New wave of businesses arise in Cedar Lake

From new restaurants to a plan to shape one of the town’s most traveled corridors, Cedar Lake is abuzz with business news brewing south of U.S. 30.

After the longstanding institution that was Shane’s Bar and Grill burned down in November 2021 forever shuttering its doors, a new business is set to revive the charred building on 8120 Lake Shore Drive.

Lynwood business owners Sam Leonhart and Joe Lopez now have ownership of the building and intend to open a bar and restaurant catering to pool lovers. Currently, the business partners are working with Cedar Lake officials to cement their renovation plans.

“It’s awesome that we have this historical place and location, it really is like a dream come true,” Lopez said. “We want to make something that is going to stand out and be different than anything else here.”

A new Taco Bell is currently being built at 13313 Wicker Avenue just south of CVS.

The duo owns Bank Shots Bar and Grill in Lynwood, Illinois, which Lopez said is known for its Diamond pool tables that attract 50 area pool leagues. They plan to have the same high-quality tables to hold pool leagues for Cedar Lake aficionados. The owners also hope to eventually offer land-to-lake delivery to boaters by using drones.

The renovation process will take some work, he said. Luckily, the cinder block structure is sound so the building will stay intact, but they need a new roof, new floors and extensive interior renovations. The name and theme of the business is still being decided on.

“We are going through all the proper avenues with engineers and lawyers, but we should start the opening process soon,” Lopez said. “If all goes well, I am really hoping to break ground in the next two months.”

A new Taco Bell is currently being built at 13313 Wicker Avenue just south of CVS, but a completion date has not yet been provided to the town. Cedar Lake will also be getting a new Culver’s at 9717 W. 133rd Ave., with a completion date to be publicly announced.

Another local business that’s made a comeback is Lake Shore Drive’s SIP Coffee House 3 at 13133 E Lakeshore Drive. After temporarily closing its doors, the cafe reopened the first weekend of August.

Cedar Lake's SIP Coffee House is welcoming patrons once again after a temporary closure.

SIP CEO and founder Rhonda Bloch said after her husband, Dennis, died last Christmas, she was unable to keep the Cedar Lake location in operation. However, she has since been able to reopen by making a business deal with Crown Point SIP Manager Alec Fletes, who is in the process of buying the Cedar Lake location from Bloch.

“My husband and I mentored Alec, so it was hard for him when my husband passed,” Bloch said. “We’ve been mentoring him since he was 14, 15 years old. He would come into the Crown Point location and he would say he wanted to own it someday…”

Bloch said she is looking at opening a SIP in Munster and is working at getting a SIP food truck on the road. As for Fletes, he said it’s an honor to be able to bring SIP back to town.

“It feels like a dream,” Fletes said. “With Dennis, one of my missions is that I want to make him proud. …It’s just unreal that I get to carry the torch and keep it going. I want to make him and Rhonda proud.”

Adding more nightlife options to the west side of town, Time Out Bar and Grill opened Aug. 24 at 13231 Wicker Ave., offering pub cuisine and an extensive burger menu, along with a full bar. Owner Ralph Olson filled the building with his own personal sports memorabilia collection from decades’ past.

“It’s a dream come true,” Olson said. “I’ve worked towards this my whole life. I look forward to serving Northwest Indiana. This isn’t just a bar, it’s a destination. It brings back memories; makes you feel young again. It makes you feel at home.”

After a favorable town council vote and going before the planning commission, Centier Bank was granted PUD zoning to build on the property in which Vito’s Italian Ice stood at 9720 W. 133rd Ave. Most recently, Centier Bank has been serving the community from inside of the Strack and Van Til’s grocery store on 133rd Avenue. The zoning will allow for two buildings on the property to have a shared drive and parking lot.

Vito’s Italian Ice is thriving in its new location on the east side of town at 7210 W. 132nd Ave. Cedar Lake owners David and Amy Larson created a vintage feel with 1950′s through 1980′s decor, offering a variety of Italian ice flavors and homemade cannoli and cakes.

“We started this because we grew up with Italian ice,” Larson said. “But when we moved from Chicago to Cedar Lake, we would have to drive an hour to get it. So we opened up a place where everything is all natural. And it’s an alternative to dairy. It’s just natural fruit, sugar and water.”

As Lake Shore Drive and 133rd Avenue are the foremost hubs of commerce, officials hope to make a more walkable business strip with the 133rd Avenue Overlay Zoning District.

The overlay zoning district on the lake’s west side business hub is currently in discussions at the Cedar Lake Plan Commision level, Cedar Lake Planning Director Ashley Abernathy said. The ordinance’s intentions are to promote development and improve the aesthetics of current and future businesses on 133rd Avenue.

“An overlay district does not change the zoning of an existing property,” Abernathy said. “Instead, it is intended to create additional requirements for development. The benefit to this is it would allow for additional review of what develops in that corridor, and allows the town to begin to follow the comprehensive plan and make the 133rd Commercial Corridor more pedestrian friendly.”

Discussion has included design and architectural standards such as yard space, building heights, landscaping standards, parking space, signage and lighting. Another component includes what type of businesses might be permitted in the corridor going forward.

In addition, the council approved the purchase of a trail easement that will help make way for the 133rd trail project, which will eventually connect Lemon Lake County Park and the Cedar Lake Town Complex with a walkway. The project, which has been a longtime goal of the current council, is planned to be complete in 2028.

Anna Ortiz is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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