BY CINDY GERLACH

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY VISIT LAFAYETTE – WEST LAFAYETTE

If someone had suggested 15 or 20 years ago that you take a drive down Wabash Avenue, that suggestion may have been met with hesitation — apprehension, even. 

And a suggestion to view the art? Laughable. 

Today, what was formerly a hidden neighborhood, a sort of secret enclave of life along the Wabash River, is now a bright spot. And much of the credit goes to Wabash Walls. 

This public art installation, a series of murals painted on the sides of buildings both residential and commercial, has breathed new life into this decades-old neighborhood, often considered on the fringe of Lafayette society. 

The project got started back in 2016 and 2017, says Tetia Lee, executive director of the Tippecanoe Arts Federation and one of the curators of Wabash Walls. 

“At the time, as an artist myself, I’m always looking around,” Lee says. “When I see a beautiful wall, I think a mural would look great there.”

Lee was struck by a retaining wall along Second Avenue; the wheels of inspiration started turning. She ran into Margy Deverall with the City of Lafayette at a Neighborhood Beautification Coalition meeting. She threw the idea at Deverall: Let’s do a mural festival.

“It was all very organic,” says Lee. “We were both ready to take a bigger next step.”

And, as they say, from small things, big things come. The conversation began to draw in others — Stephanie Bible with Habitat for Humanity, artist Cameron Moberg, and Dennis Carson with the City of Lafayette. A proposal was put together, and initial funding provided $50,000 for a project that would be transformative, uplifting and engaging.

The result is a project that has indeed reinvigorated and re-branded the neighborhood. Lee has seen buy-in from not just the artists, but from local businesses – Cargill Inc. came on early as a sponsor — and neighbors. Everyone has delighted in watching the neighborhood come alive with color. 

Wabash Avenue has long been considered a marginalized area. The working-class neighborhood, often referred to as the “lower part” of town, is a stronghold of a bygone era. And its reputation has suffered over the past several decades.

It’s a bad rap that seems undeserved, as a current drive through the area reveals tidy houses with well-kept lawns and a diverse population, with younger people gravitating there to live and work. Not to mention a neighborhood spirit that is evident.

“The most important part is that we established a trust with a neighborhood that is marginalized and over promised,” Lee says.

The Wabash Avenue residents were quick to get on board with the project. Early on, Lee says, they opened their doors, inviting her in as the early stages of the feasibility study kicked off. 

“They became the vital and most-important part of informing the neighborhood study,” Lee says. “That really demonstrates trust between the city and the neighborhood.”

People who live there can see the charm that others might not. And the murals helped highlight the beauty hovering at the surface.

“They got excited about having artwork in their neighborhood,” Lee says. And about the influx of visitors, as the artists and those who want to view the art descended on their once hidden part of town. 

“That’s the real reason it’s been so successful,” Lee says. 

Trent O’Brien and his wife, April, run Sacred Ground Coffee House. Like most of the neighborhood, they have seen nothing but positives come out of Wabash Walls. 

“It was definitely a really good thing,” O’Brien says. “The whole area has changed.”

O’Brien has seen people getting more involved in the neighborhood, becoming more welcoming. Last year, Sacred Grounds helped host a neighborhood Harvest Festival. Years ago, maybe a handful of people would have shown up, but this 2019 festival brought out hundreds of people.

“This never would have happened 15 years ago,” O’Brien says. “I do believe the art has helped.”

This opening up of the neighborhood, this newfound sense of community is a credit to the art and the artists, he says. 

“It brought people here who were out to see the art,” O’Brien says. “It has been very positive.”

In 2018, 10 murals were painted in the neighborhood; 2019 saw 11 more added. Artists featured were from all over — not just the United States, but from as far away as Australia. The onset of COVID-19 delayed the progress for 2020, but the project will expand to areas around the avenue, including crosswalk art to encourage more pedestrian-friendly zones. 

Funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and Indiana Department of Health have helped the project continue for a third year. 

The fun and funky murals are a boon for the neighborhood, providing beauty, conversation and a real sense of shared identity. Visitors have come from all over the city, the county, even the state, anxious to check out the project. 

But the real benefits are more far-reaching. Lee says they’ve seen property values increase as the art has helped improve the area, making it a better, healthier place for residents to live and interact with one another. Once-abandoned buildings have been reclaimed and now feature murals. The micro-economy in the neighborhood has improved as the area has rebranded. It’s a huge improvement in the quality of life. 

Working with the neighbors, watching the project come to life has been an amazing process, says Lee.

“Wabash Walls continues to be a highlight to my career,” she says. “I could not have asked for a better neighborhood to work in. They treat me like family. I’m an honorary resident — I love it.”

Because at the end of the day, it’s truly about people.

It’s about the artists who have spent time in the neighborhood, sharing their stories with folks who would stop to watch the work and visit for a bit. It’s about the residents who have opened their arms, welcoming and embracing both the artists and the patrons who come to see the art. It’s about businesses that have come alive and welcomed the partnership of the artists, encouraging the camaraderie among all involved.

It’s the story, Lee says, of the transformative power of art.

“More than ever, we are turning to the arts to remind us that we’re human.”

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.” 

Exciting changes for Shop Small 2020

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 mlowe@greaterlafayettecommerce.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

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

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.”

O’Rear’s

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.”

Hammer Donuts

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.”

Mama Ines Mexican Bakery

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.

Corlew Donut Co.

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 ANGELA K. ROBERTS

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY VISIT LAFAYETTE – WEST LAFAYETTE AND NICHES LAND TRUST

“Indiana … is a garden

Where the seeds of peace have grown,

Where each tree, and vine, and flower

Has a beauty … all its own.

Lovely are the fields and meadows,

That reach out to hills that rise

Where the dreamy Wabash River

Wanders on … through paradise.”

In his ode to Indiana, “Indiana,” that was adopted as the official state poem in 1963, Arthur Franklin Mapes (1913-1986) did not specify during which season he most enjoyed the fields, hills and the wandering Wabash River. Most of us today would agree, however, that when the greens of an Indiana summer transition to the golds, auburns and russets of fall, it’s a great time to get out into nature. 

In anticipation of this most colorful season, we laced up our athletic shoes and road-tested several trails in Greater Lafayette, including some far off the beaten path. Here are our recommendations.

Clegg Memorial Garden

Ninety years ago, Harold and Ruth Clegg purchased a plot of land overlooking Wildcat Creek as a country home. After the death of their only son, they turned their private garden into a public memorial and added trails for visitors to enjoy. Today, the botanical garden is owned by Niches Land Trust, a west central Indiana conservation group whose offices are located in the former Clegg cottage. Sloping 100 feet down into the valley, the well-maintained paths meander through a variety of ecosystems, including woodland, prairie and savanna. During fall’s peak, the canopied forest displays an array of vibrant colors. Bridges connect some parts of the trails, but be careful of some narrow slopes on the way downhill. 

• 1782 N. 400 East, Lafayette

• Parking: Gravel lot across the road from the property entrance

• 16.5 acres with 1.1 miles of trails

• nicheslandtrust.org

Granville Sand Barrens

Ten miles southwest of West Lafayette lies a rare Indiana example of a sand barren, a sandy-soiled area that appeared in the wake of glacial melts. The Granville Sand Barrens, adjacent to the Roy Whistler Wildlife Area, includes a restored prairie and savanna. Niches Land Trust has mowed a half-mile trail along which you can enjoy a dense group of golden aster — also a rarity in the state — and other wildflowers. The sandy soil is most visible just before the trail connects with a forested section that is part of the Roy 

Whistler Wildlife Area. 

• Southwest of Granville Bridge in western Tippecanoe County

Closed in November for deer-control hunting

• Parking: Gravel and grass lot at the trailhead

• Size: 80 acres with a .5 mile-trail connecting to the Roy Whistler Wildlife Area

• nicheslandtrust.org

Mulvey Pond

Considered one of the better places in the West Lafayette area to see waterfowl and shorebirds, Mulvey Pond is nestled among farmland, wetland and marshland just off US 231 near Montmorenci, an unincorporated town north of West Lafayette. Niches Land Trust operators have mowed a labyrinth of sorts into the tall prairie grasses around the pond, where birds and insects drown out the hum of nearby roads.

• Near Montmorenci off US 231 

Seasonal Features: Waterfowl migration

• Parking: Gravel lot at the trailhead

• Size: 52 acres with mowed trails through the prairie

• nicheslandtrust.org

Celery Bog Nature Area

Once a large vegetable farm operated by immigrants from Holland, the Celery Bog Nature Area now provides a suburban respite near several neighborhoods and apartment complexes. Operated by the West Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department, it contains both paved and unpaved trails rambling through prairie, savanna, woodlands and marshland. Cattail Trail, which runs through the Celery Bog and passes by Lilly Nature Center, is part of the city’s 27-mile paved trail system and is designated as a National Recreation Trail. Bicycling is allowed in paved areas.

