Catan and its offshoots show that the market is not yet saturated.
Yet dig deeper, and there are dozens of possibilities, games with elaborate set-ups and back stories.
“Sometimes you feel like you are in your own secret society,” Childres says.
After his first attempt, he decided to try again. The result was Gloomhaven, a board game that has been met with glowing reviews. The goal, Childres says, was to create a game that was self-contained, one where users would not have to continually purchase expansion packs in order to continue playing.
“I don’t like that business model, kind of nickel and diming your customers,” he says.
The first Kickstarter raised $400,000; his second Kickstarter, three years ago, raised $4 million in just 30 minutes. Clearly, Childres was onto something.
“It’s been a lot more successful than I ever anticipated.”
In the meantime, he lives a quiet life in his Lafayette home with his wife, who is finishing up her degree in creative writing at Purdue. He is working on several other ideas for board games, playing with ideas, seeing what comes of them.
Childres has been known to pop into Merlin’s Beard, a local shop for board game aficionados, and he still visits the Thursday night group at the Union. These days, the group is made up of mostly Purdue students, with few of his friends still in town. But that’s OK, he says; the group will change, with new people coming and going.
As will he. When his wife finishes her degree, Childres suspects they, too, will move on from Lafayette. They’ll find a new place to call home, and he’ll find another board gaming group.
For now, he is pleased with the success of Gloomhaven, happy that he can take his hobby, his passion, and share them with others.
“It’s been the best job I could imagine,” he says. “I can’t imagine a better fit for me, doing something I love.”
BY RADONNA FIORINI
They build the roads. They construct the houses. They care for the elderly. They put out fires. They keep your car running. They are the thousands of Tippecanoe County residents who make a living in industry and trade professions, and there is a growing need for more of them.
Current economic drivers make it critical for the community to attract and keep carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, plumbers and others in the construction and building trades, says Stephen Snyder, president of the Tippecanoe Building Trades Council, which represents 17 trade associations and unions in nine central Indiana counties.
And many students are suited for careers in such fields as culinary arts, information technology or nursing that require technical training or certification, but they may not be aware of the available options, says Miranda Hutcheson, director of Career and Technical Education at the new Greater Lafayette Career Academy.
Trades and technical jobs are plentiful and critical to any community’s economic health and Snyder and Hutcheson’s organizations, in cooperation with others, are creating opportunities for students to explore different career paths and have hands-on experience by the time they graduate from high school.
Some students want to get first-hand experience before committing to a university program, and others want to get into the work force as soon as possible, says Hutcheson. Apprenticeships through the trades council and classes and training through the career academy provide those opportunities, and come at a critical time.
A “perfect storm” of circumstances has led to the current need and cooperative push to interest students in such careers, Snyder says:
• The population is aging, and many skilled professionals such as plumbers, roofers and sheet metal workers are retiring.
• The construction market is hot and in need of skilled workers.
• Families and students are increasingly concerned about the cost of a college education and paying back student loans.
“A lot of parents, students and high school counselors are excited about our apprenticeship programs that will lead to a good job without a mountain of debt,” says Snyder. Students willing to work hard can complete a three- or four-year apprenticeship and get a job that pays a living wage, allowing them to buy a home and raise a family.
And students can get a leg up on an undergraduate degree by taking college-level courses for free through the career academy while still in high school, says Hutcheson. She estimates that college-bound students in some fields can save from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 in university tuition costs, and the academy allows students to explore different careers before committing to a course of study after high school.
The first phase of the academy opened last August in the former Lafayette Life Insurance building on South 18th Street in Lafayette. Indiana has long been home to such career centers, and local educators and industry representatives talked about opening one for several years. The pieces fell into place when the building became available and all three county school districts decided to work together to get it up and running, Hutcheson says. Snyder sits on the advisory board of the career academy, as do a number of other local industry partners who help review community needs and determine what programs are offered.
There are 187 students from four local public high schools currently enrolled in half-day academy programs. These juniors and seniors attend regular classes at their schools in the morning and are bused to the academy each afternoon for specialized training. Training in health science, auto service technology, cosmetology, engineering/manufacturing, communications and TV/radio, construction/architecture, culinary arts, information technology, education and public safety currently is offered.
Some also are placed in the community and get hands-on training with local businesses in such areas as civil engineering, electrical contracting, clinical positions and building and contracting. While the academy is developing lab space for technical training, community partners provide a number of valuable resources, Hutcheson says. For example, students interested in firefighting are able to use the county fire training facility.
“These kids are my trailblazers,” says Hutcheson. “Scheduling is a challenge, but these students can pick up 17 dual credits and three industry certifications,” through the academy before leaving high school.
Lamont Johnson and Tucker Bogue are two of those trailblazers. Both 18 and seniors at West Lafayette High School, the young men will graduate in May with a high school diploma and a Certified Nursing Assistant certificate, after passing the state certification test. They hope to continue their education and become physical therapists.
“I knew I wanted to help people since I was little,” Johnson says. “I found out about this from my school counselor who knew what I wanted to do in college. Tucker and I have similar passions.”
Bogue became interested in physical therapy after suffering a series of knee injuries playing basketball in junior and senior high and going through rehab.
“I was 100 percent sure what I wanted to do with my life, but (the academy program) boosted my confidence and ignited what was already there,” says Bogue. “Taking these courses in high school gives you a different outlook earlier in life.”
As part of the program, Johnson, Bogue and more than 25 other students interested in health sciences spend several hours a week at the Indiana Veterans Home. They help the residents with small tasks, visit with them and help out in other ways. They also are learning about the different areas of service at the home, such as the pharmacy and rehabilitation programs.
“I would never have spent this much time with older people otherwise,” Johnson says. “I’m really learning to respect them and getting to know their unique personalities. We’re helping people who served our country.”
Going to the academy has meant some sacrifice for these young men. While they still have morning classes at WLHS, each afternoon is spent at the academy or the Veterans Home, and they miss eating lunch with friends and hanging out after school.
“But the trade-off is worth it,” says Bogue. “If you have any hunch about what you want to do (after high school) just act on it. I recommend it to anyone interested in these courses.”
The Tippecanoe Building Trades Council also is committed to encouraging the exploration of a career in the trades, says Snyder. Last summer the council and 10 professional trade associations sponsored a free, multi-week summer construction camp for anyone 14 and older.
Each day participants worked alongside a skilled professional on such tasks as operating heavy equipment, laying brick, welding, finishing cement, installing drywall and painting. Some students signed up for multiple weeks and explored a number of careers. Free lunch and appropriate protective gear is provided, as well. The expo will be offered again this June and July.
The council also cooperates with local agencies such as the United Way of Greater Lafayette, Greater Lafayette Commerce and Region 4 Work Force Development Board. The promotion of 14 apprenticeship programs offered by area trade associations and unions also is a priority. Those apprenticeship classes are accredited by Ivy Tech Community College and taught at local facilities designed for the specific trade.
“We have first-rate training facilities for these three- to four-year apprenticeships that include benefits,” and hands-on training, says Snyder. “No one wants to talk about working hard and doing anything but getting a college degree, meanwhile the infrastructure is crumbling. We provide the practical end of things,” he says, adding that without skilled trades and construction workers, a community’s roads will fall into disrepair, new homes won’t be built, buildings will not be maintained and the tools required to keep a community thriving will be missing.
The council is committed to help train a competent, drug-free, skilled, local workforce to Tippecanoe County businesses and to encourage those professional trades people to be actively involved in community life, Snyder says.
Josh Kiger, who owns a small home renovation company with his wife, Sarah, agrees that the availability of reliable workers is critical to his success. The Kigers opened New View two years ago and specialize in window, door and garage door installation and repair, and general home renovation. While Josh Kiger had experience in those areas before starting the company, he and Sarah obtained some certifications to make sure they could offer their customers the best service possible.
The family-owned company employs two people in the winter when demand slows down and five people as the weather warms and outdoor work picks up. The Kigers emphasize clear communication with each of their clients and work to maintain a good relationship throughout each project, Josh Kiger says. But finding quality employees has been a challenge.
“It’s been really difficult,” he says. “Even finding people who are teachable has been hard. We can teach anyone if they’re willing, if they’ll make themselves presentable. Really we’re looking for the simple things.”
Such concerns have been voiced by other business owners, says Hutcheson, and local educators are offering a new certification program to help students learn life skills that will help lead to success in any career.
The Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate (GWEC) program is a state initiative run by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, says Jay Davis, assistant director/career counselor at the Greater Lafayette Career Academy.
