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For years, people have wondered how Schererville can sustain so many mattress stores.

Five Mattress Firms are located along a mile stretch of Indianapolis Boulevard at the border of Schererville and Highland, and a sixth is located about a mile and half down the road. The unusual cluster of so many Mattress Firms, which mostly started out as different brands that Houston based Mattress Firm all eventually acquired, has attracted national media attention, including from the National Public Radio show Freakonomics Radio and a Fox affiliate in Kansas City.

Now the public should find out how many of those Mattress Firms in Schererville and Highland were actually making money. The company, which was acquired last year by the South African multinational conglomerate Steinhoff International, announced it would be closing 200 locations across the country.

Company officials said they would close under performing and duplicative stores over the next year and a half, but wouldn’t say where.

“We will not be announcing specific stores at this time, however, optimizing our fleet has always been a part of our strategic roadmap and we continuously evaluate duplicative or under performing stores with this intention,” Mattress Firm Chief Real Estate Officer Randy Carlin said. “Any potential closures over the course of the next 18 months are a result of ongoing, case by case evaluations of stores and lease end dates and are not specific to any geographical market. In addition we continue to open stores in under penetrated and new markets so that we may best serve the local community and our employees.”

The Market at the former Strongbow Inn site at 2405 Morthland Drive in Valparaiso closed the restaurant portion and has been re conceptualized as a special events space. 30 and Ind. 49 where generations of Region residents ate Strongbow’s famed turkey dinners would better serve as a banquet hall hosting events including wedding receptions, corporate office parties and trade shows. It also will stage pop up events such as an upcoming one night only return of the Valley Kitchen Bar that was a dining destination in downtown Valpo.

Owners Cory and Blair Muro decided to pull the plug on the chef driven contemporary Southern restaurant that replaced the Strongbow Inn in 2016.

“It was hard to manage the restaurant,” said owner Cory Muro. “You couldn’t see the bar from the hostess stand. You couldn’t see the kitchen from the bar. It was laid out so wide it was hard to feed people. Tour buses would pull up on a Monday when we weren’t ready because we were staffed for a Monday. The size of it makes it well suited to events, but challenging to do a restaurant. We gave it a shot.”

The 250 seat restaurant served high end versions of down home favorites including chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, smoked brisket with Miller High Life barbecue sauce, bone marrow braised greens, and the Ol’ Dirty Biscuit, a biscuit and gravy dish named after the legendary Wu Tang Clan rapper.

Some of the food, such as the fried chicken, brisket, pulled pork and pimento cheese, will remain on the catering menu, which Muro said strives to be more than the usual “steamed veggies, instant mashed potatoes and dry chicken.” The Market also does off site catering for corporate functions, family reunions and other groups between 50 and 200 people.

The new main focus of the business however is now hosting wedding receptions, which are mostly booked a year in advance. The Market has rooms that can accommodate 40 people to 400 people, and can host as many as 600 at the same time.

The Market also plans to host special events, such as the Valley Kitchen pop up, a cabaret, brunches and a beer dinner.

The Market is partnering with a ticket service to sell tickets to these events, which gives it more flexibility to try new culinary concepts.

“We can do something fun and have a dining experience without the grind of a restaurant,” he said. “We’re not tied down to doing the same thing all the time and can create a little bit of excitement.”

A family owned jewelry store that’s been a staple in downtown Valparaiso is closing after more than four decades of helping couples get engaged and celebrate anniversaries.

Engstrom Jewelers at 3 Lincolnway across from the Porter County Courthouse in downtown Valparaiso is shutting down in a few weeks. Owner Greg Engstrom plans to semi retire he has real estate and other business ventures he plans to keep going.

“I’ve been at this a long time, and I own some other businesses and so forth,” he said. “The industry has changed. It’s gone more online. I’m old school and not internet savvy enough to change over. Internet sellers do it much differently.”

The jewelry business also has become dominated by large retail behemoths.

“There’s been a lot of consolidation,” he said. “The strong have grown stronger, and the weak have grown weaker. The chains have huge marketing budgets, which makes it difficult for independents to compete even though I’d say we have better quality than the big box stores.”

Engstrom opened the jewelry store in 1975 after his mother, an art teacher, taught him about jewelry design and repair.

“At this point I’ve sold wedding rings to people, then to their kids and then their grandkids,” he said. “When the third generation comes in that’s when you start feeling old.”

Downtown Valparaiso has since staged a major comeback, and a health food store is waiting in the wings to replaceEngstrom Jewelers when it closes.

“At the time, people went to the shopping centers and the malls,” he said. “It’s changed totally. The downtown is back the way it was 100 years ago where people are shopping on the main floor and living on the upper floors.”

After a liquidation sale started, old customers have been flooding into Engstrom Jewelers with fond reminiscences, both online on Facebook and in person. The shop has been so swamped employees sometimes haven’t been able to grab lunch until late into the afternoon.

It will stay open for a few more weeks as the jewelers work on sizings and remountings.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by all the kind words and the support, all the stories we’ve heard,” Engstrom said. “But things change. We’d like things to stay the same all the time, but there’s an evolution. It can be kind of sad but it’s out with the old and in with the new.”
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