• 1620 Lindberg Rd., West Lafayette

• Parking: Paved and gravel lots near trailheads and the Lilly Nature Center

• Restrooms: Lilly Nature Center 

• Size: 195 acres, with 4.3 miles of paved trails and several footpaths with interpretive signs and viewing decks

• westlafayette.in.gov

Trailhead Park

North of the Celery Bog, tucked away near Purdue Research Park, is the tiny Trailhead Park. The park links to a fairly wide, straight section of the National Recreational Trail-designated Northwest Greenway Trail. Walkers, runners, bicyclists and rollerbladers share this section of the paved path, which starts at the roadside park and connects to the Soleado Vista neighborhood up north. South of Kalberer Road, the trail continues, eventually joining up with Cattail Trail. If you travel east along Kalberer, the trail connects to Cumberland Park.

• Intersection of Kalberer Road and Kent Avenue, West Lafayette

• Parking: Just east of the trail, next to a shelter and picnic tables

• Size: 4 acres

• westlafayette.in.gov

Armstrong Park 

A beautifully landscaped greenspace with tennis courts, softball fields and the Castaway Bay swimming pool, Armstrong Park anchors the corner of South Ninth Street 

and Beck Lane on the south side of Lafayette. Named after Purdue alumnus and astronaut Neil Armstrong, the park features Armstrong Trail, a paved asphalt loop encircling the pond. Lafayette Parks & Recreation maintains the trail, part of 6 miles of paved trails in the city, along with many more unpaved. All Lafayette trails are available for walking, running, bicycling, rollerblading and cross-country skiing. Pets must be leashed. Because of its popularity as a dog-walking destination, Armstrong Trail may not be suitable for dogs that aren’t well-socialized. 

• 821 Beck Lane, Lafayette

• Parking: Several lots, including one near the tennis courts and north end 

• Size: 30 acres with a two-thirds mile trail

• lafayette.in.gov

Prophetstown State Park 

For thousands of years, Native Americans hunted and lived in the area near current-day Battle Ground where the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers meet. Today, Prophetstown State Park, named for an indigenous village established in 1808 by Tecumseh, who was Shawnee, and his brother Tenskwatawa, who was called the Prophet, features 2,000 acres where park officials are restoring native landscapes. Nine miles of trails ranging from easy to moderate snake their way through the park, which also includes picnic areas, a campground and seasonal aquatic center. Trail No. 1 takes you through a former Christmas tree plantation of Douglas fir before winding its way through tallgrass prairie, a marsh and a field of wild cherry and Osage orange (hedge apple) trees. 

• Mapping address is 5545 Swisher Road, West Lafayette

• Gate fee: Noncommercial vehicles with Indiana license plates are $8, and with out-of-state plates, $10. Fee includes admission to the Farm at Prophetstown next door. 

• Restrooms: Comfort stations and vault toilets in several locations

• Parking: Several parking lots are available, including some near trailheads

• Size: 30 acres with 9 miles of trails

• lafayette.in.gov

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? 

Bistro 501 

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.”

Folie

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.”

Christos, The Bryant, Red Seven and Café Literato

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

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.” 

Revolution Barbeque

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 KEN THOMPSON

In any other year, one of the joys of summertime is an ice cream cone after a ballgame or a day at the park.

But 2020 hasn’t been any other year. Fortunately for Greater Lafayette, two ice cream institutions and a relative newcomer are open for business. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted Silver Dipper more than the Original Frozen Custard and Budge’s, which unlike Silver Dipper, are seasonal businesses.

David Carlson, whose family opened the first of two Silver Dipper stores in 2001, lost about a month of business.

“In mid-March we decided to close out of an abundance of caution,” Carlson says.  “We sold our existing inventory to other small independent ice cream shops in Indiana.  By mid-April our supplier was ramping up production again and we decided to reopen.”

Silver Dipper, which has locations at 201 E. State St. and 307 Sagamore Parkway West, has strictly followed guidelines from the Tippecanoe County Health Department regarding cleaning, masks and social distancing.   

“The reopening has gone well,” Carlson says. “Since we began accepting credit cards in 2016, we were already set up to provide contactless payment options.  We also created an online store thru silverdipper.com, where customers can order and pay online, then pick up their order through carryout or curbside.”

The Carlson family spent years working in Chicago and commuting from northwest Indiana, all with a goal of buying a business in central Indiana. The Carlsons purchased the Baskin Robbins store at Purdue West in 2000, believing the presence of Purdue University and Tippecanoe County’s diversified economy was a good business risk.

A year later, the Carlsons broke away from Baskin Robbins and opened the Silver Dipper location on Sagamore Parkway. Two years later, the Levee store followed.

“We decided to go independent in order to have more control over product quality, pricing and equipment,” Carlson says. 

“We consider the Sagamore Parkway store to be our ‘family store’ and the Levee to be the ‘campus store.’ But we see a lot of families and Lafayette customers at our Levee location too.  Plus being the largest city in the county we see customers from all over the area.”

One of Silver Dipper’s trademarks is a variety of flavors, approximately 40 year-round flavors which are available on the website.

“We try to keep a variety to appeal to everyone, but it is customer demand that determines which flavors we carry,” Carlson says. “We also carry ‘no sugar added’ options as well as Italian ices, which are non-dairy and non-fat.”

When asked to list Silver Dipper’s best-selling flavors, Carlson names Zanzibar, Oreo, Cookie Dough, Zoreo (Zanzibar and Oreo mixed together) and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough.

Only Zanzibar made the lengthy list of Carlson family favorites, which include Toffee Chocolate Chip, This S&@! Just Got Serious, Chocolate Cherry Bomb, Coconut Almond Bliss and Pistachio.

Carlson and his family are grateful that not only have customers returned to buy ice cream but also merchandise such as Silver Dipper themed T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, cups and stickers.

“Lately, we have seen customers purchase them as a way to support their favorite local businesses during this difficult time,” he says.

“We have been touched by the amount of support and concern for our business.  We have loved being a part of the community the past 20 years and look forward to many more years serving our customers.”

When it comes to years of serving Greater Lafayette customers, few local businesses can approach the many decades that the Original Frozen Custard and Budge’s have been open.

The Original Frozen Custard had a humble beginning in 1932, when Florence and Charles Kirkhoff began selling vanilla frozen custard from a stand next to Columbian Park. A year later, the Kirkhoffs’ secret recipe was expanded to include chocolate and strawberry frozen custard.

The Kirkhoffs had to use salt to freeze their frozen custard because modern refrigeration and freezers were not yet available. While the recipe remains a secret to this day, we do know that frozen custard contains 4 percent egg yolk and a fraction of the whipped air contained in regular ice cream.

Another Frozen Custard tradition, the fruit drink, was created because Florence Kirkhoff didn’t care for soda pop. Charles Kirkhoff’s business sense, though, led to a deal with Coca-Cola in 1934. The Original Frozen Custard remains one of Coca-Cola’s oldest accounts.

The iconic art deco building was constructed in 1949 across from what is now Loeb Stadium. Twenty years later, the Kirkhoffs passed the business to their daughter, Charlene, and her husband, Dick Lodde. They expanded the menu to offer more products, flavors and food. 

The Kirkhoffs originally called their business “The Igloo,” a name that was revived in 1998 by Bill and Kathy Lodde. The two Igloo locations on Veterans Memorial Parkway have expanded the line of Frozen Custard flavors, added more sundaes and sandwiches, including an old favorite: the Original Double Decker.

Budge’s (pronounced bud-gees) bills itself as “Lafayette’s best kept secret since 1942.” 

Like the Original Frozen Custard, Budge’s had a simple beginning when Wallace Budge converted a gas station on the corner of 14th and Hartford streets into a root beer stand.

The original stand was razed in the 1950s and the current structure was built facing 14th Street. It was then that Budge’s added ice cream, burgers and other treats to the menu.

That helped Budge’s draw lunchtime business from nearby St. Elizabeth Hospital and after- school lines from Linnwood Elementary students. Budge ran the business until he sold out in 1968.

The years have passed, and St. Elizabeth is no longer in the neighborhood. Neither is Linnwood Elementary School. But Budge’s is still around and approaching its 80th birthday.

Its menu probably wouldn’t be recognized by Charles Budge today, with flavored drinks, a wide variety of ice cream, shakes, parfaits, sodas and sundaes. Food options range from the traditional cheeseburger to chicken tenders and coney dogs.

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.

BY KEN THOMPSON

PHOTOS PROVIDED

Growing up in Lafayette during the 1960s and 1970s, I probably took for granted that my family lived between Murdock Park and Columbian Park. 