The program, open to all juniors and seniors, began in Tippecanoe County last fall and more than 320 students signed up. A trial run of the program in 2018-19 yielded 45 students who earned the GWEC, he says. Students must become competent in nine academic and work-related areas. Some are subjective — such as persistence, respectfulness and dependability. Some are objective — such as grade point average, few disciplinary issues and meeting all graduation requirements. Students also must complete six hours of community service.
“The GWEC looks great on resumes and job applications and can increase (a student’s) chance of getting job interviews and job opportunities,” Davis says.
The program’s stated goals include:
• Providing students with an understanding of necessary skills that will help make them employable for in-demand jobs and giving them opportunities to demonstrate those skills while in high school.
• Providing local employers with potential workers who understand the values and importance of responsibility and perseverance in the workplace.
A community advisory council collaborates with local school districts to maintain the program and reward students who obtain the certificate. For example, cooperating businesses might guarantee job interviews to students with the certificate or provide an incentive such as professional mentoring and possible reimbursement of college tuition, according to the program website.
“The response from the community has been positive to this point,” says Davis. “I believe a realistic goal would be to eventually involve as many as 100 community partners for the GWEC program in Tippecanoe County.”
Interested in any of these programs or opportunities? Learn more at:
• Work Ethic Certificate: glcareeracademy.com/work-ethic-certification
• Greater Lafayette Career Academy: glcareeracademy.com
• Tippecanoe Building Trades Council: unionsbuilditbetter.com
• New View: newview-gdw.com
BY KARIS PRESSLER
The United States Census, the once every 10-year count of those living in the U.S. and its territories, was first taken in 1790. Now, 230 years later, local leaders are working feverishly to help Greater Lafayette understand that the Census can impact everything from what buildings will be built, to what roads will be repaired, and what resources could be made available to our community over the next 10 years and beyond.
“The things that come out of those 10 questions is amazing,” says Cindy Murray, Lafayette city clerk. Murray has been meeting with civic groups, organizations and businesses for months helping community members realize how simple and painless participating in the Census can be.
The goal of the 2020 Census according to the U.S. Census Bureau is “to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.” Starting this spring, the 2020 Census questionnaire will ask who was living in a home, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, along with the age, sex, ethnicity, and race of everyone identified. This demographic information will then be used to determine how much federal funding can be allocated to help build and maintain infrastructure and is also used to calculate the number of Congressional seats for each state.
“When a new manufacturer or industry wants to come to our community, they definitely look at the Census to see the demographics, and what our economy is, and the type of folks that are here. And so, the Census plays a huge role. It develops our community,” Murray says.
Jeff Zeh, chief operating officer for IU Health Arnett, says that accurate Census data are essential in providing quality healthcare throughout the region since “the Census is the best way for us to have an understanding of the population we serve.”
Zeh explains that knowing demographics related to age, race and ethnicity is important so healthcare professionals can, for instance, actively work to decrease the high rate of pregnancy-related deaths among black women, and effectively treat lupus, a chronic condition that is more common among Asian and Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic white women.
Census data are also linked to a community’s emergency response resources, as Murray learned when a local Census representative told her that while visiting a rural fire station, a resident shared, “You know, if it weren’t for the Census, we wouldn’t have gotten the federal money to build this firehouse.”
Murray sees the Census’s impact everywhere, even when driving around town. “People don’t know that they’re actually driving on roads that the Census helped us get the money for,” she says, citing the current construction on Twyckenham Boulevard as an example. “There’s $675 billion out there that can go to communities, and that can be spent on schools, fire trucks, infrastructure, transportation … And so it is important for people to be counted.”
Jos Holman, the librarian for the Tippecanoe County Public Library, appreciates the Census’s long reach over the past, present and future. As a librarian, he values the Census for its ability to paint an accurate portrait of America over time but also knows the immediate impact that federal funding can have on a library’s resources, specifically within rural communities.
“Were it not for the Census, smaller rural libraries would not be able to do some of the things that they want to do by way of technology, and technological resources, and services to their community,” he says.
“The hardest part is getting folks to not be afraid,” says Murray, when reflecting on people’s reluctance to participate in the Census. Although information reported to the Census must by law remain confidential, it remains difficult to convince everyone to participate.
“It’s not unusual for people who are poorer, people of color, and children to be undercounted,” explains Holman. He continues, “People of color who are in lower economic situations, they’re reluctant to share information … If I’m living in poverty, (taking the Census) is not high on my priority list. It’s not. It’s about my next meal, it’s about taking care of my kids, it’s about keeping my job, it’s about paying my rent.”
For this reason, Holman and Murray are collaborating with area organizations such as the YWCA and Greater Lafayette Commerce (GLC) to organize and sponsor events that can teach the public why participating in the Census is vital to the community’s success and its future. At these events Census workers will also be present to help attendees fill out and submit their household’s Census form.
“It’s not a difficult process,” explains Sana Booker, West Lafayette city clerk. “It’s not hard to do if we can get people to see the meaning of it … I think one of the things that the Census has not been very good at in the past is explaining why they are important.”
Murray agrees, and she has noticed a shift in how the Census has engaged with the public. In 2010, Census marketing materials – cups, pens, and bags emblazoned with the Census logo – inundated Murray’s office. But this time around, Murray appreciates how the Census has focused on making print and online materials available that clearly explain the Census’s purpose and impact. The Census Bureau also has invested in making the questionnaire more accessible. This year, for the first time, Census forms can be submitted either online, by mail or by phone. The questionnaire also will be available in 13 languages.
Murray is passionate about the Census’s direct connection to Greater Lafayette’s future. “It’s important that everybody participates no matter your age, your race, or ethnicity, your financial status … Because those numbers do count.”
When Booker, a woman of color, holds up a 2020 Census pamphlet and looks at it, she breaks into a wide smile then declares with a hint of awe, “I see me … for the first time.” On its cover, the pamphlet showcases a kaleidoscope of skin color. “This feels personal,” she says.
The addition of various skin tones on the Census’s promotional materials is one indicator of how far inclusion in this country has come.
“African Americans were often uncounted because they were not considered human. And so, when I think about the Census today, and in my lifetime, I should say, it was important to know who was present. And we were, but we were treated as invisible people. So, it is important on a very personal level to me that all people are counted. All people.” Booker pauses before continuing. “Everybody counts, every person has a story, and we all have a message.”
The GLC Diversity Roundtable has selected the motto “We all count” for its upcoming community-wide event that will aim to raise awareness and boost Census 2020 responses. Holman, who’s been a member of the Diversity Roundtable for 17 years, says that this event will celebrate the connection we all have to each other by living in the same geographic region. “We believe that if we can bring people together based on a Census event … where we do some hands-on things, but we also do some basic education, that is an opportunity to…allow people to join together, to bond,” he says.
“We are not counting things,” Booker shares with conviction when anticipating the impact that the 2020 Census will have on the community. “We are counting human lives that matter, who are the reason why education matters, the reason why hospitals matter, these are things that serve people.” And for this reason Booker hopes that everyone will participate in the 2020 Census and celebrate their role in making Greater Lafayette a thriving community that will continue to flourish for decades to come.
Whether you prefer sourdough bread or frosting-stuffed cupcakes, vegan cheesecake or flourless chocolate tortes, Greater Lafayette bakeries offer something for nearly every taste and dietary restriction. After contacting shop owners and asking locals for recommendations — and trying some on our own — we compiled a list of some of the best baked goods around.
Sandra Hufford and her sister, Sheryl, started the Flour Mill Bakery in 1996 in Hufford’s house, “literally in the middle of the cornfield,” she says. While the sisters had not intended to sell donuts, word had gotten around town that a donut shop was opening, and so they added them to the menu. “Donuts have always been our biggest seller,” Hufford says. “We sell approximately 450 dozen per week.” After Hufford’s sister moved on to other ventures, Hufford sold the business in 2016, only to repurchase it three years later. At its current location on State Road 26 in Rossville, the bakery sells donuts, pies, cookies and angel food cakes, along with homemade salads, soups, espresso drinks and deli meats and cheeses.
As a young girl in Wolcott, Indiana, Brittany Gerber loved watching her mom decorate wedding cakes and began dabbling in the art as soon as she was old enough. After attending Purdue University and working in customer service for several years, Gerber purchased the Lafayette Gigi’s franchise in 2019, where she serves up cupcakes, cakes, cookies stuffed with frosting, macarons, cheesecakes, cake truffles and miniature cupcakes. Three gluten-friendly options are on the menu every day, including the GF Triple Chocolate Torte. Custom cakes and vegan options are also available by special order. An annual sponsor of the Cupcake Run/Walk for the Public Schools Foundation of Tippecanoe County, Gigi’s donated 1,248 cupcakes for race participants in 2019.
