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2 CURRENTS 4 Spirits, Music, Wheels, and Caffeine WAVES 15 MAKING Duneland Chamber Events LAUNCH PAD 20 Welcoming New Members INSIDE STORY Inked


ON THE COVER Nic Bender, South Shore Tattoo


DUNELAND TODAY IS PUBLISHED BY Duneland Chamber of Commerce 220 Broadway • Chesterton, Indiana 46304 219.926.5513 Publisher/ Duneland Chamber of Commerce Contributing Editor/ Heather Augustyn Managing Editor & Graphic Designer/ Beth Kelly, Duneland Chamber of Commerce Photographer/ Kyle Telechan Copy Editor/ Kelly Sieman

TO ADVERTISE: Contact us at 219.926.5513 or

Heather Augustyn / Contributing Editor Heather Augustyn is a Chesterton native. She is a continuing lecturer of composition at Purdue Northwest and was a newpaper journalist for 12 years. She has published seven books on ska music and lives in Chesterton with her husband and their two sons, Sid and Frank.

Kyle Telechan / Photographer

Kyle Telechan, photographer, has done freelance work for the Times of Northwest Indiana since graduating from Indiana University in 2007 and has over 11 years of experience in photojournalism. His interest in nature, architecture, and urban decay drives much of his non-photojournalistic work. Kyle currently lives in Portage with his wife, Elise. Beth Kelly / Managing Editor & Graphic Designer Beth has over 16 years of experience in the design and publishing industry. A lifelong resident of northwest Indiana, Beth currently lives in Chesterton with her children, Jacob and Everly.


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South Shore Tattoo owner Nic Bender works on a tomahawk tattoo for customer Mike Cherkis.


Meet Nic Bender of South Shore Tattoo


hen Nic Bender opened his own shop in Chesterton, he realized a personal dream. As a life-long resident of Chesterton, it was only natural for him to select his hometown to build his business, South Shore Tattoo, located at 1505 S. Calumet Road. Bender says he has always been an artist and has developed his skill over the years. “Even as far back as middle school I was into comic books and considered myself a cartoon artist. I attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago and then did an apprenticeship at Blue Bird Tattoo in 2004 and worked there for many years. But there was no room to grow anymore and everybody gets to a point in their careers where they want to

do it for themselves,” says Bender. That opportunity came in 2019 and Bender says Chesterton was the place to be. “It’s the first tattoo shop to open in town and Chesterton has just been such a good place for my family. It’s a source of pride,” he says. “The building itself is an old medical building so it’s not a distracting shop. I’m the only one tattooing so there’s not a lot of chaos and phones ringing. It’s a very personal experience for clients here.” Bender specializes in traditional and illustrative tattooing which he describes as "classic, like sailor stuff, anchors, daggers, and hearts with banners. Clients are all ages, all demographics, and I have clientele from Chicago as well as lo-

cals.” Bender says he works closely with clients to design the perfect piece. “It’s similar to getting fitted for a nice piece of clothing. We go over the client’s idea, looking at styles and examples of what they like and this can be done in person or via email or Zoom. I’ll then do a sketch and we’ll go back and forth until it’s right. It’s a pretty easy process,” he says. On September 13th of this year, Bender celebrated his second anniversary of opening and says he is thankful to the community. “It’s just great to be in Chesterton. It’s a life goal and it’s good to be here.” To see Nic Bender’s work at South Shore Tattoo, visit his Instagram and Facebook pages. DUNELAND TODAY

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Duneland Distillery owner Vernon Brown holds out a jar of "Duneshine Moonshine".

DUNELAND DISTILLERY Spirit of the Region, Spirit of the Nation


ew people you will ever meet during your lifetime will able to make the claim that Vernon Brown can make. As an owner of the newly-opened Duneland Distillery in the old Westchester Lanes Bowling building at 8th and Wabash, and an owner of Chesterton Brewery at 1050 Broadway, it’s a claim that suits his occupation well. “I am the sixth generation of distillers in my family but the first legal one!” he says. Distilling spirits 4


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like vodka, gin, whiskey, and moonshine is in Brown’s blood. But it wasn’t always his occupation. Brown served in the U.S. Marines and calls upon that history too when he dedicates a portion of all sales to local heroes and veterans organizations, just as he does at Chesterton Brewery which has been open since 2019. To turn a long-time bowling alley into a distillery was no small undertaking. “The entire building has been demoed, all the way down

to the outside walls. Basically, it’s a complete rebuild on the inside,” Brown says. “Due to the nature of our process, which is spirits, a vodka will come off as 95% alcohol and we don’t have a sprinkler system, so we are limited to an occupancy of 49. We tore down a corn crib/ barn and used that wood in the distillery as our wall cover. Our bar top is made from reclaimed hackleberry wood from the hackleberry tree which is a nifty fact. It’s very rustic with whis-