Surely everybody had a basketball court/baseball field almost within eyesight of their house. Or a swimming pool, zoo and kids’ rides just a few blocks away.

Time has taught me that Greater Lafayette is more fortunate than most in having so many parks to enjoy. A few, notably McCaw Park and Prophetstown State Park, have come along since my teenage years.

Here’s a look at the parks you’ll find scattered all over Greater Lafayette.

Prophetstown State Park

History lessons abound at Indiana’s newest state park, located just outside of Battle Ground.

The park’s name is derived from the Native American village located between the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers, established in 1808 by Tecumseh and his brother, who was called The Prophet. 

Native Americans hunted and lived along the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers, which serve as boundaries for Prophetstown. Through a partnership with The Farm at Prophetstown, visitors can observe 1920s farm lifestyles and Native American culture. For those who like to walk among nature, there are 900 acres of restored prairie.

There’s also an aquatic center, open Memorial Day through Labor Day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Cost is $5 per person but ages 3 and younger are free.

Gate fees are $8 for cars with Indiana license plates, $10 for out of state plates.

Columbian Park

Spread over 40 acres in the heart of Lafayette, Columbian Park has seen many changes over the decades, but the biggest is yet to come.

Loeb Stadium, the home of the Lafayette Jeff High School baseball team and events such as the Colt World Series and professional/semi-pro baseball since it opened in 1940, was recently demolished to make room for a modern baseball stadium that will seat 2,600. The new Loeb Stadium is scheduled to be ready by winter 2021.

Next door to Loeb Stadium is another big draw to Columbian Park. The zoo is home to wildlife such as a bald eagle, a laughing kookaburra and an emu. A new penguin exhibit also is under construction.

Loeb Stadium also is bounded by Tropicanoe Cove water park, which traditionally opens Memorial Day weekend.

Like Prophetstown, there’s also history to be found on the appropriately named Memorial Island. Dedicated in 1949 through the efforts of local patriotic and military organizations, Memorial Island is a permanent reminder of the price paid for our freedom. The tribute honors the men and women from Tippecanoe County who gave their lives defending our nation.

OTHER LAFAYETTE PARKS

Arlington Park, 1635 Arlington Road, is home to a playground, basketball and tennis courts, plus a picnic shelter.

Armstrong Park, 821 Beck Lane, is named in honor of Purdue graduate and first man on the moon Neil Armstrong. The large (30 acres) park has three youth baseball fields, five lighted tennis courts, lighted basketball courts, a playground and for fitness buffs, a 2/3 mile paved trail. Armstrong Park also is home to Castaway Bay aquatic center.

Centennial Park, Sixth and Brown streets, features a playground, basketball court and picnic shelter.

Hanna Park, 1201 N. 18th St., is located adjacent to the Hanna Community Center. It boasts unique playground equipment targeted for children ages 2-5 and 5-12. Hanna Park also is home to a basketball court and picnic shelter.

Tucked inside a north side neighborhood, Hedgewood Park, 2902 Beverly Lane, features plenty of green space and a playground.

Also on the north side, Linnwood Park, 1501 Greenbush St., is home to a basketball court, playground and picnic shelter.

Once home to the world horseshoe championships, Lyboult Sports Park, 1300 Canal Road, still has the horseshoe facility along with three lighted softball fields, a sand volleyball court and basketball courts.

McAllister Park on North Ninth Street is home for model plane enthusiasts and is part of the Wabash Heritage Trail.

As Lafayette’s east side began to grow in the latter part of the 20th century, McCaw Park, 3745 Union St., came into existence thanks to a $70,000 donation from William and Michele McCaw. At first, McCaw Park had three lighted youth baseball fields and a couple of picnic shelters. But in the past few years, a state-of-the-art playground and 12 pickleball courts have been added. 

Munger Park, 3505 Greenbush St., also exists today thanks to the generosity of Cinergy-PSI donating the 32 acres and a $100,000 contribution from Thomas and Alice Munger. A one-mile paved trail is surrounded by open space and curves around a pond. Fishing is permitted. There’s also a playground and a 100-seat picnic shelter available for rent.

Back in the heyday of Marion Crawley and Bill Berberian, high school basketball players would spend hours playing at Murdock Park, 2100 Cason St. Thanks to former Purdue standout Brian Cardinal, the remodeled Cardinal Court is still home to future stars. An overlooked feature of Murdock Park is the 39 acres of urban forest located just off 18th Street, one of Lafayette’s busiest streets. What little area isn’t occupied by nearly 40 variety of trees is home to a sled run that operates even when Mother Nature hasn’t provided enough of the white stuff. A challenging disc golf course is located near the Ferry Street border of Murdock Park. 

North Darby Park, 14 Darby Lane, features a basketball court and playground.

Tucked away alongside the Wabash River, Shamrock Park, 115 Samford St., is home to Lafayette’s first dog park. As you might expect of a riverfront park, there’s a small boat ramp. The 11-acre park also is home to a basketball court, horseshoes, an outdoor roller hockey rink, picnic areas, a playground and a volleyball court.

Recently renovated, SIA South Tipp Park, located at Third and Fountain streets, features two unique multi-age playgrounds, a half basketball court, a picnic shelter and a misting station.

Sterling Heights Park, 610 Harrington Drive, is Lafayette’s newest park and it has a neighborhood playground feel. There’s plenty of open green space, flower beds and shade trees surrounding the playground and picnic shelter.

Wedged into a corner along Ferry Street in between Erie and Sheridan streets, Stockton Park, 307 Erie St., has a spring-rider for small children, a swing and a picnic shelter.

WEST LAFAYETTE PARKS

Of the properties under the auspices of the West Lafayette Parks and Recreation Dept., the Celery Bog Nature Area is by far the largest. Including the Lilly Nature Center, it occupies 195 of the city’s 464 acres of recreational areas, picnic grounds, nature trails and playgrounds. 

Once upon a time, the Celery Bog, 1620 Lindberg Road, was a large vegetable farm. Now it is a sanctuary for rabbits, coyotes, opossums, nearly 120 different species of birds and other small mammals. Much of the acreage is contained by five wetland basins. The Lilly Nature Center features exhibits and educational programs available throughout the year.

Happy Hollow Park, 1301 Happy Hollow Road, is a great location for hiking or walking. There’s the 1-mile paved Trolley Line Trail that will appeal to hikers. Three different footpaths are available as well.

For the younger residents, there are two playgrounds. Older, active residents might enjoy the small softball field. Four picnic shelters have always been popular and available for reservations.

Cumberland Park is far more than the Arni Cohen Memorial softball fields drivers see while traveling on North Salisbury Street. Nearly half of the 62-acre complex is taken up by the Michaud-Sinninger Woods Nature Preserve and the large turf/soccer area.

There are also the community vegetable gardens, two lighted basketball courts, the Pony League baseball field and a volleyball court. 

Tapawingo Park, 100 Tapawingo Drive, contains the one-and-a-quarter mile paved Wabash Heritage Trail and a playground. When cold weather arrives, the Riverside Skating Center is a popular hangout.

Mascouten Park, 900 N. River Road, has easy access to the Wabash River with a boat ramp. Picnic tables also adorn the 15-acre park.

University Farm Park, 500 Lagrange St., contains playgrounds and a picnic shelter inside one of the city’s newer neighborhoods.

There’s something to do for all ages at George E. Lommel Park, 300 Wilshire Ave. A small softball field and soccer area provide plenty of space for older children. Two playgrounds and picnic tables make the park a nice place to spend an afternoon.

How many of you would have enjoyed a climbing boulder growing up? Peck-Trachtman Park, 3300 Dubois St., has one to go with a playground and picnic shelter.

Lincoln Park packs a lot into a half-acre lot at 255 Lincoln St.: A playground, picnic tables inside a 12-by-20-foot shelter and a swing set.

Formerly known as Centennial Neighborhood Park, Paula R. Woods Park was renamed in 2011 in honor of the former West Lafayette Board of Parks and Recreation member. This small park on the corner of Lawn Avenue and Vine Street is a fitting tribute to the lifetime resident of the New Chauncey Neighborhood. A small picnic shelter and a playground for pre-school children is appropriate for the neighborhood.

The Northwest Greenway Trail inside Trailhead Park, 1450 Kalberer Road, provides an experience with nature over its four acres. A picnic shelter and tables are also available.

A basketball court and exercise area are part of Tommy Johnston Park on 200 S. Chauncey St. Johnston was a long-time Purdue employee and president of the West Lafayette Board of Parks and Recreation for 14 of his 20 years on the board. A picnic shelter and swing set also occupy the half-acre park.