Thirteen years ago, Jerry and Janet Lecy were working in a Christian non-profit organization when they decided to buy the local Great Harvest franchise. Within two years, the bakery’s sales had doubled, and the business has continued growing since then. Great Harvest specializes in made-from-scratch breads using flour that is ground in-house with a stone mill. The bakery also offers cinnamon rolls, muffins, scones, cookies and bars, along with fresh granola and sandwiches. “Most of our breads are vegan, the basic bread having five basic ingredients — fresh-milled flour, water, yeast, honey and salt,” Jerry Lecy says. All six of the couple’s children have worked at Great Harvest over the years.
Started in 1961 by Mary Lou and Steward Graves, Mary Lou Donuts changed hands several times before being purchased in 2017 by Jeff Waldon, who has seen a growth in sales and is considering expansion. The bakery specializes in donuts, cream horns, apple fritters and cookies, and also serves danishes, brownies and cupcakes. The cream horns are vegan. Mary Lou produces several thousand dozen donuts weekly, providing all the donuts for Purdue’s Universiy’s dining halls and retail locations on campus. This fall, the bakery — and its Donut Truck, which regularly visits campus — will be featured on the Big Ten Network’s program “Campus Eats.”
After immigrating to the United States, Sergei Dhe and Natasha Vasili worked in the food service industry while crafting pastries and cakes on the side. In 2014, with their daughters’ encouragement, the couple launched their own business. They currently share a space with City Foods Co-op on Main Street in Lafayette. Scones and Doilies specializes in European-style baked goods using original recipes, including seasonal items such as decorated Easter cookies and Greek Easter bread. “Our goal is to share the same excitement and creativity we have for food with our community,” says Vasili. Signature items include scones, rugelach, biscotti, galettes and specialty cakes. Several gluten-free pastries are regularly available, and gluten-free cakes and vegan items can be made to order. The couple supports the International Center at Purdue University, participating in such events as 2019’s Summer Supper series.
If the name of this newish bakery sounds familiar to you, that’s on purpose: This artisanal bread shop pays homage to the old Smitty’s Foodliner, which served customers for five decades at the corner of Northwestern and Lindberg in West Lafayette before closing in 2005. As the story goes, when veteran Journal & Courier editor and reporter Dave Smith decided to turn his breadmaking hobby into a business, he received permission to use an updated version of the grocery’s logo. Ever the wordsmith, Smith gives his bread creations one-of-a-kind names like Amber Wave and Kalamata Olive Pain au Levain, and occasionally blogs on topics like friendship, travel and farmers markets. Along with breads, the shop offers a rotating selection of cinnamon rolls, croissants, Danishes and morning buns, noted on the daily schedule online. If you have your heart set on a particular goodie, however, the shop advises that you call ahead. Smittybread also serves up soups and sandwiches, including the B.E.S.T. (bacon, egg, spinach and tomato) and Farmers Market (ham, salami, provolone and veggies), all made on house-made bread.
Bacon-wrapped pastries, anyone? For the Stone House Restaurant and Bakery in Delphi, last year’s Indiana Bacon Festival was the perfect occasion for dispensing more than 800 crème-filled, maple-iced long johns covered in bacon — and that was despite the blistering hot weather. “We don’t let the heat stop us,” says owner Lisa Delaney, who opened the shop nearly 20 years ago after purchasing an existing bakery in town. On regular days, Stone House serves up more traditional offerings, such as cookies, pies and specialty brownies, many based on recipes from Delaney’s grandmother. Sugar- or dairy-free options are available with 24 hours notice. The bakery, which also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, crafts all of its own sandwich buns, bread and rolls onsite, including its newest addition, dill pickle bread.
Passionate about baking since she was a child, culinary school graduate Sarah McGregor-Ray worked in the industry for more than a decade before joining forces with her brother, Jonathan, and her mom, Debbie, to launch a bakery of her own. After selling at local farmers markets and festivals, McGregor-Ray opened a brick-and-mortar bake shop in 2017 next door to the Knickerbocker Saloon. Sweet Revolution offers daily seasonal pastries, quiches and pies, baked fresh with all-natural ingredients. Gluten-free, keto and vegan options are available, including keto vanilla cheesecake, vegan and gluten-free apple cinnamon muffins and flourless chocolate torte. Customers can wash down their treats with cold brew coffee and chai tea, among other specialty drinks.
Randy Griffin and Chad McFally began their catering business by tailgating for Purdue football games, which eventually led to graduation parties and weddings and then to selling their goods at local farmers markets. When a commercial kitchen became necessary, “those two guys,” as their customers called them, began using the YWCA’s facilities. In late 2019, Griffin and McFally purchased the Klein Brot Haus Bakery in Brookston, where renovations are currently underway. Once reopened, the bakery will serve cinnamon rolls, cheesecakes, cookies, brownies and cakes along with pies and specialty breads made from original Klein Brot Haus recipes. Their specialty item is the Big Daddy, a peanut butter cookie stuffed with a brownie and a peanut butter cup and drizzled with chocolate. If you’re not so hungry, you can get the Little Mama, a smaller version of the same concoction.
BY CINDY GERLACH
For some, a visit to an international grocery store is about acquiring the proper ingredients to create authentic ethnic cuisine. Yet for others, it’s a way to feel at home.
Jenny Hwang, manager of Hana Market in West Lafayette, says shopping at Hana Market evokes fond memories, where shoppers can be surrounded by the familiar sights and smells that remind them of home.
“We try to carry lots of food for students,” she says. “They’re far away from home.”
The presence of Purdue University, and its population of international students – one of the highest for a major university in the country – means that grocery stores that cater to that population are plentiful. Yet the stores are also popular for people with an epicurean streak, as it’s possible to get the best possible ingredients for one’s culinary endeavors. The stores feature authentic items – some fresh, some frozen, some ready to eat – and right in your own backyard.
210 SAGAMORE PARKWAY, WEST LAFAYETTE
957 SAGAMORE PARKWAY, LAFAYETTE
Maybe you don’t know that shopping at Aldi is actually a German supermarket experience. This explains why you must pay a deposit, or pfand, when you pick up your shopping cart, which is refunded upon its return. Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bags; Aldi does have plastic bags, but customers are charged for them – another German practice.
Aldi, a no-frills supermarket, carries standard grocery items, but many of them are European brands. Its housewares are a hit, but as regulars at Aldi know, you can’t depend on finding items from one week to the next. At Christmastime, Aldi is the best place in town to find traditional German holiday treats, such as mulled wine, or Gluhwein, and chocolate advent calendars.
2400 YEAGER ROAD, WEST LAFAYETTE
Asia Market caters to multiple ethnic palates. Aisles are clearly labeled, noting food items from Africa, India, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Taiwan. Fresh and frozen meats, rice in bulk, and frozen items are all available, as are spices, sauces and easy-to-prepare foods. Dishes and housewares are also available.
402 BROWN ST., WEST LAFAYETTE
Better World Market is hidden just off the West Lafayette levee, tucked in behind Tapawingo Park and Wabash Landing. A fairly large supermarket, it carries a variety of items that cater to its Asian clientele. The store carries a variety of vegetables, from lotus root to Japanese yams. Customers can find everything they need to cook their dishes, such as bulk rice, fresh meat and spices, or they can find easy-to-prepare ramen noodles and frozen items.
Some toiletries also are available, with translated labels, making it friendly for those unfamiliar with English.
The store also offers local delivery and free pick-up.
As a bonus, there is a small restaurant hidden in the back of the store, offering authentic Chinese cuisine.
3457 BETHEL DRIVE, WEST LAFAYETTE
From its inauspicious frontage in a strip mall, Hana Market appears to be tiny. But upon entering, it’s a large space, filled with rows of items that cater to its audience. The store is about 80 percent Korean items, says Hwang, with some Japanese and Chinese items.
It’s a haven for those far from home, Hwang says, a place where they can find familiar items – especially for students, who long for the comforts of home.
“It’s a hangout for them,” Hwang says.
The store offers a variety of grocery items – from staples for cooking to quick items, easy to heat up and prepare, which are popular with students. People can pick up snack items or their daily supplies, such as rice and kimchi.
The market also tries to keep up with what is trendy, Hwang says, which appeals to both students and U.S. customers, who, thanks to the Internet and social media, have often heard of particular items and are anxious to try them. Currently, very spicy items are en vogue – and Hana is sure to have them.
People often come in and ask Hwang about particular items that are trending. And she is happy to lend assistance.
“If I’m not busy and someone asks about the recipe, I can explain how to make it,” she says.
