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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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.
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 email@example.com 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 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 CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Upper Main Street in downtown Lafayette wasn’t always known as the hippest part of the block. But things change. And much of the credit must go to the neighborhood’s swankiest eatery, East End Grill.
Located on the north side of Main Street, between 11th and 12th streets, East End occupies a building that was formerly a coffee shop and, prior to that, a health clinic. But you’d never know it — the building has been transformed, and its previous owners would likely not even recognize it. With its exposed ductwork, open ceiling, wood and metal accents, the interior is urban and chic, evocative of an urban loft.
It’s a transformation that was all intentional, says owner Scott Trzaskus. He did a lot of research, looking into the needs and desires of the community.
“We really wanted to bring a more urban environment,” he says. “And hopefully add something to this end of the street. We have some really well-traveled people.”
Trzaskus moved to the area in the late ’80s to attend Purdue University, planning to study civil engineering. “I wanted to build bridges,” he says. But somewhere along the way, he lost interest in construction, while, at the same time, he became fascinated with his work in dining and hospitality as he worked part-time in local restaurants. This, he decided, was where his passion lay. So, armed with a degree in hospitality and tourism management from Purdue, he set off to make his way in the world, working in high-end establishments in Houston, San Francisco, New York and Chicago, and learning everything he could.
He ended up back in the Lafayette area when he and his wife, fellow Purdue alum Erin, decided this was where they wanted to raise their family. And Trzaskus noticed immediately the possibility of opening a new eatery in downtown Lafayette — the business community would embrace it, he felt, as would Purdue.
“I always wanted to do something. I never thought it would be here, but it turns out it was,” he says.
Teaming up with partners Bearing Point Developers — John Nagy, Pat Jarboe and Tim Balensiefer — they chose this spot on Upper Main Street, knowing it had potential.
“We’re really happy to be on this part of the block,” he says
Trzaskus wanted to create a space that was open to all sorts of possibilities — he didn’t want to limit the restaurant to either high-end dining or to sandwiches and beer. Instead, he focused on creating a space that is open to multiple uses — whether it’s just dropping in for drinks and snacks, a special event or burgers with the family.
“It’s got some serious flexibility,” he says. “Whether it be a cheese reception, a wine reception or a business function, we want it to be what the guests want.”
And the space has been designed and configured to allow for this flexibility. The main dining area has standard tables that can be moved around to fit any size party, yet you’ll note they are not terribly close together, allowing for more private conversation space. The bar area has the same sorts of tables but also has a traditional bar area along with high-top tables. An area in the back can be closed off to allow for private space — perfect for either a family reunion or an off-site business gathering, complete with audio-visual hookups and a television that doubles as a screen.
“We didn’t want to do anything that would feel dated in two years,” he says.
The menu is designed around local, fresh ingredients. It’s seasonal; the focus is on what is fresh and full of flavor.
“We really focus on foods when they’re available,” he says, “Everything here is from scratch. Everything is produced in house.”
And proof of this commitment to fresh ingredients? The restaurant has only a refrigerator — no freezer.
“It’s really important for us to eat seasonal foods when they’re at the height of the season and then wait for them to come back next year,” says executive chef Ambarish Lulay. “Why push it? I know I’m going to get good quality when it’s in season.”
Not only are items only served seasonally, but they are procured as locally as possible, from local farms. All steaks are cut in house.
The same commitment applies to the bar menu, as bartender Thomas Gregg has created all signature cocktails.
In the coming months, East End will be expanding this same ideology across the street. Trzaskus and his investors have purchased a space across the street, where construction has begun on a new venture, a multi-use facility. Upstairs will house an event space and outdoor patio; downstairs will feature a casual eatery with counter service — yet the cuisine will be higher end, echoing the sort of menu items that can be found across the street at East End.
“What we’re trying to do is fill all the holes that East End didn’t,” Trzaskus says. “Counter service is the direction people want. We want to make it really easy to grab high-quality food.”
Trzaskus has worked very hard to create an open, welcoming environment. He is a hands-on owner, in the restaurant, paying attention to feedback from his customers.
“One of the things we try to do is listen,” he says. “And I don’t say that lightly.”
Case in point: When the restaurant opened, the noise level was much higher than anticipated. With the open ceiling and exposed ductwork, the acoustics were dreadful — people sitting across from one another could barely engage in conversation.
The acoustics may have been dreadful, but Trzaskus did hear the complaints. Acoustic padding was added to the ceiling, helping the sound.
“You could literally feel the difference,” he says.
The same can be said of the menu: They listen to customer input.
“When it comes to our specials, we play with them,” says Lulay. “And people tell us one way or another. We do our best to listen to what people are saying and respond accordingly.”
As Trzaskus sees his restaurant fill up night after night, watches as he expands across the street, he feels pretty satisfied about what he’s done.
“We want people to feel very comfortable,” he says. “People need to know the story about what we do and why we do it.
“We don’t do anything that’s terribly fancy, but we use high-quality ingredients. We don’t want to be pretentious, but we want to be highly informed.”
Clearly, it’s a recipe for success. Fresh vegetables and sides. Clean cooking. The kitchen is always open — that’s a key part of the integrity that he wants to foster.
“It’s not that hard to do,” Trzaskus says. “It just takes some effort.”
This simple commitment to quality, to service, has proven to work well for his clientele.
“The fun part is when people come in and say you’ve hit both sides, the food and the service,” Trzaskus says.
“I’m really happy here. Hopefully, this place will still feel in time in 10 years.”
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.”