TIPPECANOE COUNTY PARKS

One relic of Indiana’s French heritage is Fort Ouiatenon (wee-ah-the-non), established along the Wabash River in 1717 as a fur trading post. Named for the Wea tribes in the area, Ouiatenon was one of Indiana’s earliest settlements. That heritage is recognized each fall with the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon. The replica blockhouse, built in 1930, is open weekends from mid-May to August. Programs and tours may be arranged through the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

Nearly 100 years after Fort Ouiatenon was established, another milestone moment in Indiana history took place in Battle Ground. On Nov. 11, 1811, General William Henry Harrison led his troops into battle against Tecumseh and his Native American confederation. The site of that battle, which led to Harrison becoming the ninth President of the United States, is the home of  Tippecanoe Battlefield Park, a National Historic Landmark.

Visitors can’t miss the 85-foot tall marble obelisk monument to the Battle of Tippecanoe. There’s also the Wah-ba-shik-a Nature Center, open daily from mid-April through early November. The Tippecanoe County Historical Association operates the museum inside the park that tells the story of Harrison’s victory. 

Nearby, the Tippecanoe County Amphitheater began as the home for an outdoor historical drama but in recent years has been home to summer concerts, festivals, weddings, picnics and high school cross country events. Soccer fields and hiking/biking trails also occupy the 166-acre campus.

Ross Hills Park and the adjoining Ross Camp is spread out over 380 acres off South River Road in West Lafayette. In addition to the restored David Ross House, visitors will enjoy the Sullivan and Hentschel picnic shelters, adjoining volleyball courts, hiking trails, wooded picnic sites and a softball backstop.

The scenic Ross Camp has nearly 200 wooded acres and is home to a chapel and dining hall ideal for weddings, receptions and banquets. A frame lodge is available for meetings and overnight retreats. If camping is more your style, a campground with modern and primitive sites is available. Other amenities include a catch-and-release fishing pond and hiking trails.

Speaking of hiking, the 13-mile Wabash Heritage Trail begins at Tippecanoe Battlefield Park and follows the Wabash River to Riehle Plaza in downtown Lafayette, back across the Wabash southward toward Fort Ouiatenon. Picnic tables and benches are available along the trail.

Part of the Wabash Heritage Trail, Davis Ferry Park – located on Ninth Street Road along the Wabash – also has a boat launch and picnic area.

Granville Park also offers boat access to the Wabash River, located just off South River Road.

Wildcat Park provides not only canoe access to Wildcat Creek, but is available for fishing and picnicking.


Mar Len Park has been home to outstanding softball for decades, most recently the Indiana Magic girls team. A picnic shelter is also located on the site just south of Wea Ridge Elementary School on County Road 150 E.

BY KEN THOMPSON
STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY

With the calendar pointing to spring, there are plenty of opportunities in Greater Lafayette for people who’ve had enough of being cooped up indoors and are ready to get out and exercise.

Whether it’s running, cycling or playing a newer sport – pickleball anyone? – there’s no excuse to not get into shape. Three local groups welcome beginners as well as long-time participants and those with experience somewhere in between.

Wabash River Cycle Club

The Wabash River Cycle Club was founded in 1978, and it continues to prosper more than 40 years later because there are rides available for just about every level of cyclist. For the advanced rider, there are mountain bike trails and gravel roads. For the beginner and intermediate cyclists, there are rides featuring bike paths and roads.

Long-time club member Gary Brouillard, a member of the group’s executive board, offers these reasons for joining the Wabash River Cycle Club:

• Having a group to ride with for safety, companionship, encouragement and improving your biking skills;

• Access to the list serve for changes to calendar rides and for rides not listed on the calendar;

• Learning various safe bicycle routes; and

• The knowledge available within the membership.

As of January, there were 217 club members, a number that does not break down family memberships. To Brouillard’s knowledge, 90-year-old Gilbert Satterly is the only founding member who still belongs to the club.

Board member Molly Cripe Birt says in the past year, 280 riders logged more than 161,522 miles. 

The club boasts that it provides a great social scene not just for the cyclists but for their families and friends as well. The 501c non-profit group offers annual memberships for families ($40), individuals ($30) and students ($15). To join, go to wrcc-in.org/page/join#join. 

The club’s big annual event is the Wabash River Ride, set this year for Aug. 29 starting at Fort Ouiatenon, on South River Road in West Lafayette. Cyclists have a variety of routes to choose from, covering Tippecanoe, Fountain and Warren counties. Routes cover distances of 33, 47, 66 or 100 miles. In addition to scenic views of the Wabash River, riders could see area landmarks such as the Rob Roy Covered Bridge, historic Williamsport Bridge and the Fountain County Church.

Cumberland Park will host the club’s New Rider Callout in May. Cripe says the callout will include a 1- to 2-hour ride as well as a donut social and a fun lunch. Information will be available about other club activities and membership signup.

May is a busy month for the club. A weekly Wabash River Cycling Club Women’s Ride will offer rides based upon skill and speed. Within the weekly rides will be an educational feature called Stand Nights. Here, women can learn bike skills, maintenance and female-related cycling issues. 

The Wabash River Cycling Club also will support Bike to Work Week activities in Greater Lafayette.

Wabash River Runners Club

If you prefer two feet to two-wheeled transportation, the Wabash River Runners Club welcomes runners of all levels, from recreational jogger to the competitive road racer. The group was formed in the mid-1980s and in four decades membership has reached nearly 250.

Weekly group runs take place on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tapawingo Park is the starting point for Wednesday’s group runs, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday’s run begins at 8 a.m. from the West Lafayette Panera Bread location in Wabash Landing. An early start from Café Literato on Sunday, 7 a.m., caps the week. 

When warmer weather arrives in Greater Lafayette, the Wabash River Runners Club holds two race series: a Farmers Market 5K out of the Cumberland Park farmers market and a trail race series of varying distances out of Battle Ground Memorial Park, according to club president Natalia Sanchez.

Annual membership fees are $15 for individuals, $25 for couples and $35 for families. Those who register online at runlafin.org will incur an additional $1 processing fee. Membership is not necessary to participate in a run, but club members do gather for additional workouts to improve speed, weight training and hill climbing.

The club’s website offers valuable tips for training for a 5K race, half or full marathons and trail runs.

Sponsored races include The Purdue Challenge 5K Run/Walk. The race begins and ends at Ross-Ade Stadium and all the money raised goes to support cancer research at the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. The event’s website, raceroster.com, boasts that in the previous 12 years, the Purdue Challenge has raised more than $1 million for cancer research.

Another event is the ninth annual Purdue Boilermaker Half Marathon/5K, set for Oct. 17, with the start/finish at Ross-Ade Stadium. Register at purduehalf.com.

Lafayette Pickleball Association

Despite the name, pickleball has nothing to do with the condiment you might find on your hamburger. Instead it’s a game that’s been around since the 1960s when it began as a children’s backyard activity.

It’s a paddleball sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Like those sports, two or four players can participate in a match. Holding solid paddles, the players attempt to hit a perforated ball that might remind some of a Wiffle Ball, over a net.

The wife of one of the game’s founders, Joel Pritchard, called it pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from leftovers of the other boats.”

Another of the founders, Barney McCallum, claims the game was named after the Pritchard’s dog, Pickles. The dog would chase the ball and run off with it, McCallum said.

The Lafayette Indiana Pickleball Association’s roots trace back to May 2011, according to membership official Cheryl Parker. Tom Plummer and friends Joe Yuill, Dick Wiegand, Max Fitzgerald, Vern Mayrose and Jim Ciccarelli met at Armstrong Park. They played pickleball with homemade paddles composed of cutoff old tennis racket handles and pieces of plywood.

Others saw the group playing and by winter, the roster of players reached 18. That winter, the group petitioned the Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department to paint permanent pickleball lines on the tennis courts at McCaw Park.

Today, the Lafayette Pickleball Association boasts more than 250 members and says that the sport is the nation’s fastest growing. Some proof of that can be seen at McCaw Park, which hosts a 12-court complex for pickleball that was dedicated in the summer of 2018 in partnership with the Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department. 

Five sites are available for indoor play. The Lyn Treece Boys and Girls Club, 1529 N. 10th St., Lafayette, has three tiled courts available during the public school year. Cost is $2 per session or $20 a month. Portable nets and balls are provided to association members.

The YWCA, 605 N. Sixth St., Lafayette, is open to association members. Cost is $3 per session. Portable nets and balls are provided to association members. Three courts on a wood gym floor are available.

Five striped pickleball courts on a wood gym floor are available at the Lafayette YMCA, 3001 Creasy Lane. A single court can be reserved for one hour but YMCA membership is required. Guest passes are available. Also, players must provide their own pickleballs. 

Faith East Community Center has two tiled courts available for play. Cost is $2. Nets and balls will be provided for association members.