237 E. STATE ST., WEST LAFAYETTE
Khyber Supermarket offers a selection of Middle Eastern items. Located near the Purdue University campus, it’s convenient for students and faculty alike. Spices are readily available, as are ingredients for many beloved Middle Eastern dishes.
2338 SAGAMORE PARKWAY, WEST LAFAYETTE
This store, on the edge of West Lafayette, offers everything one needs to make authentic Mexican food. From beans and rice to pre-made tortillas, Mexican food lovers can find everything they need. Beverages and specialty sweets are favorites.
INDIAN AND INTERNATIONAL GROCERY: 1070 SAGAMORE PARKWAY WEST, WEST LAFAYETTE
JALISCO GROCERY: 3315 MCCARTY LANE, LAFAYETTE
LA CHIQUITA: 1440 SAGAMORE PARKWAY NORTH, LAFAYETTE
LA PLAZA: 2100 VETERANS MEMORIAL PARKWAY, LAFAYETTE
LA VILLAGE FOOD MART: 208 SOUTH ST., LAFAYETTE
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY SUBARU OF INDIANA AUTOMOTIVE
In 1994, Laurel, Mississippi, native Allen Hodge — who had relocated with his young bride back to her hometown of West Lafayette, Indiana — took a job at a burgeoning automotive factory on the outskirts of Dayton, Indiana. Twenty-five years later, just as Subaru of Indiana Automotive was celebrating the production of it’s 4 millionth Subaru vehicle, Allen’s son, Jon Hodge, followed in his footsteps by stepping onto the 820-acre campus for the first time as a contract worker.
“It was a combination of planning for my future and accounting for my needs at the time. I wanted a job that paid well and I could make a career out of,” says the 22-year-old Hodge, who works for CTI Personnel as a materials handler, delivering parts to the line for his fellow associates to attach to cars.
The young Hodge says that when his number comes up, SIA will transition him from a temporary job to a permanent one. That may happen sooner than he originally anticipated, given the plant’s recent announcement. In February, SIA released plans to invest $158 million in a new service parts facility and transmission assembly shop, which together will generate 350 new jobs for Greater Lafayette. Construction will begin this summer on the service parts facility, a stand-alone building, and the transmission assembly shop, an addition to the plant. “We’re proud to continue investing in Indiana,” says Scott Brand, senior vice president of administration and quality.
For years now, local auto dealer and advertising icon Bob Rohrman has urged Greater Lafayette television viewers to “Buy Subaru and keep Lafayette driving.” The tagline has a lot of truth behind it: SIA is woven into the community’s fabric, churning out cars, jobs, customers and community service at a time when some automobile manufacturers are struggling to keep the lights on.
The Lafayette plant is Subaru’s only manufacturing facility outside of Asia and currently employs more than 6,000 associates, of which more than 5,000 work in production. When the plant opened in 1989, associates built the Subaru Legacy and Isuzu Pick-up. In the years that followed, SIA continued to produce Subaru models in addition to other vehicles, including the Isuzu Rodeo, Honda Passport and Toyota Camry.
Since June 2016, the plant has exclusively produced Subaru vehicles. Current cars rolling off the assembly line here are the Ascent, Impreza, Legacy and Outback models for North America.
SIA executives project that the plant will build 410,000 cars over the next year. Production levels, in fact, have tripled over the last 10 years, says Brand, and the announced expansion will help the company meet increased customer demand.
When it comes to car buying, loyalty is key, according to the data analytics firm J.D. Power and Associates: Local drivers will return to buy or lease from the same manufacturer and will recommend the brand to friends and family members.
In the firm’s first-ever loyalty survey in 2019, Subaru ranked highest among mass market brands — and highest overall — with a loyalty rate of 61.5 percent, edging out even the highest-ranked luxury car, Lexus, which topped out at 47.6 percent.
Loyalty and popularity ratings underscore the support of local Subaru drivers like Drew Hallett, a web programmer at Purdue University who shares a Forester with his wife. “It was the best value midsize SUV and seemed to have the most spacious interior,” Hallett says of the car, which they purchased as a pre-owned vehicle.
Hallett, who recommended the Subaru Ascent to his parents when they were car-shopping recently, says he’s had “zero problems” with his SUV: “No single car can do it all, but the Forester comes close.”
For Purdue University graphic designer Sarah Anderson, who had a toddler when she purchased her Forester several years ago, safety was her top priority. “I had done a lot of research and narrowed it down to two options that I really liked,” she says. “We ended up going with the Subaru Forester because of the local reputation and resale value.”
Like many Subaru drivers, Anderson says she loves her car. “I’ve only had a couple small issues, and the team at Subaru have been fabulous to work with,” she says. “It’s a dependable car that gets my family where we want to go safely — with good gas mileage.”
When it came time for her parents to replace their SUV, Anderson convinced them to purchase an Outback. Now, she says, “They even come to Lafayette for service visits.”
For safety-minded buyers like Anderson, features such as adaptive cruise control and pre-collision breaking are innovations that helped the company earn top honors in Kelley Blue Book’s most-trusted brand competition every year from 2015 to 2019. That focus on safety extends to the plant floor as well. In February, SIA was recognized with a Governor’s Workplace Safety Award from the state of Indiana for a 2019 internal awareness campaign that contributed to an 80 percent reduction in slips, trips and falls from the previous. year.
Over the past 30 years, the plant also has achieved several environmental milestones. SIA was the first U.S. auto plant to become smoke-free, earn an ISO 14001 Certification for Environmental Management, be designated as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, achieve zero landfill waste and earn an ISO 50001 Certification for Energy Management, according to Craig Koven, communications and external relations manager.
Those successes are likely routed in the strong work ethic of SIA’s employees, who undergo a stringent hiring process and rigorous training, and are governed through Kaizen, a system of continuous improvement that emphasizes personal discipline and teamwork.
Associates bring that team spirit into the community with them by volunteering with Wabash Center, the Imagination Station and other local causes. In turn, the SIA Foundation issues grants for capital projects in arts, culture, education, health and welfare in Tippecanoe County and beyond. Given that nonprofits help spur economic activity, that’s another way that SIA keeps Greater Lafayette driving.
By Angela K. Roberts.
More than a century and a half ago, when people rode their horses to town and brought baskets to hold their purchases, Greater Lafayette residents began gathering in downtown Lafayette to buy products such as cured meat and fresh fruit directly from farmers. Today, this historic downtown Lafayette Farmers Market, which has been in continuous operation since 1839, is one of our four seasonal retail marketplaces in Greater Lafayette. From bath salts to barbecue and from mushrooms to marigolds, local markets – just like the ones of the 19th century – offer farm-fresh and small-batch goodies along with the chance to meet the people who create them.
Fifth Street between Main & Columbia. Runs May through October, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Organized by Greater Lafayette Commerce, the historic Lafayette Farmers Market is known primarily for its abundance of fresh produce, as well as flowers, plants, baked goods and to-go meals, along with specialty items such as wildflower honey, beer jelly, botanical bath salts, handcrafted jewelry, herbal medicinals and hand-sewn baby clothes. Bring your reusable bags and shop to the tunes of local artists playing folk, rock, country, blues and jazz. A vendor list can be found on the website, which also features a chart showing produce currently in season and a fruit-and-vegetables quiz for kids.
Memorial Mall on the Purdue University Campus. Opens July 2.
Organized by Purdue Campus Planning and Sustainability in conjunction with Greater Lafayette Commerce, the Purdue Farmers Market features around 25 vendors each week, including the Purdue Student Farm, operated by the College of Agriculture. Pick up local fresh produce, herbs, plants, fresh-cut flowers, meat and baked items as well as prepared foods, and pick a comfortable spot to have your lunch. Through the market’s passport program, you can collect stamps when you visit market vendors and return to the Campus Planning and Sustainability booth to spin a wheel for zero-waste prizes. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the market to sign up for a weekly newsletter.
Cumberland Park, 3001 N. Salisbury Street. Runs May through Octoboer, Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Nestled among the ball courts of Cumberland Park, the dog-friendly West Lafayette Farmers Market is organized by the City of West Lafayette. It features around 50 vendors each week with fresh produce, baked goods, handmade items such as soap and jewelry, food trucks and wine from two local wineries. As you shop, sip and eat, listen to live music and visit information booths, where you can learn about community happenings.
Market Square Shopping Center, 2200 Elmwood Ave., A6, Lafayette. Runs November to April.
The new indoor market, which debuted in January and is sponsored by Carnahan Hall, Greater Lafayette Commerce and Market Square Shopping Center, brings together local shopping enthusiasts with merchants in chillier months. Some vendors are scheduled for the entire season, while others are only there on select days. Collectively, they offer faux leather earrings, barbecued meat, local honey and maple syrup, herbal medicinals, custom woodworking, natural skin care products, homemade dog treats, fresh bread, organic produce, art, jewelry, cosmetics, handmade baby items and vegan cheese.