key staves on the front of the bar.” The variety of stills are exposed for viewing and tours says Brown. “We have a 125 gallon hybrid still and we can run it as a whiskey or a vodka still,” says Brown. That vodka, named Seventy Six Vodka, is commandeered by business partner Eric Liss. Liss explains, “We are big into veterans causes and very patriotic so we named our vodka in honor of the revolution. The flag and stars are on the label and it’s a nod to the Revolution of 1776. This is the reason we are all here and why it all started. We will continue to name our spirits in that same spirit. It’s important to us so we reflect that in our product.” Liss says they will also offer whiskey and bourbon dedicated to the region. “Our whiskey line will be a Three Dunes Rye named after the Challenge at the Indiana Dunes State Park, and we will also be bottling the South Shore Bourbon, named after the region and trainline. We will dive pretty deep into whiskey so will do some small batch runs and move to the next thing and experiment a little bit.” Brown says they will also distill gin that is much different from anything in a store-bought bottle. “I’m a gin lover but this isn’t grandpa’s gin. You’re not swallowing a pine tree! We have a citrus burst gin with lemon lime and grapefruit. We plan to take people who don’t like gin and turn them into gin lovers. We’ve had a great response. We also have a moonshine line of regular moonshine, and then we have butterscotch moonshine, caramel apple moonshine, peach moonshine, and apple pie moonshine. We also will be offering pickles soaked in moonshine, and peaches in moonshine.” The moonshine in particular brings Brown back to where it all started in his family. He says, “Moonshine is something that our pioneers ran in the backwoods illegally and did not pay taxes on it. My great-great grandfather, Happy Jack, who was a Baptist minister, ran moonshine back during the Prohibition Era. My grandparents are probably rolling over in their graves that I’m paying taxes on it! But I do this to give back to those in need and local heroes.”

TOP: Duneland Distillery owner Vernon Brown shows off a work-in-progress painting in his new distillery location. BOTTOM: Duneland Distillery owner Vernon Brown points out features on a still in his new distillery. DUNELAND TODAY

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Tina Brewer and Bob Hines, of The Golden Leaf Cigars and Spirits.



t is said that Mark Twain smoked 22 cigars a day. It’s hard to imagine such consumption, but perhaps Twain was onto something. For Twain, it was likely a ritual, a way to reflect and have his own space and compose. That tradition runs deep at The Golden Leaf Cigars & Spirits, 3093 Village Point. And at this location, which opened in April 2021, cigar culture is about much more, says owner John Rogers. “It’s quiet and relaxing here. It’s elegant and we hear all the time about what a good vibe this place has,” he says. Rogers owns two other locations, one in Hobart and one in Michigan City, but in Chesterton he has a three-way liquor license and serves food. “We have a lot of cigars here that cigar stores just don’t have. We also

have four beers on tap, 15 in bottles or cans, and an excellent selection of top-shelf liquor including 25-year Macallan, Louis XIII Cognac, which no one around the region has. We don’t serve shots here—we’re not that kind of place. It’s cigar and a drink,” says Rogers. For those who don’t like to smoke cigars, or don’t like to smell the smoke of cigars, Rogers has taken special care to consider the needs of the cigar smokers’ guests. He says, “We only seat 38 here and we have a filtration system that filters the air every 6.7 minutes. It’s not smoky at all. We have comfortable chairs and six televisions, and we serve a selection of fine foods including smoked salmon, pulled pork, paninis, and charcuterie trays.”

TOP: Cigars sit on display in the humidor at The Golden Leaf in Chesterton. BOTTOM: Tina Brewer, bar manager at The Golden Leaf, puts the finishing touches on a "Tina's Old Fashioned". DUNELAND TODAY

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Local band Stealin' the Farm performs at Leroy's Hot Stuff in Chesterton.

LEROY’S HOT STUFF Dining, Drinking, and Jamming


ost region natives know that Leroy’s Hot Stuff at 333 W. Hwy 20 in Porter is the go-to place for super authentic Mexican food. But those who aren’t regulars might not realize that Leroy’s is also a destination for live music—and we’re talking nationally-known live acts here. Growing up in the 1970s, owner Leroy Flores says it was just a given to have an appreciation for music. “I’ve always loved live music and I just like to book music I like. I support a lot of local bands and many of them have gotten their start here,” he says. Leroy’s is home to live music every Friday and Saturday night and karaoke each Tuesday and Thursday, and over the past quarter century, the bar and restaurant has seen some notable acts. Flores says, “We have Nawty, which is popu-