Also, Purdue’s Cordova Recreational Sports Center offers multiple wood courts and nets are available, but players are asked to bring their own pickleballs. The facility is open to members but non-members are welcome to purchase a one-day pass for $7.

Annual membership fees are $30 for individuals and $50 for families. The Lafayette Pickleball Association offers lessons for beginners and supports all levels of play from recreational to highly competitive.

Lafayette Boxing Club

For decades now, local youths and young adults have learned the skill of boxing and developing into Golden Gloves participants.

Club president Terry Christian, a former Golden Gloves state champion under the guidance of club founder Sherman Depew, takes pride in the club’s history, which began as the Twin Cities Boxing Club. In addition to 1993 National Golden Gloves light middleweight champion Darnell Wilson, the Lafayette Boxing Club has produced multiple state individual and team champions while providing facilities and training at no charge to its members. 

Its current home is 2423 Poland Hill Road in Lafayette.

Lafayette Bike Polo

A game that has been a part of the Olympics (a demonstration sport in 1908), the Lafayette Bike Polo club is based at Shamrock Park.

The game is just like it sounds, polo on bicycles instead of horses, with teams of three or five. The only other equipment needed is a mallet and a polo ball. 

For more information, including how to participate, email lafayettehardcourt@gmail.com.

BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

Chic. Hip. Trendy.

These are the words that come to mind when one pictures living in an urban downtown. Surrounded by high-rise buildings, eclectic architecture and nightlife — it’s a young sophisticate’s dream. 

And it’s available right here in River City. 

Downtown, right on the riverfront, a short walk to the courthouse, with stunning views — it’s the hip and happening place to live in Lafayette. 

And if you want to be part of it, brace yourself: There may be a wait.

Destination of choice

When Ben McCartney and Cathleen Campbell moved to town in 2018, downtown was their preference on where to live. McCartney actually grew up in West Lafayette. But after being away for several years living near the East Coast, he and his new wife decided they wanted that urban feel.

“When moving to Lafayette, Cathleen and I were hoping to embrace what small-town life has to offer,” says McCartney. “For us that meant walking to work, walking to church and walking to our favorite restaurants and hang-out spots.” 

It’s been a perfect fit for the two of them; McCartney walks to work at Purdue University, and they’ve found their niche with places to eat downtown. They wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Convenience and charm 

Proximity to bars and restaurants plus the ability to walk places are all reasons given for opting to live downtown, says relocation specialist Faye Cole of Lafayette Relocation Services.

“Part of it is just the charm of living downtown,” Cole says, “A lot of my clients are younger people. They love to be able to walk to bars and restaurants, and they don’t want to risk getting a DUI.”

Downtown culture is a big draw, says Kelsey Talbot, property manager with W.H. Long. Adding to that, the allure of the uniqueness of the architecture makes it a desirable place for young professionals to get their start. 

“The downtown market is hot,” she says. “The proximity to campus without being on it, that’s a really big draw.”

Plus, she says, people are attracted to the historic buildings. 

“The exposed brick, the character of these buildings,” she says. “You don’t get that everywhere. The corner units with downtown views — people really like that aesthetic, being in the heart of things.”  

Yet it’s not just young people who opt for life downtown. 

“We see all walks of life in terms of ages and lifestyle,” Talbot says. She sees graduate students who want to be near campus, but not right in the heart of the undergraduate party scene, which can be a little loud and rambunctious. She also sees Purdue faculty and professionals who travel frequently, thus they don’t want the upkeep of a house and a lawn. 

“Downtown draws a lot of different people in; so many people are here for different reasons.” 

Arts and culture at your fingertips

Part of the attraction of living in downtown Lafayette is the proximity to entertainment, arts and culture. 

For some people, it’s the convenience of being able to walk to so many restaurants and bars. And the options don’t disappoint — downtown Lafayette is home to more than 20 eateries, with food options from hamburgers and pizza, Italian, sushi, pub fare and high-end dining with fine wines. Plenty of these restaurants offer patio seating for warm weather dining. And for people who live just up the block, these all come without the hassle of searching for parking.

And for others, it’s access to performances and nightlife. Downtown Lafayette is home to multiple art galleries, which open their doors several times each year to host downtown Gallery Walks. Many bars offer live musical performances by local bands. And regular performances by local performing arts groups are featured downtown, including Civic Theatre, the Lafayette Master Chorale, the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra and the Tippecanoe Chamber Music Society — all of which perform in downtown theaters and churches. 

The Long Center for the Performing Arts and the Lafayette Theater both bring in outside programming, an eclectic variety of shows geared toward audiences of all ages. 

There are multiple houses of worship downtown that also are easily accessible. Fun and funky gift shops, antique stores and bookstores — locally owned — offer fun for both buyers and browsers alike. The county library is convenient. And from May to October, the downtown farmers market offers shopping for high-quality food items from local vendors. 

Downtown festivals are another big draw. The aforementioned Gallery Walks keep downtown alive on Friday evenings throughout the warmer months. Mosey Down Main Street, designed to highlight upper Main Street, also draws crowds, as it features local musical performances and eateries. The annual Taste of Tippecanoe features multiple stages with live performances and dozens of local restaurants. Lafayette’s giant Independence Day celebration also is downtown, with fireworks being lit from the pedestrian bridge over the river. And come December, the Christmas parade and Dickens of a Christmas bring a fun and festive holiday air — again, right downtown. 

Downtown residents get to take part in all of these celebrations and activities — again, minus the frustration of looking for parking. It’s a perfect mix, says Talbot.

“You’re a part of downtown but not right in the middle of it,” she says. “You still have some quiet and serenity when you want it.”

For some young people, being right in the midst of things is a lifestyle choice. Talbot finds that a lot of her younger clients are committed to living more sustainably, to buying local and living in a community they know well. For them, downtown living means they drive less and frequent businesses with whom they have a relationship.

“Buying local, supporting small businesses,” she says. “You see that familiar face — it makes you want to go back and be a part of it.”

Options for living

Just like the people who live downtown, the downtown residences are not all the same. From quirky lofts to high-end luxury apartments, downtown dwellings come in all shapes and sizes. 

Many apartments are part of buildings that are around a century old. For example, the historic Schultz Building, 216 N. Fourth St., is a mixed-use building with businesses on the main floors and apartments above. An older building, the units feature high ceilings with an urban loft feel, some with exposed brick and vents and tall windows, giving a panoramic view of downtown. The apartments vary, from studio to two bedrooms, anywhere from 460 square feet to nearly 900. They all come with renovated kitchens with a dishwasher, garbage disposal and microwave. Plus, each unit comes with in-unit laundry facilities. 

Contrast the older architecture with the Marq apartments, just a few blocks away on Second Street. The Marq is brand-new construction with more of a luxury high-rise ambience. The apartments have private balconies, walk-in closets, in-unit laundry and garage parking. Upper floors have stunning views of the Wabash River.  

Multiple other complexes are scattered throughout downtown, from the Lahr Apartments — a former hotel — to Renaissance Place, across from Riehle Plaza. And all over downtown are various apartments hidden above shops and storefronts, all with a variety of floorplans and amenities. 

Drawbacks

For some people, worrying about parking might make living downtown a bit intimidating. Talbot says there are places to rent a space that are affordable. And Cole, whose office is downtown, says the lack of parking downtown is exaggerated. 

“The perception is there’s no downtown parking,” she says. “In my experience, I can always find a parking space within one block of where I’m going,” 

Plus, with the Connector Bus, which runs between downtown and Purdue University every 20 minutes, it’s easy to get from one place to another. 

Safety might be a concern for some, with downtown areas generally having a reputation as being a bit more gritty and edgy. Also not true, says Cole.

“There is no place in Lafayette/West Lafayette I wouldn’t park my car and still get out and walk,” she says. “We’re still a better community than most of them.”

And for people who might rent in a building that does not offer standard amenities such as laundry and workout facilities, those places are all available downtown, just a short walk. 

If living downtown sounds like the perfect fit for you, be prepared: Vacancies are few. Talbot says there is a waiting list, with most places near capacity. 

“In the last two years, prices have shot up,” Cole says. “There’s beautiful new construction, but it’s executive housing. Affordable housing will soon be lacking.”

For McCartney and Campbell, living downtown has proven to be exactly what they were looking for.

“Downtown Lafayette has so much going for it that it’s been super easy to live mostly on foot,” McCartney says. “And with new restaurants — and the spring — just around the corner, we’re excited to continue to live downtown!”

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.

Flour Mill Bakery, Rossville

facebook.com/flourmillbakery

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. 

Gigi’s Cupcakes, Lafayette

gigiscupcakesusa.com

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. 

Great Harvest Bread Company

greatharvestlafayette.com

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. 