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY TIPPECANOE ARTS FEDERATION
“Grow the arts”
It’s a simple motto — and one the Tippecanoe Arts Federation undertakes with the utmost gusto.
The Tippecanoe Arts Federation (TAF) serves as a regional arts partner, one of 11 in the state. As the center of a 14-county district, TAF is the umbrella organization and helps advocate for these 14 counties, many of which are rural, providing educational opportunities in visual, literary and performing arts, outreach programs for underserved communities and underserved youth, and funding for operational expenses for fellow arts organizations in the region.
TAF dates back to 1976, when it was determined broader support for the arts locally was needed, says Tetia Lee, TAF’s executive director. In its nascent period, TAF was actually just an arts calendar, a way to list everything that was happening in one place.
“It was a way to support other arts organizations,” Lee says.
As its mission and vision grew, the organization changed accordingly, supporting various types of programming. TAF found its home at the Wells Memorial Library, just north of downtown on North Street; at the time, the library was transitioning out of the building.
The current board has adopted the simple mission statement — “It’s something short and sweet that the board members can remember,” says Lee.
“We work within that mission,” she says. “We’re allowed to be creative, to think outside the box.”
“We can play to the resources in the community really well,” says Ann Fields Monical, TAF’s chief operating officer.
The Regional Arts Partnership is a network of 11 regions throughout the state. Under the purview of the Indiana Arts Commission, the regional partners work to enhance the delivery of arts services and to move the decision-making closer to the community and its arts consumers. Region 4, the largest geographically, serves a population of more than 525,000 and has served in this capacity since 1997.
And it’s a huge undertaking. With such a large geographic area, needs are widely variant, Lee says.
“Rural counties’ needs are so much different than organizations in Tippecanoe County,” she says.
The work focuses on engagement, education and sustainability. TAF helps groups assess their needs. But how those are addressed changes.
Because, says Lee, every community benefits from the vitality of the arts. Whether it’s arts education, public art displays or performances that draw in tourism, the arts are vital to the survival of a community.
TAF has more than 200 arts partners. These member organizations use TAF as their hub, as these are often small groups with no physical home — or the resources to have one — so TAF provides them with meeting space, a mailing address and help with marketing and publicity.
“The majority of our organizations are smaller, with budgets less than $25,000 who are looking to expand,” Lee says.
Member organizations range from large groups such as the Lafayette Symphony, Carnahan Hall or the Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, to much smaller, more obscure groups and many individuals. Even a group of fly fishermen.
“That doesn’t sound like the arts,” says Monical. “But they make these beautiful lures.
“That tells you how much stuff is going on. So many different groups.”
One of the ways TAF is looking to the future is by the remodeling and expansion of its physical space. The nearly century-old Wells Community Cultural Center had been showing signs of age. So TAF undertook a major restoration project — a project that was handled very deliberately and thoughtfully. The timing had to be right in terms of financing the project and finding public support. It was a process that took nearly a dozen years.
The result is a stunning interior renovation of the old library. The stacks were removed to reveal an entire back wall of windows, opening up the space, allowing for a much-needed smaller performance venue, as well as updated gallery space and staff offices.
The building’s footprint remains unchanged. But every inch of the building has been renovated, with the lower-level rooms being given the same treatment, with a full overhaul. Each of the four rooms has been redesigned with a distinct purpose — a dance studio, arts studio, recording studio, meeting room — yet each can be used for multiple purposes, to create, interact and learn. The smallest meeting room was given a wall of glass to make it feel less claustrophobic.
The state-of-the-art recording studio is a major coup. Funded by a grant issued to the Songwriters Association of Mid-North Indiana, the studio will serve as a teaching tool for both recording artists and engineers; it also will be a space for people to record projects, from interviews to podcasts to spoken word performances. It will open up opportunities for education and collaboration within the songwriting and recording community.
The final touch to the building was when the stolen outdoor lights were returned. The bronze lights, stolen last summer and sold for scrap, were reconstructed, Monical says. A mold was found to recreate a missing part, and the lights were completed and returned to their rightful home in front of the building, albeit with tighter security, in December.
Having more space is key to the future of TAF, Lee says. As the renovations progress — this was Phase I of a three-phase project — it will live in the space and evaluate how it works before progressing to the next steps.
“We hope to expand,” says Lee. “What that looks like is changing.”
Each year, TAF hosts its annual fundraiser, The Taste of Tippecanoe, which brings arts together with tastings from area restaurants. It shows off the best of the area, from food to visual art to performances of all kinds.
TAF is instrumental in getting art to the people in the communities it serves. Currently, it oversees a variety of programs, including:
As the umbrella organization, TAF has a broad mission and goals, as they help advocate for the benefit of public arts, for education. Every day, Lee says, they live that motto of “Grow the Arts” — in all the glorious ambiguity that wording allows.
BY AMY LONG
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY VISIT LAFAYETTE – WEST LAFAYETTE
On a hot, dusty afternoon in late summer, Jason Behenna took a break from refinishing the floors of a 2,800- square-foot space tucked into a small strip mall next to the popular Lindo Mexico restaurant, at 405 Sagamore Parkway South in Lafayette, to talk about his new business.
On this particular day, the spartan space, with its construction clamor and drywall debris, was rather stark and uninviting. But it was also rife with possibility: a blank slate ready to be filled. The space has been vacant for the better part of a decade, but Jason and his wife, Heather Howard, envision a bustling brewpub where Behenna can brew his award-winning stout, among other beers, and a small kitchen will serve up vegetarian and vegan fare.
Behenna’s space could be a metaphor for the local craft brewing scene: at one time a rather lonely landscape, but recently coming into its own.
His brewpub, Escape Velocity Brewing Company, due to open in early 2020, will be the sixth craft brewery to open in Lafayette-West Lafayette, and the fourth since only 2017, following Brokerage Brewing Company in West Lafayette, Thieme & Wagner Brewing Company in downtown Lafayette, and Teays River Brewing & Public House, on Lafayette’s south side.
Bolstered by state legislation that has increasingly favored small breweries through the years, a swell of consumer support for locally owned and operated businesses, and the general public’s growing taste for a wide range of high-quality, full-flavored beers, the local boom mirrors a national trend.
According to the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade group, the number of craft breweries in the U.S. (defined for association membership as small, independent operations producing less than six million barrels of beer annually) has nearly doubled in four years: 7,346 in 2018, up from 3,814 in 2014. (The legal definition is much narrower in Indiana, where the law caps small brewery production at 90,000 barrels per year.)
“You’ve just seen an explosion in the last 10 years of breweries opening up,” says Greg Emig, who opened Lafayette’s first brewpub, the Lafayette Brewing Company, more than two decades ago.
Without controlling corporate interest, independent brewers can experiment and innovate, using traditional ingredients to interpret historic styles of beer and adding nontraditional ingredients for originality and flair. Over time, “consumers became more interested and aware of the breadth and flavor of differing beer styles,” Emig explains.
“Chains are trending down,” observes Jeff Burnworth, who worked for Buffalo Wild Wings for 17 years before launching Teays River Brewing in 2018. “People want to see that their money is staying local and see people in their communities succeeding.”
But the recent surge of local microbreweries and brewpubs is not so much an explosion as a slow burn that sparked nearly 30 years ago.
After graduating from Purdue in 1986, Emig was an avid homebrewer through the early ’90s when he first conceived of the Lafayette Brewing Company as a craft brewery and restaurant – at a time when Indiana law prohibited beer production facilities to sell their product on-site.
Together with Jeff Mease, who would eventually open the Bloomington Brewing Company, Emig lobbied the state legislature for a bill that would grant retail permits to small breweries. The bill passed on the first go-round, Emig says. “People didn’t really know what the concept was, so there was no real opposition to it.”
On Sept. 17, 1993, LBC was granted Indiana’s first small-brewers retail permit. The brewpub opened that very day.
“That piece of legislation opened some doors,” says Emig, who notes that the microbrewery trend really flourished in Indiana through the 1990s, with about 20 brewpubs opening across the state.
“Our mission was really to educate people about the variety and quality of beer that was out there,” Emig says. While most of the country was drinking one or two styles of mass-produced American lager, “there were 50 styles of beer that people just had no idea about, and we wanted to introduce them.”
But, Emig says, the number of brewpubs actually slumped through the early 2000s, in part because the brewery trend took off before quality-control measures could catch up, leading to a market of not-so-great craft-brewed beer. Consumers lost interest, and brewpubs across Indiana, with a few notable exceptions, were forced to close.
