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NWI Business Ins and Outs: TGI Friday’s closes; Golden Bear revived; Popeye’s, Jollibee and Fisherman’s Island opening
Everybody’s working for the weekend, but it’s over all too soon.
TGI Friday’s has served its last burger and beer in Valparaiso.
Less than a year after the chain closed its sit-down restaurant across from the Southlake Mall, TGI Friday’s permanently closed its location at 81 Silhavy Road in Valparaiso.
The chain restaurant offered traditional American cuisine, beer and cocktails at the Valparaiso Walk outdoor shopping center at the interchange of Ind. 49 and LaPorte Avenue.
The Dallas-based chain has been shuttering hundreds of restaurants nationwide due to a decline in the dine-in business and flagging popularity with younger customers. The restaurant at 703 U.S. 41 in Schererville is the only TGI Friday’s left in Northwest Indiana.
Once one of the most popular casual dining chains along with Applebee’s and Chili’s, TGI Friday’s started as a single bar in New York City in 1965 and went on to become a staple of suburban landscapes. The chain is known for its endless appetizers, servers’ flair that was parodied in the movie “Office Space” and its claim to have invented potato skins in the 1970s.
Its founder Alan Stillman also claimed he was the inspiration for Tom Cruise’s show-stopping bartender character in the movie “Cocktail.”
Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen is coming to Portage.
The New Orleans-style fried chicken chain, whose celebrated chicken sandwich ignited the chicken sandwich wars that have swept the fast-food industry, is taking over the former Dickey’s Barbecue Pit space.
It is coming soon at 6200 U.S. 6 in the strip mall in front of Menards in Portage. It’s an end-cap space with a drive-through.
The fast food chain, which has 45 locations in Indiana, is known for its spicy fried chicken, fried shrimp, biscuits, Cajun fries and red beans and rice.
The labor shortage has hit many Northwest Indiana businesses hard, including the Munster Car Wash & Detailing Center on Ridge Road.
The business at 111 Ridge Road said on a voicemail message that it has suspended its car wash operations due to a lack of staff, but continues to provide car detailing services.
For more information call 219-836-5262.
Fisherman’s Island Seafood Market is coming to Calumet Avenue in Hammond.
The Chicagoland chain has a location at 429 81st Ave. in Ross Plaza in Merrillville and at 17033 Torrence Ave. in Lansing.
It offers shrimp, snow crab, salmon, catfish, tilapia, ocean perch and whiting. Sides include corn and broccoli.
The restaurant has been renovating a storefront in President’s Plaza, a strip mall that’s also home to Nick’s Gyros at Calumet Avenue and 165th Street in Hammond.
An engineering firm bought the former Comcast building in Hammond, where it will relocate.
Hammond-based Advanced Engineering Services bought the 9,324-square-foot professional office building at 844 169th St, which Comcast had used for decades. The firm, which specializes in geotechnical engineering, construction QA/QC testing and inspection services, plans to move its headquarters there.
“Growing up in Hammond near 171st and Calumet, this transaction was personal for me,” said Antony Miocic, the director of the office group at Crown Point-based Commercial In-Sites, and who represented Advanced Engineering Services in the transaction. “This is a great location within minutes of the expressway and the buyers purchased it at a great price. I’m looking forward the see the renovations that are completed and what other redevelopment comes to this area.”
Jollibee, a popular Filipino fast food chain, has opened across from the Art Institute in Chicago’s Loop.
The restaurant is now serving its fried chicken, Filipino sweet-style spaghetti, Pancit Palabok and other Filipino cuisine at 116 S. Michigan Ave. The chain, which has an anthropomorphic bee mascot with a chef’s hat, now has 1,500 locations worldwide, including more than 50 in America. It opened its first Chicagoland location in Skokie five years ago.
For more information, call 312-270-8909 or visit jollibeefoods.com.
The Golden Bear pancake house chain once had 30 locations across south suburban Chicagoland in the 1970s and 1980s.
New owners revived the diner brand in 2000 when they opened a Golden Bear Pancakes and Crepery in Alsip. Alex and Lisa Fotsis, who had owned a half dozen Continental restaurants in the south suburbs with his father Tom Fostis, opened two more Golden Bear locations in Florida but decided the Chicago metropolitan area would be a better fit for future growth because the brand is more established here.
So they opened a second Chicagoland Golden Bear at 16851 Torrence Ave. in Lansing last year. They are looking to expand and open several more Golden Bears in the area.
“It was a no-brainer with the name recognition,” Alex Gotsis said. “It makes sense to start from here. The two locations have been very successful.”
The pancake house serves crepes, chicken and waffles, steak and eggs, skillets, omelets, and a number of other breakfast items. Though it’s open during lunch hours, it just serves breakfast.
“We have no lunch, no soups and no sandwiches. We do one thing and we do it well,” he said. “Breakfast is our specialty. We’re here every morning at 4 a.m. preparing crepes and making the batter for our waffles.”
The eatery emphasizes quality, such as with organic ingredients and a triple-filtered orange juice machine that was imported from Brazil.
“We have a juice bar with smoothies where everything is fresh-squeezed,” Fotsis said. “We don’t serve Mott’s Apple Juice. We have peach, passionfruit, mango, organic fruits.”
The menu is not standard breakfast fare one can find at any diner. Golden Bear aims to have unique offerings, such as a savory potato casserole side made with aged cheddar, Vidalia onions and Idaho potatoes boiled every morning.
“We used liquid butter on the grill,” he said. “We avoid trans fats. We’re mindful of the ingredients we use. We’re a green-certified restaurant and have literature through the restaurant explaining that. We recycle all our grease and make sure it’s not poured down the drain for the sake of our community. We pay attention to all those details.”
They look to locally source ingredients, such as blackberries and strawberries for jams from Michigan farms.
“It brings people back in time but it’s not the same,” he said. “People can’t believe it’s back. It still has a lot of name recognition. People will come in and tell us they remember the Pepe’s in Tinley Park or the Cooper’s Hawk on Harlem Avenue in Orland Park used to be a Golden Bear. It dissolved and we bought the name. We’ve spent a lot of money and time to develop the menu at our country club kitchen. We don’t just want to have bacon and eggs.”
The goal is to provide customers with a quality dining experience.
“Our customers are kings and queens,” he said. “We want them to have the same quality they would have in the White House. All our produce is fresh and freshly chopped or freshly minced. We buy chunk cheese, real cheese that’s freshly shredded. Everything is thought out.”
They also have tried to modernize the diner experience, such as by adding charging stations at every booth and offering complimentary wifi.
“That’s the way of the world now,” he said.
The hope is to open a few more Golden Bears every year and have at least 10 by 2030.
“First Watch has 270 locations and I don’t think their breakfast compares to us,” he said. “We’re trying to get the details right, the system tight and everything in working order so we can bring it to more locations. This is the mother ship and castle that we hope to replicate. We’ll move forward with expansion, God willing.”
Golden Bear in Lansing is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, call 708-889-6293, visit goldybear.com or find the business on Facebook.
If you would like your business to be included in a future column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.
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