Mary Lou Donuts, Lafayette

maryloudonuts.com

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.” 

Scones and Doilies, Lafayette

sconesanddoilies.com

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. 

Smittybread, Lafayette

smittybread.com

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.

Stone House Restaurant and Bakery, Delphi

facebook.com/stonehouserestaurantandbakerydelphi

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. 

Sweet Revolution Bake Shop, Lafayette

sweetrevolutionbakeshop.com

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. 

Two Guys Catering and Bakery, Brookston and Lafayette

twoguyscateringandbakery.com

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 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.

Lafayette Farmers Market

lafayettefarmersmarket.com

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.

Purdue Farmers Market

lafayettefarmersmarket.com

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 sustainability@purdue.edu or visit the market to sign up for a weekly newsletter.

West Lafayette Farmers Market

facebook.com/westlafayettefarmersmarket

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.

Carnahan Hall Winter Market

lafayettefarmersmarket.com

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 ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS BY ALEXANDER VERTIKOFF

Imagining the evergreen-adorned lot off Northwestern Avenue that John and Catherine Christian had chosen for their new home, Frank Lloyd Wright thought of the papery winged seeds that twirl and flutter to the ground like helicopters — but not the large, long ones that take flight from maple trees, or even their lesser-known sisters from the elm, ash or basswood. 

Most people, John Christian later wrote to a group of inquisitive sixth graders at Benton Elementary School, “do not know that there are winged seeds in pine cones. Mr. Wright knew this and chose them to design my house. 

“From the tiny winged seeds of pine cones, he made an artistic sketch as the logo for my house. He called his design SAMARA and used it for many designs both inside and outside.”

Even back in 1956 when SAMARA was completed, says Linda Eales, associate curator, the Christians understood the historical significance of their Wright-designed home, a Usonian style tailored to more moderate incomes. Thanks to the couple’s foresight and discipline, SAMARA – whose namesake stylized pattern repeats in elements from the living room rug to the perforated window boards — remains largely unchanged 64 years later. 

Now a museum home supported by the family’s trust, the 2,220-square-foot structure stands as a testament to a uniquely American style by quite possibly the most famous architect that ever lived, and surely the most renowned builder who designed for the middle class. Secluded by a line of foliage across the road from Mackey Arena, and surrounded by Mid-century and Colonial neighbors in the Hills and Dales neighborhood, SAMARA is also a hidden treasure of Greater Lafayette. 

AFFORDABLE IDEALISM

Wright, who had a reputation for caring more about aesthetics than budget, devised the Usonian in the wake of the Great Depression. According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the home style was named after “Usonia” (United States of North America), a term attributed to writer James Duff Law, who had written in 1903, “We of the United States, in justice to Canadians and Mexicans, have no right to use the title ‘Americans’ when referring to matters pertaining exclusively to ourselves.” 

In his quest to build more affordably, Wright began experimenting with less labor-intensive practices that would still embody his vision of an ideal architecture unique to the U.S. Like his earlier Prairie style, Usonians had low-slung flat roofs, vast living rooms, built-in furniture, and abundant natural light, but on a more modest scale. Wright substituted carports for garages, created perforated window boards to replace pricey custom stained glass, and, to make the homes appear more expansive, incorporated a compress-and-release design in which a small room opens to a much larger space.

“He was an architect of light and an architect of space,” says Eales. 

EXPECTATIONS & COMPROMISE

In Usonians, Wright often combined the living and dining areas as a cost-saving measure, but that was a non-starter for the Christians, who frequently invited friends to dinner and also envisioned using their home for salons, an 18th century Parisian throwback that brought together friends for intellectual discourse. The living room should accommodate up to 50 guests, the couple said.  

Catherine “Kay” Christian was a social director at Purdue University, and her husband was a College of Pharmacy professor who traveled around the world to teach the safe handling of nuclear materials. “Mrs. Christian was very formal and wanted draperies and carpet,” Eales says. “They worked together over five years to design this house.” 

Wright never actually visited the lot, but Kay Christian painstakingly set her expectations for the architect, putting together a 26-page document titled “What We Need for How We Live.” Based on a quiz book she had read on home planning, the booklet contained a table of contents, biographies on both Christians, a list of storage needs, and details on the wooded terrain. 

“She included a topographical map and a panoramic photograph of the lot, that was taken by her as she snapped one picture, turn a bit, then take another, et cetera,” Eales says. “So, he had a good idea of what the lot was like.”

Although Wright was well known for his oversized personality, his relationship with the Christians appears to have been collegial. The architect agreed to give the couple plans for furnishings they couldn’t afford to complete right away. “He brought them to his way of thinking as well,” Eales says. “They did not get a garage or basement.”  

Kay Christian also asked Wright for more vibrant colors than were typical of his designs, and he obliged by asking for help from his third wife, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, a self-styled interior decorator. The signature colors of SAMARA became turquoise and Wright’s Cherokee Red, which complemented the home’s brick, crafted in Attica, Indiana, like many Purdue buildings. As is typical of Wright-built homes that repeat exterior elements inside, the brick was left exposed on several interior walls, and the mortar in the horizontal lines was trimmed back to emphasize the flat Midwestern landscape. 

Some 20 years later, Mrs. Christian asked for a palette update from Mrs. Wright, who was tied up with other projects but assigned two apprentices to the project. Just as turquoise and red had reflected the design sentiments of the 1950s, the refresh was very much in keeping with the 1970s, with avocado green, goldenrod and burnt orange cushions adorning the 15-person banquette, swivel chairs and sofa in the vast living room. Those colors are still the palette today. A few vestiges of the original turquoise can be seen in the gate at the end of the home’s driveway and in linens in the guest bedroom.

ARCHITECTURAL INGENUITY

Wright kept furniture costs down by crafting pieces from plywood covered in Philippine mahogany veneer, but the Christians still couldn’t afford all the custom pieces at once. As a compromise, he suggested that the couple purchase some of his mass-produced pieces that had not done well commercially; finally, in 1989, the Christians were able to build the originally planned dining room table and chairs. The custom living room rug was added later as well.

Wright also picked out china to complement the house, a formal Lenox Cretin and a less informal Fitz and Floyd Dragon Crest. John Christian later purchased Wright-designed china for his guests to admire, including Tiffany-produced china for the Imperial Hotel in Japan. Today, the dining room features a mélange of china and nesting dolls and other art collected by the couple when John Christian lectured in Russia, Thailand, Japan, Africa, South America and India.

In contrast to the oversized living room, Wright designed a modestly sized two-room kitchen, which still houses the original dishwasher and the 1948 stove the Christians bought when they first married. While bulkheads were a common feature in 1950s homes, the cabinets in SAMARA reach all the way to the ceiling for more storage. And for the couple who loved to entertain, Wright designed a rolling cart to match the cabinets that could be cranked up and down to service the homeowners in the kitchen and at the dining table. 

The architect’s ingenuity is also present in the TV trays, comprised of a flat top and a separate folding base adorned with the home’s signature winged seed design; a hidden TV cabinet in the living room; and a built-in desk in the guest bedroom. Cantilevered to make room for the window curtains, the desk has drawers for clothes instead of shelves to hold office supplies that a weekend guest would not need. 

SUBCONSCIOUS HARMONY

In his never-ending quest to bring the outside in, Wright also designed the guest bedroom with a wall of brick and a French door secreted into an expanse of windows so that guests could walk outside without having to venture through more public areas of the house. 

Along with the master bedroom, the home’s original nursery, built for the Christians’ daughter, Linda, is closed to the public. Once she sorts through the items being stored there, Eales says, those rooms may be opened as well. 

In the meantime, guests can enjoy the home’s landscaping, also designed by Wright. Bordered by a double brick wall and a vegetative barrier, the garden boasts exterior walkways, terraces and courtyards through which guests can wind their way while enjoying the expansive foliage. 

Just like the inside, SAMARA’s exterior is marked by a series of four-by-four elements as a unifying element. A hallmark of Usonian style, Eales says, was designing on a grid: “In our case he gave us a four-foot square-grid.” 

Outside, the lights in the deck and the posts supporting the terrace are four feet apart. Inside, the perforated boards over the windows are four feet wide, and the curtains hang every four feet to match the width of the plate glass windows. The lights in the living room bookshelves are four feet apart. The cushions in the living room also are four feet wide, and the doors underneath for storage measure four feet as well. “It gives you a harmony that is subconscious,” Eales says. 

In 1957, Eales says, Wright gave a talk in Indianapolis, and the Christians heard that he was coming. Kay Christian wrote him a note and said the home was 65 miles away, and wouldn’t he want to come visit? 

“He wrote back saying, ‘I’m sorry but I’m just too busy now. But I don’t need to see your house. I know what it looks like,’” Eales says. 