“This shakeout left a solid core of breweries that understood the necessity of producing a quality product,” says Emig.
LBC was one of those core breweries. An anchor on Lafayette’s Main Street for more than 25 years now, the roomy interior includes a bar and an all-ages dining room with a full menu. Day to day, LBC offers up to 15 beers, all made in-house – from the easy-drinking Star City German-style lager to the Black Angus English-style stout with notes of chocolate and roasted coffee – and a range of specialty and seasonal beers.
But in part because of the “shakeout” that Emig describes, LBC was the only craft brewery in the Lafayette area for 15 years – from its start in 1993 until Chris Johnson opened People’s Brewery in 2009.
Johnson actually honed his craft under Emig’s direction. He started as a keg cleaner at the Lafayette Brewing Company and quickly worked his way up to LBC head brewer, a position he held for seven years.
“We noticed that there wasn’t much craft beer being produced that was being put out into the community,” says Johnson, who focused his business on brewing classic American ales and German lagers for distribution to area package stores and restaurants.
Within months of opening the brewery, Johnson also opened the People’s Tap Room in a small space at the front of his building, with seating for a handful of people – intended as a place where customers could try different beers and fill their growlers for carry-out.
By 2013, business was booming, and People’s underwent an expansion that doubled the facility’s space to 11,000 square feet and expanded the taproom, which now opens up to a patio, accommodates about 80 patrons inside and out, and hosts game nights, live music and local food trucks throughout the week.
Johnson notes that the latest craft brewery craze has taken off right under his nose. When he started working at the Lafayette Brewing Company in 2000, Indiana had only 12 microbreweries. Nine years later, when he launched People’s, it was the 27th brewery in the state. Today there are 170 microbreweries across Indiana.
After graduating from Purdue in 1998, Brian Russell spent about a dozen years on the West Coast, where he attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, then worked as a chef and pub consultant around Portland, Oregon. When he returned to his hometown of West Lafayette in 2011, he says, he looked around for a place to grab a beer on a Saturday night, but was surprised that there weren’t a ton of options outside of the college-town watering holes close to the university.
A few years later, Russell discovered a column by James Fallows in The Atlantic magazine, detailing “Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed.” The first 10 or so signs were no-brainers. Successful cities, Russell read, focus less on divisive national politics and more on community issues; invest in public-private partnerships; and are located near large research universities. But number 11 on the list was unexpected: “Successful cities have craft breweries.”
“A town that has craft breweries also has a certain kind of entrepreneur,” Fallows wrote, “and a critical mass of mainly young customers.”
It was a lightbulb moment for Russell. “We thought there’s space in the market for a craft brewery in the bar scene in West Lafayette,” says Russell, who partnered with his wife, Laura, and his sister and brother-in-law, Stacy and Dustin Grove, to open Brokerage Brewing Company on Sagamore Parkway in West Lafayette in late 2017.
“We now joke that we are West Lafayette’s oldest brewery,” Russell laughs. “It’s funny and true at the same time.”
With 40 seats inside, the Brokerage taproom is already so popular – and crowded – that a multi-phase expansion is in the works that will double the size of the brewery, and then add a kitchen and an all-ages dining room sometime this summer, if all goes as planned.
Within months of Brokerage’s debut, other craft breweries also have established themselves.
Brian and David Thieme opened the Thieme & Wagner taproom on Lafayette’s Main Street in early 2017. David began brewing bock beer from an old family recipe the following year. The father-son owners are descendants of Frederick A. Thieme, who, with John Wagner, established a brewery at the corner of Fourth and Union streets in Lafayette in 1863. At the turn of the century, Thieme & Wagner was one of the largest and most successful breweries in the state, but it was forced to cease beer production with Prohibition in 1918.
Today, the 50-seat Thieme & Wagner taproom sits above the basement space where David brews six different beers, from an American lager to Thieme’s signature bock. The taproom also offers selections from other local and regional microbreweries, as well as a full bar and a light menu.
In early 2018, Jon Hodge and Burnworth, who had both worked for Buffalo Wild Wings for years, opened Teays River Brewing & Public House on South Ninth Street in Lafayette. Besides a brewery and a taproom, the establishment also comprises a full bar with wine on tap, a broad outdoor patio and an all-ages restaurant with an open kitchen.
“We wanted to be creative and unique and do things that weren’t really happening in Lafayette,” Burnworth says. “Lafayette is still a small town but we wanted to bring some of the cosmopolitan ways of a bigger city, but still keep it in a small-town atmosphere.”
And then there’s Escape Velocity, which enters the scene this year. If a new craft brewery in Lafayette is no longer groundbreaking news, the fact that this establishment is, according to its website, the only all-vegetarian restaurant in Lafayette and Indiana’s only all-vegetarian brewpub makes it pretty special.
Not one of the local brewery owners feels that the market is crowded. They don’t see the new businesses as competition. Rather, they welcome newcomers and embrace a kind of fellowship. And they say they have more than enough customers to go around.
“There’s still a great opportunity for more brewers in this city,” says Behenna, of Escape Velocity. “It’s nowhere near saturated for a city this size. It’s kind of like the Starbuck’s model. When are there too many Starbucks? When one of them opens and it’s not busy. It can be the same with brewers.”
Behenna also points out that each local brewery has its own neighborhood that it serves, and its own niche that it fills.
LBC offers family dining and a huge upstairs event space, and Teays takes pride in its innovative lunch and dinner menus.
Thieme & Wagner pays homage to old Lafayette with a historical brew, while Brokerage, at barely two years old, celebrates its standing as the most established westside brewery. Escape Velocity fills a void east of Sagamore Parkway as it embraces a space-age theme.
You can run into any package or liquor store from the north side of Chicago to the south side of Indianapolis and bring home a six-pack of People’s to stash in your fridge, or you can head to any one of the taprooms and meet the brewer face to face.
What ties these places together is a devotion to the community and a drive to be part of something bigger than what each individual brewery can be on its own.
The local brewers all seem to know each other, and they know what everyone else is working on – not because they compete, but because they collaborate. “There’s a camaraderie between small breweries that you don’t see in a lot of other industries,” LBC’s Emig says.
All of the local brewpubs and taprooms offer friendly gathering spaces where everyone is welcome. If they have space, they also feature live music and monthly game nights. Brokerage even puts on a Sunday evening “Beer and Hymns” casual worship event.
And while these happenings, of course, are intended for fun and fellowship – the business model for any bar or restaurant – they also are opportunities to educate customers about craft beer.
The local brewers understand that they are brand ambassadors. If one brewer can get one person interested in craft beers, then more brewers can get more people on board. “The more brewers the better,” Emig says. “The more awareness of what we do, the better it is for everybody.”
Over the summer, for example, Johnson, at People’s, teamed up with the Lafayette Aviators baseball team to present Thirsty Thursdays at Loeb Stadium. At People’s Patio along the first baseline, fans could buy beers not just from People’s Brewery, but from other local and regional breweries, as well, including LBC, Brokerage and Teays River.
“The craft industry is a little bit different when it comes to competition,” Johnson says. “It’s a friendly business.”
“Rising water raises all ships,” Behenna says. “We’re becoming a brewery destination for people to drive to Lafayette to try all the breweries. The more of us there are, the more of a community there is, and the more of a destination we can be.”
BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE RESEARCH FOUNDATION
Built so they would come, Purdue University-affiliated Discovery Park District landed Swedish-based Saab as a major aeronautic manufacturing facility in May. It’s a perfect match.
Saab, an acronym meaning Swedish Aeroplane Company Limited, has been making fighter planes since 1937 and is heavily invested in the defense and security industry. According to Saab’s website, its strategy for growth in new markets is to pursue excellence through technology, research and cooperation.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels had the vision to capitalize on Purdue’s strength in aerospace engineering research, intellectual capital and the university’s airport to create an ecosystem that would bring in industry-related businesses.
Saab will invest $37 million and hire up to 300 employees to make fuselages (the central body of an aircraft) for T-X advanced jet trainers developed by Boeing and Saab for the U.S. Air Force. Hiring will start in 2020, Job ramp-up will occur between 2021-2026.
Paul Moses, assistant vice president at Purdue Research Foundation, helps serve as matchmaker for major corporate and university partnerships. “Each company has its own reasons for wanting to engage with Purdue. Usually, it’s tied to some desired technical expertise or workforce development,” he says.
“We work to help them build bridges to the many experts on campus, our licensable intellectual property or patents, and of course, the bright young minds who will become their employees. We also help international companies and their employees assimilate into our community.”
