Bigbee Coffee, Herbs, My Funk Life and McDonald’s are open; Aster and Gray and Elements wine bar will close.


A new coffee shop is taking off in St. John’s.

Bigbee Coffee, one of the region’s fastest-growing coffee shop chains, has opened at 9151 Wicker Ave in the former Center Bank branch on the St. John Mall. Housed in a former bank building, it boasts three driveways.

Nicholas Novak, a United States Army National Guard veteran and former police officer, and his wife Mary, who works at a cancer treatment facility, opened Bigby Coffee. The Michigan-based chain offers coffee, lattes, tea lattes, Red Bull mocktails, hot chocolates and ices. For example, it has energy blast drinks that include flavors like mango, blood orange, dragon fruit, lemon, green apple, blueberry, and strawberry.

It has a variety of food items such as bagels, Kind Bars, Cuban ciabatta and Bragels or breakfast bagel sandwiches. In total, it has over 200 menu items due to how customizable the drinks are.

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“The variety appeals to everyone,” said Novak, who previously served as a Lake County corrections officer, a Gary police officer and a South Shore line police officer. “We’ve got different drinks with caffeine, milk options, something for everyone. We introduced the product in February last year, we started drinking the product and it’s amazing. It’s a great product. We’re sold on the business.”

The Novaks were big fans of the coffee and liked how people-centric Bigbee Coffee was. The fast-growing chain has 350 locations in nine states. It has coffee shops in Chesterton, Crown Point and Michigan City and is expanding to Highlands and Valparaiso.

The Novaks thought St. John’s would be the perfect location for Bigby Coffee.

“It’s growing fast.” “It’s a diverse community. The overall plans call for more cafes and coffee shops. People have been incredibly supportive. We’re between Lake Central High School and St. John Evangelical, so we’re in a prime location.”

A bank vault is located in a 2,000 square meter building that Bigby Coffee is using for storage. It underwent a renovation that kept the “spirit of the bank” while giving it a 1920s-style steampunk design.

“We have one of the largest spaces because of the lobby,” he said. “It’s a beautiful interior. We believe people are really hungry to come together and communicate. We believe people are missing that connection.”

Novaks plans to add outdoor seating and a stage where musicians will perform.

“As a bar, we have a unique opportunity to be the best part of someone’s day. We offer an experience.” We want to know about the customer’s date. We are very focused on people, our employees and our customers.”

Bigby Coffee is open Monday to Saturday from 6am to 8pm and Sunday from 7am to 8pm.

For more information, call 219-558-0145 or find Bigbee Coffee St. John on Facebook or Instagram.

Flora Plants grew from a home business selling houseplants at local markets to a brick and mortar store in downtown Valparaiso.

Pablo Baldetti and Cheyenne May opened their new plant shop at 13 N Washington St., a space shared with Be Good Juicerie. It sells indoor plants, food, fertilizer, soil and seeds as well as candles and other accessories.

“It’s a mom-and-pop business,” Baldetti said. “We both have a passion for plants. Cheyenne has always been an entrepreneur. We’ve really wanted to start a business together for a while. It’s something we thought about together.”

They started selling plants at markets like Fetching Market, with pop-ups at Fluid Coffeebar, Sip Cafe, America’s Antique Mall, and more. They expected it would take years to open their own storefront, but then the opportunity presented itself.

Flora plants focus on tropical plants, cacti and succulents.

“Plants bring life to the room,” he said. “They create a different atmosphere in a living space. It’s a rewarding hobby. It’s the experience and feeling of reading to raise them and not kill them.”

Flora Plants advises customers about plants.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into the types of plants we bring in. You probably won’t find many of them anywhere else in the country,” she says. “There’s something for non-herbs and gift products for everyone. We offer classes on plants that can withstand water for long periods of time. We have plants that need special care.”

The store has been meticulously renovated, she said.

“You don’t find that kind of love or energy anywhere else in corporate stores and daycares,” she said. “We put a lot of love and care into this store. You notice and feel it when you walk in. There’s a certain energy and atmosphere.”

Plants in stock at the store include peperomia, philodendron birkin and trophy plants shaped like sound.

Flora’s plants continue to go to markets such as Hunt and Gather and Chesterton’s European market. He built a following on the market circuit before opening our doors.

“We have a lot of returning customers,” he said. “We see a lot of familiar faces, it’s a fun and rewarding experience.”

Eventually, they would like to continue their growth and involve their daughters in the store.

“It happened so fast. It happened so fast,” he said. “We had the space and the opportunity so we jumped on it.”

They love the downtown location because of all the traffic, including foot traffic.

“Washington Street feels like Chicago, like Lincoln Park.” “It’s kind of like the city. We were really lucky to have the opportunity to be in downtown Valparaiso.”

Flora Plants is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm.

For more information, find Flora Plants on Facebook or Instagram.

Funk My Life Eclectic Gallery opened in a side room at Ray Kicks Sas Beauty Salon in Valparaiso.

“I’m big on playing on words,” said owner Rae Benson.

Benson, Maggie Grivetti, Michael Gross, Pam Rocha and Maria Puckett opened the new vintage and antique store in Valparaiso at 359 Indiana Ave.

“My sister and I and some good friends of mine opened a shop that featured mid-century modern furniture, lighting and period pieces,” she says. “We have kitschy things, trinkets and artwork. My sister had a booth at the Treasury yesterday and wanted a bigger space, and then other people got involved.”

My Funk Life features vintage items from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

“We have things growing up as children that we don’t appreciate at the time,” she says. “You don’t appreciate it when you grow up.”

The store stocks Formica dining sets, 1980s fashions, vintage couches, cedar chests and swag lamps.

“It’s fun to enjoy the hunt,” she said. “We always have new items, and if it doesn’t sell, mark it down a little so things can move.”

The owners regularly scour estate sales, yard sales and flea markets for new merchandise.

“We might even find something along the way,” she said. “Most of it is vintage and nostalgic.”

The store is cash only. It is about 1,000 square feet.

“It’s not very big, but it’s crowded,” she said. It has a feeling of autumn. It’s nostalgic for all ages. We were explaining to her daughter how it works when a little girl told her mother that she wanted a rotary phone. It annoys me.”

My Funk Life is open from 11am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

For more information: 219-241-8547.

The new McDonald’s held a grand opening a few weeks ago at 501 E. 109th Place in Crown Point.

The new 4,700-square-foot Golden Arches is located on the southeast side of the Beacon Hill development at 109th Avenue and Delaware Parkway off Interstate 65. He is the owner-operator of Jack Lubeznik’s 23rd restaurant in Northwest Indiana and Chicago.

The Aster & Gray boutique recently closed, just over a year after moving to a more visible location in downtown Valparaiso.

The fair trade and artisan store moved its storefront from 20 Indiana Street to 118 Lincolnway last year, dedicating its former space to the Porter County Museum.

It celebrated its fifth anniversary last year. It stocked the work of artists and artisans as well as clothing, home decor, kitchenware and shoes.

Elements Wine Bar served the ultimate glass of vino in downtown Valparaiso.

The Wine Bar at 23 Washington St. #100 features wine, light bites, live music and an outdoor patio in the heart of Valparaiso’s hustle and bustle.

It has hosted many live musical acts such as Chicago bluesman Vino “The Music Man” Louden, jazz singer Lauren Dukes, singer-songwriter Jason Murphy, Marty “Big Dog” Mercer Band and Scotty & The Bad Boys. It also had an intimate space that invited wine tasting and chilling.

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