“He had walked through those rooms a million times in his mind. He said, ‘Never put anything down on paper until you have it all worked out in your mind.’”

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 CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

As colder weather sets in for an extended stay, our tastes turn toward a different type of cuisine. Gone are longings for cold salads, fresh fruit and meat straight off the grill, replaced with the sights and smells of winter. 

It’s comfort food time. Food that makes us feel special. 

Anything that makes people feel warm and cozy can be considered comfort food, says Ambarish Lulay, executive chef of East End Grill. 

“It’s a little bit indulgent, a little bit richer than what we normally eat on a day-to-day basis,” Lulay says. “It takes you to a happy place, makes you feel at home. 

“Usually there is some sort of a strong memory associated with it, that mom or grandma used to make. Those food memories are very important.”

Throughout Lafayette, different restaurants create comfort food in a variety of ways. 

Bistro 501

Comfort food is all about how the individual chooses to define it, says Bistro 501 co-owner and executive chef Cheyenne Buckley. 

“To me, comfort food is just the thing that no matter what you’re deciding on eating always sounds good,” she says, “For me, that would be my mom’s pot roast. It’s always in my mind.”

But for others, it will depend on where they grew up, or how they were fed growing up. Because comfort food is so ensconced with memory, with family and tradition. 

As winter sets in, Buckley infuses a little taste of Thanksgiving traditions into several of Bistro’s entrées. It’s subtle enough that people may not notice it right away. But as those dishes are so familiar, sneaking in a cranberry gastrique and cornbread stuffing with the duck helps evoke those memories of holidays past. 

“You take a bite and you’re transported,” she says. 

A popular cold-weather item is the duck poutine. Buckley puts the Bistro’s own spin on it, adding thyme, goat cheese and cherries soaked in cognac. 

“It’s rich and it satisfies and hits all the flavors,” she says. 

The brunch menu has familiar items, such as biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles. And the chicken pot pie — another popular comfort item — makes a return. 

“Everybody waits impatiently for that to come back,” she says. 

Everyone derives satisfaction from familiar flavors, from gravy, cheese and casseroles. This year, Bistro introduced cassoulet, a French casserole. 

“It’s fun to explore different cultures,” Buckley says.  

The dessert menu also offers some familiar flavors. Gone is key lime pie, replaced instead with bread pudding with caramel whiskey sauce, fruit cobbler and sticky toffee carrot cake — another perennial favorite.

The flavors may vary a bit, but the basic dishes will seem familiar enough.

“The comfort food we have resonates with us and my upbringing,” Buckley says. “We try to stay true to the Midwest. The regionality influences us for sure.”

East End Grill

When East End puts away the summer menu staples of tomatoes, grilling and crunchy salads, thoughts turn toward fall and winter, Lulay says.

“When I think of menus, I’m thinking of fall ingredients, fall flavors and fall methods,” he says. 

For East End, this means slow braising of meats, fall greens, butternut squash, parsnips and Brussels sprouts. 

Sauces get richer, and flavors are sweet and savory, using butter and capers, tarragon. 

Lulay likes to braise shanks, long and low.

“You sneak in things that work toward that,” he says. “Aromas of thyme, garlic and rosemary.”

Pastas remain on the menu, but they have a bit of a heavier, creamier sauce. Macaroni and cheese is a favorite. 

Desserts change with the season, as well, with fruit cobblers coming in to play. Flavors such as apple and cinnamon work well. 

Sometimes, it’s just taking a menu item and tweaking it a bit to change for cooler weather. Don’t worry — the signature shrimp and grits are not going anywhere.

“That’s truly the power of comfort food,” Lulay says. “There are summer memories of mac and cheese. Even if it’s heavy, it still works.”

Walt’s Pub and Grill and Walt’s Other Pub

Comfort food, says Walt Foster, evokes memories of how your grandmother used to cook. 

“It’s heavier, it’s usually potatoes, usually larger portions,” he says. “It’s feel-good.”

At Walt’s Pub and Grill and the Other Pub, it means country fried steaks, Manhattans, chicken and waffles. 

It’s also about heavier soups and stews.

“We’re probably one of the few restaurants in town that makes homemade soups and chowders,” Foster says. Thus, for winter, that translates into cream-based soups, chowders — seafood and clam chowder — and cream of mushroom soup. 

The Lafayette location is known for its signature white chili; in West Lafayette, it’s a red chili. Desserts change, too, with warm fruit desserts and bread pudding. 

“We get excited about football season and fall,” Foster says, and the menu reflects that change. 

There are fireplaces in both locations, and as the temperatures lower, sitting there, in the glow of the fireplace, “It’s warm and cozy,” he says. “That’s what we call comfort.”

Arni’s

Arni’s is a Lafayette institution. Arni Cohen opened the first restaurant at Market Square in 1965; it has since grown to several locations around the state. But for people who grew up in Lafayette or who attended Purdue University, a visit back to town means a chance to “Meet you at Arni’s.”

Thus, a visit to Arni’s is, in and of itself, a foray into comfort food.

“It’s a nostalgia thing, a family tradition from when they were younger,” says marketing director Liz Hahn.

The menu at Arni’s remains pretty consistent all year long. Items like pizza, salads, sandwiches and subs are always available and always popular with patrons. 

And people who make a visit to Arni’s at Market Square almost always want to peek into the Toy Room. The room has remained virtually unchanged for years, even after renovations that have updated the restaurant, says Hahn. But guests like to pop their head in, check if the toys are in the same place they remember from their childhood. There is one particular clown that people always wonder about. No worries, says Hahn. It’s still there. 

And for those who would like to send the special flavor of Arni’s pizza to someone who has moved away, fear not — Arni’s ships its pizzas all over the United States. Comfort mail delivered to the front door!

Nine Irish Brothers

“The first part of comfort food is that it’s literally warming as well as figuratively,” says Matt Rose, a partner in Nine Irish Brothers.

And nothing is as emblematic of comfort food as pub fare. Guinness stew, shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage — meat and potatoes are the heart of comfort food. 

About three quarters of the Nine Irish Brothers menu doesn’t really change for winter, Rose says. But as fall comes around, they change things up a bit. They introduce a Manhattan — a beef sandwich with gravy — that clearly fits the mold. 

“For a lot of people, it’s ‘Oh, my mom used to make this,’ ” Rose says. 

Entrées that are heavier and more cream-based are more popular, items like fisherman’s pie, with fish, shrimp and mussels, with the requisite mashed potatoes and cheese. 

And for the pièce de résistance? Irish coffee: a combination of coffee, whiskey, sugar and whipped cream.

“It’s got all the important food groups,” Rose says. “Nothing makes you feel better. “I think it’s the very definition of comfort food.”

BY KARIS PRESSLER

Just inside the Northend Community Center, to the right of the main entrance, is a bulletin board with a spray-painted title that reads “Community @ Work.”  Guests and volunteers brush past the corkboard peppered with job announcements while heading toward meetings, the pool, the indoor PlaySpace, or any of the nonprofit organizations housed inside the building. The space around the board seems to inhale and exhale every time the automatic front doors swish open and front desk volunteers greet guests.

Several steps from the front desk Rod Hutton works in his office.  As director of Northend, Hutton sees the comings and goings of almost everyone who passes through the community center.

“If you want to see a happening place, you need to visit the Senior Center,” says Hutton, while pointing to a set of doors just around the corner.

On this morning at the Tippecanoe Senior Center, more than 25 seniors play bid euchre, where cards feverishly flutter toward the center of tables, and the sound of knuckles knocking on wood echoes as players signal their wish to pass.  While the groups play, several Meals on Wheels volunteers buzz about, preparing to serve the day’s lunch.

Meanwhile, tucked into a quiet corner, the Senior Center’s Art Expressions group creates.  Here, Barbara German paints a landscape of a rowboat resting on calm water, while Kay Pickett puts the finishing touches on a painted replica of the quilt square that hangs from her family’s barn in Michigan.

There’s life and light, color and sound in this space, and throughout many community centers in Greater Lafayette.

This is a community at work.

Faith East, Faith West and Northend community centers

“It’s one continual history,” explains Hutton, when considering the organic spread of Faith’s community centers throughout Greater Lafayette that started when Faith East opened in 2007, followed by Faith West in 2013, and the Northend Community Center in 2018.

Sharing a common connection through Faith Church, each Faith community center works to meet the unique needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.  Faith East caters to the recreational and childcare needs of those living on the east side of town, while Faith West offers housing and programs for Purdue’s students, faculty and international community.

Northend, the largest community center in Faith’s network, nurtures partnerships with 13 area organizations that have dedicated space either inside or next to the community center.