When asked why Greater Lafayette was attractive to Saab, Moses cited that Saab appreciated that the community (Purdue, Purdue Research Foundation, and city, county and state leaders) all worked together to answers its questions, provide meaningful incentives, and helped them understand and acquire its needed workforce. Supported by the cooperation of Indiana’s pro-industry ecosystem, Saab found the perfect partners for its next chapter. As an added bonus, West Lafayette reminded Saab officials of Linköping, the Swedish city in which Saab currently does most of its airframe manufacturing.
Initially, Saab will focus on building airframes to fulfill the U.S. military contract of producing at least 351 jet trainers for the Air Force. According to a Purdue press release, Saab will also collaborate with the university to expand research and development within possible areas of sensor systems, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. Purdue also has areas of expertise in trusted microelectronics, hypersonics and cybersecurity that Saab or other interested companies can consider employing.
“A lot of communities claim to be focused on the needs of business, but this community proves it,” Moses says. “When companies come, they feel the sincerity of our local leaders. They experience how truly collaborative we are. They see the quality of our existing workforce and our commitment to developing it further. They learn about the expertise available and the bright young minds being turned out by our world-leading educational institutions. When you combine all that with the affordability of our great quality of life, it makes our community among the most compelling of places to consider locating a business.
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
Lana Beck, a bright, inquisitive second-grader at Mintonye Elementary in Lafayette, was born into a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) family. Her parents are university administrators with degrees in science, and a grandfather and an uncle are biomedical engineers.
Between visits to family members’ research buildings and bedtime readings of books such as “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” Lana’s parents make a point of exposing her to all things STEM during her off-school hours. When it came time to schedule Lana for summer camp in 2019, it was only logical to mix in stints at Straight Arrow and Boiler Kids Camp with a week at Super Summer, sponsored by Purdue University’s Gifted Education Research and Resource Institute.
As Lana and her classmates explored the theme of “Discovery through History,” examining the role of ancient civilizations on the modern world, they employed their STEM skills to develop a Mayan calendar, discover how a solar oven works, and create an aqueduct out of cardboard.
The verdict? Lana loved it. “I have wondered if it was the novelty of it, but it was certainly her favorite [of the three camps]. And she liked the other two,” says her mother, Kaethe Beck, operations director for the Purdue University Life Sciences Initiative. “She came home one day looking for us to translate her message that she wrote using hieroglyphs after they learned how to make their own paper. She was just thrilled to have a secret language and to know how paper is made.”
For several decades, the GERI program, part of Purdue’s College of Education, has provided enrichment activities for academically, creatively and artistically talented youth. Super Summer offers programming for kindergarten through fourth grade in not only STEM subjects but also social studies, art and language arts. The Summer Residential Camp has similar offerings for students in fifth through 12th grades. GERI is one of many programs in the Greater Lafayette area designed to open local students’ minds to the possibilities of STEM education, and ultimately, careers.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics play a key role in our nation’s economy. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, employment in STEM occupations — which Pew broadly defines as including not only computer science and engineering, but also healthcare — grew from 9.7 million in 1990 to 17.3 million in 2016, outpacing the nation’s overall job growth. Those statistics are especially relevant in areas such as Greater Lafayette, where industry and healthcare reign.
While Purdue University may be the top employer in Tippecanoe County, seven others on the top-10 list — including Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Wabash National Corp. — are manufacturers. The other two are IU Health Arnett Hospital and Franciscan St. Elizabeth East. Search the online want ads for the area, and you’ll find postings for engineers, factory technicians, registered nurses and certified nursing assistants, all of which require various levels of STEM skills.
“The local economy here is heavily manufacturing based, and we’re trying to address that,” says Miranda Hutcheson, director of the new Greater Lafayette Career Academy (GLCA), which opened in August in the old Lafayette Life building on 18th Street across from Lafayette Jefferson High School. “Almost every industry right now needs employees; we hear that almost every day.”
GLCA, a cooperative effort that includes Lafayette School Corp., Tippecanoe School Corp. and the West Lafayette Community School Corp., is designed to prepare students for both college and careers. Students attend their home schools for a half-day either in the morning or the afternoon and spend the rest of their time at the academy. Credits at the academy count toward a diploma from their home schools.
Local schools offer some beginning career and technical education courses, says Laurie Rinehart, director of guidance and assistant principal at Lafayette Jeff. However, GLCA is providing “more advanced courses and more advanced experiences to connect them with the next step, whether it’s the workforce or going to trade school or college,” she says. Through such programs as advanced manufacturing, computer science and nursing, academy students can earn industry certifications, dual credits or both.
Coursework aligns with the new Graduation Pathways program, approved by the Indiana State Board of Education in 2017, in which Hoosier students create their own roadmaps to preparing for life after high school. Those pathways took effect last fall for incoming high school freshmen.
Hutcheson describes the pathways as on- and off-ramps on an interstate. “Whatever your educational attainment goal is or career goal, you can get off the ramp if needed and then get right back on if that’s what you choose,” she says. Students with industry certifications can enter the workforce immediately or spend two or four years in college before using that certification on the job. Others may work for a while, then attend college. Those who earn dual credits can go right on to college or delay their postsecondary education for a while.
All GLCA classes are designed to be as hands-on as possible, both on- and off-campus. Aspiring medical assistants, for example, will attend labs where they learn skills such as checking vital signs, giving injections and charting patient progress. After graduation, they will complete an externship at a local healthcare facility.
Some students may discover that they don’t enjoy what they’re studying. That’s actually a valuable learning experience, Hutcheson says: “It’s a win for us if a student says, ‘This is not for me.’ We’ve eliminated that from a student’s future career options.”
Beyond the career academy, many other local initiatives are designed to build STEM competence and confidence. Greater Lafayette Commerce, for instance, sponsors CoderDojo, a free computer science club in which kids aged 7 to 17 learn programming from computer science professionals. Programs average 30 students at each of the two locations, says Kara Webb, workforce development director. Last fall, GLC planned to add two more locations to the monthly lineup.
GLC’s annual Manufacturing Week showcases STEM career possibilities available here in the Greater Lafayette region. More than 3,34o students signed up for last year’s event, which ran Sept. 30-Oct. 4. High school students toured manufacturers, seeing the workforce in action and learning what type of training would prepare them for industry careers. Middle schoolers attended a daylong expo, exploring stations focused on design, production, distribution and support services, such as nursing and cybersecurity.
“We highlight that manufacturing has numerous career pathways, not just production,” Webb says. Elementary students attended a half-day manufacturing awareness workshop, learning about lean manufacturing, quality, teamwork and the effect of manufacturing on people’s lives.
Across the river at Purdue University, K-12 STEM programs abound. Purdue’s Women in Engineering offerings, for example, include after-school programs such as Imagination, Innovation, Discovery and Design (I2D2) for kindergarteners through fifth graders and Innovation to Reality (I2R) for sixth to eighth graders.
“Children are being exposed to STEM education in their formal school settings already, so what we do is really intended to be a reinforcement of that exposure,” says Beth M. Holloway, assistant dean for diversity and engagement in the College of Engineering and the Leah H. Jamieson Director of Women in Engineering. A fundamental part of WIEP’s programming is engaging current engineering students, particularly women, to serve as role models to youngsters.
“For our programs that are targeted to seventh to 10th grades, we also do sessions for parents that address ways to encourage their child’s interest in engineering in particular, and STEM in general,” Holloway says. “Course expectations are covered there as well.”
Middle school is an ideal time to begin planning for high school, Rinehart says. In fact, she and her colleagues at Jeff are talking to eighth grade parents about the career academy so that interested students can plan their schedules accordingly.
“They’re over there a whole half day. Not all students can do that,” Rinehart says of the GLCA students. “These conversations have to start with our kids in middle school, in eighth grade and freshman year; we have many students who want to go but can’t fit it in their schedule.”
For parents like Kaethe Beck, it’s never too early to start preparing her children for the future. “I can expose her to many different things and let her choose what interests her, reinforcing that she can explore any one of these disciplines in a capable, confident way,” she says of her daughter Lana.
And regardless of whether Lana pursues a career in STEM or in another discipline, lessons like those at Super Summer are equipping her with important life skills, Beck says.
“I think children are inherently curious,” she explains. “It’s the what, why, how that kids always want to ask about anyway. In my mind, STEM fields address those questions in a number of ways, but most importantly, give you the tools to think critically about any type of problem you’ll encounter in life.”
BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE RESEARCH FOUNDATION
The timing couldn’t be better. Just as Purdue University and Greater Lafayette were envisioning a new generation of high-tech companies for the Discovery Park District, Purdue alumnus Edmund Schweitzer III came back to campus. His original intent was to honor his alma mater with a $1.5 million endowed professorship in electrical and computer engineering, and to donate an additional $1.5 million to support Purdue’s power and energy research area, now named Schweitzer Power and Energy Systems.