lar and has a very good following. They are a dance/rock band that plays a lot of Top 40. We have jam bands like Chester Brown, Stealin’ the Farm, Dead to Rights, and The All Good Things Band. Kinsey Report, the famous blues band, plays here often. Steepwater has been playing here ever since they started—they were my house band for a year; Derek Caruso & The Blues Fuse started playing here; and Funky MojoDaddy was my Sunday night band for 12 or 13 years and that’s how they got their start. We have a fairly new band called the Howlin’ Hoosiers, we have the Positive Vibe Technicians, and Through the Blue. Duke Tumatoe plays here, we have Corey Dennison, Jerry Porter, Ken Kinsey, Johnny V, and a big band called Together which is about 10 to 12 musicians like

conga players and keyboard, all playing Motown music. We have another 10-piece band called Heavy and new for us is a country band called Honky Tonk Attitudes.” Flores says that many bands and musicians with national notoriety have played at Leroy’s over the years. “People who are no longer with us, like Lonnie Brooks; Big Daddy Kinsey; Phil Guy, Buddy Guy’s brother; and Matt “Guitar” Murphy who played Aretha Franklin’s husband and the cook in the Blues Brothers movie have all played here. The Stoney Curtis Band plays here once a year, Sugar Blue, who has played on three Rolling Stones songs, Rick Deringer, Pat Travers, and the Franklin Brothers play here, too. A lot of people have come through here over the years.” DUNELAND TODAY

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Mel's Detail owner, Bradley Pikula, and employees specialize in exceptional customer service.

MEL’S DETAIL Wheels of Steel


or over 20 years at the location on 105 Brown Ave. in Chesterton, Mel’s Detail owned by Bradley Pikula has been specializing in professional detailing, paint correction, interior cleaning and repair, ceramic and polymer paint coatings, window tinting and more. Pikula, a Chesterton native, says he has serviced cars at every car dealership in the area and has developed a reputation for excellence among his customers. “We are well known for our free pick up and delivery. I cater to my customer’s needs, which means I don’t open right at 9 a.m. and I don’t close right at 5 p.m. We adapt to what our customers need. We pick up cars from the train station for clients who work in Chicago, they come back home and their cars are back at the train station, detailed. Over the years I have picked cars up from the homes of my regulars, their kids answered the door and now those kids are grown and I detail their cars. We do RVs, boats, jet skis, Harleys, all kinds of motorcycles, snow mobiles, and we’ve had cases where a squirrel has jumped through the moonroof and

caused all kinds of chaos, or windows that were left open during a snowstorm. We had a semi here today. We clean everything and we’re booked two weeks in advance throughout most of the year.” Pikula has been a car buff ever since he was a kid, and he continues that love through his business, and through his support of events and the community. He says, “My dad put a wrench in my hand when I was eight years old. Now my children work here part time and my dad still stops by to help. My crew has worked here for years and we’re all very close, like family. I keep as much of my business as I can in this town. I buy lunch for my crew and it’s always local. I support fundraisers and events here. I also run the Chesterton Cruise-In car show downtown, simply because I love what I do and I love cars. In 2019, I became the official sponsor of the Chesterton Cruise-In. This event has been going on for 10 years. I know what I do is work, but I never feel like I’m coming to work here. I am very lucky.”

TOP: Pikula and his crew organize the Chesterton Cruise-In each summer. BOTTOM: Classic cars line the streets in Downtown Chesterton. DUNELAND TODAY

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Alison and Charles Scates, owners of FLUID Coffee Bar. Valparaiso Bosco location of FLUID Coffee Bar.



ith locations in Valparaiso, Michigan City, and Crown Point, FLUID Coffee Roasters is now proud to offer a few of their beverages through Running Vines Winery at 101 Broadway in Chesterton. FLUID procures their beans from farms and producers that practice sustainability and ethical treatment of humans and they roast these beans meticulously in Michigan City on a German “probat” roaster.

FLUID owners Chuck and Alison Scates began their business in 2015 and since then have become known for exceptional quality. “This is specialty coffee where quality comes first and foremost,” Chuck says. “This is high-grade coffee, sourced from farms in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Columbia. We’re happy to bring our coffee to Chesterton through our friendship with Nicki Caylor, owner of Running Vines. We have done a wine and coffee collaboration

with her before and we have been wanting to expand our coffee with a wholesale business, so this was a perfect partnership.” FLUID Coffee Roasters will be supplying Running Vines with kegs of coffee on tap which will be blended with cream and a house made maple for the Rocket Fuel drink. Caylor has installed a commercial brewer for hot coffee and will also have a regular cold brew and a nitro cold brew. DUNELAND TODAY

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Gerry Hundt Trio jamming at the event.


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2021 Service Person of the Year winner John Jarka with his wife, Christy Jarka of Duneland School Corporation

2021 New Construction Award winner David Ales of David's Lawn Care with his son, Jace Ales

2021 Duneland Distiguished Woman, Heather Compton, with Chad, and Dakota Compton

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New Duneland School Corporation teachers at Sand Creek Country Club




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