Hutton explains that being able to collaborate with established organizations that serve the community well — such as Bauer Family Resources, Hanna Community Center and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Lafayette — is “a big piece of what makes the Northend tick,” because it allows everyone to connect.

At Northend, a dedicated team of volunteers known as The Care Team spends more than 50 hours a week addressing the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of community members.  

“What they do is sit down and listen, hear the story, understand and build a relationship,” explains Hutton.  He continues, “We need to be able to understand where people are coming from.  The attitude of empathy and understanding is one of the best things we can do to actually help.”  Although the Care Team may not be able to fix needs immediately, team members work to connect individuals to resources, including the organizations inside of Northend that are equipped to help.

Hutton shares that there are no current plans to build additional Faith community centers.  “We want to grow what we have right now. … We will always continue to dream, but right now what we’ve been dreaming about is how can we grow and love the community with the facilities that God has blessed us with.”

River City Community Center

River City Community Center, located on Old U.S. 231, is the newest community center to open in Greater Lafayette.

“The question that I’ve gotten from many community members is, ‘Can I use this space?’  And the answer is, ‘Absolutely!’” says Terry Gilbert, director of the community center.

“This center is about reaching out to the community, it’s about engaging in partnerships both with individuals, nonprofits and businesses.  We hope that it will be like an intersection between those that are of faith, and the business and commerce world,” he explains.  

The center is currently collaborating with Purdue’s School of Nursing in a service grant that aims to assess healthcare needs, and also works with Food Finders to host a bi-monthly River City Market Food Pantry.  “We have the pleasure of serving 300 to 400 people out of this food pantry every month,” Gilbert says.

Whenever Gilbert needs a reminder of River City Community Center’s purpose, he recalls this story.

“This was maybe two years ago, it was summer,” he begins.  

“I was here with a group of Purdue students; they’re connected through (River City Church’s) program called Chi Alpha. They were here doing some landscaping work for us, pulling up weeds and stuff like that.” 

The building, a former grocery store that sat abandoned since 2005, had just been donated to River City Church, and Gilbert brought the students inside the cavernous space to share his vision for the future community center. Suddenly, a woman entered and exclaimed, “Who’s in charge of all this?”

Gilbert recalls introducing himself and gently asking the woman if there was anything he could help her with, as the 20 college students watched.

Then the woman began to cry.

She said, “I just want you to know that I’ve been living in this neighborhood for almost 20 years. And this place has been an absolute eyesore. And every time I look at it I was like, ‘This would be a great place for kids to come play.’… ‘I cannot thank God enough for you guys and what you’re doing in this community because this community really needs something like this.’” She then retrieved $1.26 from her pocket, handed it to Gilbert and said, “This is all I have right now. Can you use this?”

“That’s who we owe it to,” says Gilbert – the citizens of Lafayette’s south side who want to invest and see their corner of the city continue to develop and grow.

Lafayette Family YMCA

Walking into the Lafayette Family YMCA feels a little like walking into a town nestled within a town.  

The sprawling 120,000-square-foot space located on South Creasy Lane hosts a steady stream of people en route to exercise classes, the gym, the pool, IU Health and Franciscan healthcare appointments, child care and more.  More than 3,700 individuals enter the facility every day.

As Paul Cramer, president and CEO of Lafayette YMCA, gives a guided tour of the facility he opens a set of secure doors and enters Junior Achievement (JA) BizTown.  Here, storefronts of familiar local businesses such as PEFCU, Caterpillar, and Kirby Risk line a miniaturized main street.  Then, it suddenly becomes clear.  This really is a town inside a town.

“You may want to move off the grass there, you could get a citation from the city,” jokes Cramer.  He points to a painted patch of grass covering the cement floor and then motions toward the Lafayette City Government office several steps away.  “There’s city council, there’s the mayors, there’s the CEOs, they’re here for the whole day,” he says of the 12,000 students who will visit this JA BizTown space throughout the school year to learn in this virtual setting.

Cramer’s energy crescendos as he explains.  “So, they’re going to learn financial literacy in the preschool programs (at the YMCA), here they can learn it in the elementary, middle and high school.  Then Ivy Tech takes them through the college level.”   

This is the heartbeat of the YMCA – connecting people of all ages to positive programming whose long-reaching effects can spill over into successive generations.  Cramer explains that the mindset at Greater Lafayette YMCA is “Infants to infinity … we want to be multigenerational in reaching and experiencing.”

After opening in December 2018, this facility has become a shining example for YMCAs across the country.  “So, everything in this building was designed about partnerships and collaborations.  That’s why this is a new model for the country,” explains Cramer, who says that planning for this facility began over a decade ago when leaders from Ivy Tech approached the organization hoping to form a partnership.  

Building the new YMCA on a plot of land just steps from Ivy Tech’s Lafayette campus now gives Ivy Tech students everything from affordable childcare, access to the fitness center, and an invitation to join classmates in the gym when the school hosts athletic events with other Ivy Tech campuses.

In addition to working closely with Ivy Tech, the YMCA also partnered with Franciscan Health and IU Health to create space within the facility for healthcare services.  More than 300 patients a day visit the facility to receive physical and occupational rehabilitation, then are encouraged to continue exercising at the YMCA once their rehabilitation goals are met.

Collaboration is key, according to Cramer.  “Really I think what helped this move along so well was the wonderful relationship between the county and the city and how they work together in a collaborative way.  And that’s what this is.  Our theme here is, ‘We complete one another.  We don’t compete with one another’… It’s really a community that works together.”

Greater Lafayette YWCA

Greater Lafayette YWCA had a lot to celebrate as 2019 marked the 90th year of the organization’s presence in Lafayette, the 50th year of the YWCA Foundation, 40th year of the Domestic Violence Intervention and Prevention Program (DVIPP), and 25th year of the Women’s Cancer Program.  

The organization started at a critical point in history when the first meeting was held at the Community House Association, now Duncan Hall, just months before the stock market crashed in 1929. “When the YWCA was started by this fearless group of women, this was in one of our country’s most dire times… this was a period of time when our country was in a chaos and people weren’t starting new organizations,” explains director Allison Beggs.

Through it all, the YWCA has remained a steadfast force in the local community by working to empower women and eliminate racism.

“While women are the (primary) market we serve, there are male victims of domestic violence and those who identify as transgender or other.  We serve all of those populations.  It really doesn’t matter where you live, who you love, what you believe; we serve everyone,” says Beggs.

The organization’s impact has extended well beyond Tippecanoe County.  In 2018, the YWCA’s Women’s Cancer Program staffed by seven employees provided nearly 4,000 free breast and cervical cancer screening services to women in 41 Indiana counties.  That same year, DVIPP assisted in filing nearly 450 domestic violence protective orders and provided more than 9,000 nights of safe shelter in the 30-bed facility located in the historic Rachel and Levi Oppenheimer house on Sixth Street.

Beggs praises her staff for serving with heart.  “You can’t come to work every day in our domestic violence program and hear the stories, the horrible stories that these families have gone through.  Or be with a family if they’re diagnosed with Stage IV cancer… our staff has to internalize that each and every day as they’re working through our client needs.  It is tough work, and it takes a special kind of person to truly live out our mission.”

In addition to providing consistent comfort, shelter and support, the YWCA also provides opportunities for growth through its Culinary Incubator program, where food and catering businesses use the facility’s commercial kitchen to prep and cook.  Beggs hopes that the Culinary Incubator along with a new Dress for Success program will evolve to empower domestic violence victims with training and employment opportunities.

“Ultimately… when you help one family be able to overcome an obstacle, you’ve just created another healthy family in our community that will hopefully go out and pay it forward,” Beggs says.

When considering how the YWCA fulfills its mission, Beggs praises the local agencies who work with the YWCA, such as Food Finders, Mental Health America, Willowstone, Bauer Community Center and The United Way, along with support from the local community.  “In other places that I’ve been, while they were good communities, you just don’t see this kind of engagement and involvement from so many different areas of our community as you do in Lafayette…. We have a generous community.”

What spurs this generosity?  In Beggs’ opinion it’s Hoosier heritage.  “It’s hard working people who care about others and follow the Golden Rule, and I think they truly understand that they’ve been blessed, and they want to bless others.  It’s just that simple.” 

Fun Awaits

Below is a sampling of the events, programs and amenities offered within the community centers. For a complete list of services, as well as partnerships, please visit the following websites.

Faith East Community Center 
faithlafayette.org

Faith West Community Center

Northend Community Center

River City Community Center
cc.rivercity.info

Lafayette Family YMCA
lafayettefamilyymca.org

Greater Lafayette YWCA 
ywcalafayette.org

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.” 

A long time coming

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.

A burgeoning scene

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. 

The sum of its parts

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 CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

East End Grill feels right at home on Main Street, thanks to Purdue grad’s vision.

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.”