“Last fall Purdue Research Foundation and others honored Ed and his wife, Beatriz, for their contributions,” says factory manager Jake Church. “As that story unfolded, it inspired Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) to build a facility near campus, and the project took off.”
The 100,000-square-foot plant across from Rolls Royce is indeed taking off and will be up and running in early 2020.
Edmund O. Schweitzer III is truly a renaissance man. Having received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1968 and 1971, he worked out West for the government for five years before deciding to pursue a doctorate degree. He received his Ph.D. from Washington State University in 1977 in Pullman. While teaching at WSU and raising a family, he founded Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in his basement in 1982 to build digital relay devices for power systems to replace the cumbersome and unreliable current mechanical devices. It was revolutionary engineering for electrical protection at the time; he received a patent for the first microprocessor-based digital relay, one of his 200 patents in the field. Because of it, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2019. Academic. Inventor. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist. He is a man of vision with the ability to make it happen.
“The mission for the company is to make electric power safer, more reliable, and more economical,” Church says. “With that goal, it opens the door to customers who need safe and reliable high-speed control of their power systems like electric utility companies, hospitals, universities, and virtually any entity that needs reliable power.” The West Lafayette plant will make recloser controls. These devices control reclosures that act as high-voltage electric switches that shut off the flow of electricity on a power line when trouble occurs due to wind, lightning, falling trees, animals, among other things.
“We are excited to manufacture SEL technology so close to some of our Midwestern customers (Duke, Indianapolis Power & Light and Tipmont), but it’s also an opportunity to be close to Purdue University and collaborate with them,” says Church. “You can’t put a price on the synergy created by partnerships between the community and the university.” SEL’s manufacturing plants are located in Pullman, Washington; Lake Zurich, Illinois; Lewiston, Idaho; and now West Lafayette. SEL products are used by virtually every U.S. electric utility and are protected power systems in 164 countries around the world. Moving to West Lafayette is a game-changer for the growing Discovery Park District with win-win benefits for the company, community and university.
Church is among the first of 30 employees of the 100 percent employee-owned company to make the move to Indiana. “All volunteered and applied for the transition. They’re eager to come and are so excited to make Greater Lafayette their home,” he says. SEL will ramp up hiring from there with a projection of eventually 300 employees, with manufacturing jobs coming first and research and development and engineering to follow.
“We’re thrilled to work with Greater Lafayette Commerce and others here to get the word out as needed. Purdue Research Foundation and GLC offered to help incorporate our people into the community, including our spouses,” Church adds. “It’s a testament to the community, with so many different parties involved at different points, whether it was PRF and staff, GLC helping with logistics, both mayors’ offices very supportive and eager to help us get a safe, good building constructed, and county commissioners to help with the workforce. Everyone has been topnotch — very welcoming, professional and supportive. We’re thrilled to be building this business here.”
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY GREATER LAFAYETTE COMMERCE AND TIPPECANOE ARTS FEDERATION
When Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, the first United States Patent Commissioner, published a booklet in 1838 touting the agricultural advantages of a new town in Indiana’s upper Wabash River valley, his efforts likely constituted the first-ever marketing campaign for Lafayette, Indiana, population 3,000.
“The county of Tippecanoe, in which Lafayette is situated … embodies and is immediately surrounded by some of the most beautiful prairies and plains of Indiana,” the Connecticut native wrote. “The rapid increase of the town of Lafayette, from a settlement of scarce ten years ago, is truly astonishing, and can be accounted for only by the extreme felicity of its position.”
In the 182 ensuing years, the combined population of Lafayette and its twin city across the river to the west — which began with the settlement of Chauncey in 1860 — has swelled to more than 194,000 residents, by latest estimates. Back then, agriculture was king; now the key industries are education, manufacturing and healthcare. And while both towns began with only a few streets and a handful of homes and businesses, today Greater Lafayette encompasses a vast area containing historic and brand-new neighborhoods, high-quality school corporations, parks and trail systems, two hospitals, a world-class university and a regional community college campus.
Now, a new coalition seeks to make Greater Lafayette even greater by bringing a unified approach to marketing efforts aimed at increasing the talent pool, spurring new business development and enhancing community pride.
Seven local entities — the City of Lafayette, the City of West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Visit Lafayette-West Lafayette, Purdue University, the Purdue Research Foundation and Greater Lafayette Commerce — have come together to form the Greater Lafayette Marketing Coalition (GLMC). Its aim is to promote the area as an ideal place to live, play and work.
“We work very well as a community here, with the cities and the county and Purdue and Ivy Tech. Overall, we have a strong economic climate,” says Tony Roswarski, Lafayette’s mayor. “But we understood that to continue to be globally competitive, we needed to look at how do we market ourselves in a new way? How do we look at the world for attracting new businesses here, to keep existing businesses competitive, to finding skilled labor?”
The ultimate goal of the campaign is twofold, says Scott Walker, CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce: one, attracting more residents to the community, and two, attracting more businesses.
“We’re not necessarily trying to create more visitors,” he explains. Instead, coalition members want to convert visitors to prospects. “How do we get them to think, ‘How do I bring my business here, because I see how businesses are growing and thriving here? Or how can I move myself and my family here, because I’ve really enjoyed my time in the community?’”
To lay the groundwork for a cooperative marketing effort, GLMC partnered with Ologie, a Columbus, Ohio, agency that spearheaded Purdue University’s “Makers, All” campaign several years ago. The agency conducted face-to-face meetings with more than 125 residents, business leaders, hiring managers, Purdue University faculty, administrators and students, area non-profits and city and county employees. It also developed an online community survey that yielded responses from more than 1,500 individuals. Local hiring managers and business owners also participated in online discussion boards.
Among the key insights: A connection to family is often what draws residents to the area and what keeps Purdue University graduates here. Additionally, Lafayette and West Lafayette may have distinct personalities, but thanks to their collaborative spirit, the two cities are often seen as one. Finally, despite its challenges, Greater Lafayette has a variety of work-live-play strengths, including employment opportunities, shared public spaces and high-quality public schools.
All of this adds up to the core message that Ologie developed: “Greater Lafayette is where progress, creativity and community thrive, so that you can live expansively.”
For job seekers, Greater Lafayette is a hub for diverse and state-of-the-art industries, which translates to unlimited professional opportunities, according to Ologie’s messaging guide. For visitors and residents looking for entertainment, the area offers a variety of arts, culture and tech opportunities, which provide memorable experiences. For people seeking a sense of belonging, Greater Lafayette is a close-knit and prosperous community, the Ologie team notes, which leads to greater personal fulfillment for its citizens.
The campaign’s optimistic messages resonate with officials like Tom Murtaugh, Tippecanoe County commissioner. Born and raised here, he’s been delighted with changes in recent years, particularly the revitalization of downtown areas.
“When I was in college, downtown was desolate. There was an adult bookstore on the courthouse square. At night there was nobody downtown. To think that in 30-some years, that has completely turned around: investment in the downtown corridor, the MARQ project and the project by City Hall,” he says of the renovation of the Morton Community Center for West Lafayette city offices. “There’s a great history and a great future for this community.”
As the campaign progresses, coalition officials will track progress. They’ll be looking for positive changes in audiences’ perceptions of Greater Lafayette as well as positive economic outcomes, such as new residents and businesses.
“A growing economy is a thriving economy. Property and tax values depreciate, so you’re constantly having to create new investment,” says Walker. “There’s no such thing as status quo. Alternatives to growth are decline.”
Demand for new houses drives new residential development, Walker adds: “We know what happens when the capacity expands over demand. That’s what the Great Recession was. Fostering that demand is really important; it provides assurance for developers.”
As West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis notes, Greater Lafayette is already seeing a housing boom. “We just approved the Provenance development on State and Airport Road in August. These will have wonderful housing options including apartments, condos and single-family houses. West Lafayette and Greater Lafayette as a whole is clearly a popular place to live because houses don’t stay on the market for long, but more are being added and will continue,” Dennis says.
Several new businesses have also announced moves to or expansion in Greater Lafayette in the past year, including Saab, SEL (Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories), Inari and Zeblok.
“The reason this is a great place to do business is because it is a great place to live. Our schools from kindergarten through Ph.D. are some of the finest in the country, our arts scene is robust and innovative, we have a growing culinary culture, our housing stock is wide-ranging and within reach for our residents,” Dennis says.
“And finally, one of the main reasons Greater Lafayette is so great is that we all work together. It sounds cliché, but it’s what makes us, on both sides of the river, such a great success.”