Oak Partners shares a guide to all the good NWI has to offer

Oak Partners shares a guide to all the good NWI has to offer

Finding a job you enjoy certainly depends partially on factors regarding the job itself, such as who your employer is, how your skills complement your workload, and opportunities for growth. Beyond directly job-related factors, another crucial element to enjoying your job is finding one in an area you love.

Oak Partners is proud to work in Northwest Indiana (NWI) because its staff finds value in the colorful culture of the Region. Whether it's finding the perfect venue for a company celebration or taking their families for a hiking adventure at The Dunes, Oak Partners’ staff members love working and playing in NWI. 

To discover what drives their love of the Region, GreatNews.Life asked a handful of Oak Partners staff members what makes NWI so special to them. These staff members are listed below.

Staff members:

  • Partner & Wealth Advisor Marc Ruiz
  • Wealth Advisor Michael Marshall
  • Wealth Advisor Bridget Shoemaker
  • Director of Client Experience Crystal DeHaven
  • Partner & Financial Advisor Jason W. Urbaniak

What is your favorite nonprofit in NWI?

Opportunity Enterprises

As a community-oriented company, Oak Partners regularly works with a variety of nonprofits and charitable organizations such as Opportunity Enterprises. As Oak Partners is all about developing people through financial planning and Opportunity Enterprises is all about helping people with developmental disabilities, Ruiz, Marshall, DeHaven, and Urbaniak feel a natural bent toward this nonprofit.

NWI No Child Hungry

NWI No Child Hungry is all about feeding children facing food insecurity in the Region. With a job in finance and a heart for providing for those struggling to provide for themselves, this is Shoemaker’s favorite nonprofit.

What is your favorite restaurant in NWI?

Stacks Bar & Grill

With books stacked a mile high, a cozy first-floor experience, a lively rooftop experience overlooking Valparaiso’s downtown, and delicious food and drink menus, Marshall, DeHaven, and Urbaniak believe Stacks Bar & Grill is a staple restaurant in the Region.

Damo’s Dogs Hot Dog Carts

Setting up its mobile dining experience in Courthouse Sq. in Crown Point, Ind., Shoemaker enjoys the fun outdoor atmosphere and classic American hot dogs at Damo’s Dogs Hot Dog Carts.

Goblin & the Grocer

With a unique restaurant name and equally unique dishes such as Grocer’s Brunch, Knuckle Sammie Panini, and The Schweizer, Ruiz enjoys the originality of Goblin & The Grocer.

What is your favorite shop in NWI?

Old World Market

Old World Market is a gourmet grocery store in Valparaiso, Ind., giving customers a taste of the finer things like curated meats, savory cheeses, craft beers, and more. With options for browsing the market, attending a tasting, or participating in a class, Marshall and Urbaniak believe the Old World Market has it all.


With the wide variety of trails in the Region, there are many places to go biking and enjoy the nature of NWI. This is why Ruiz is happy to head over to Trailyard’s bike shop where he can find any biking gear or services he needs to prepare for a biking adventure. With Trailyard Kitchen & Bar, it is also a great place to grab a bite.


Operating on a pop-up schedule, DeHaven is always excited to browse for clothes and accessories when TRUCKSHOP® makes a stop in the Region. The mobile boutique is based in Cincinnati, Ohio and only visits NWI twice a year, so each visit is a special treat.

What is your favorite hidden gem in NWI?

The Bait Shop

While the name may lead you to believe that this business is a bait and tackle shop, The Bait Shop in Valparaiso, Ind. is actually a restaurant. With a cheeky name and a variety of dishes prepared using local, fresh ingredients, Marshall enjoys this unique restaurant.

Buckley Homestead

With an ample 575 acres packed with animals and historical buildings like an old-fashioned schoolhouse and a barn that is over 100 years old, Shoemaker enjoys being taken back in time at Buckley Homestead in Lowell, Ind.

Sunnyside Drive

Featuring gorgeous region-grown flowers available through pick-ups, online ordering, and even a Flower Subscription, DeHaven has unearthed a hidden gem in discovering Sunnyside Drive.

The Hobart Art Theatre

To experience a night of entertainment, Urbaniak looks no further than The Hobart Art Theatre. The theatre plays host to concerts in a wide variety of genres along with any other manner of performance, even dog stunt shows.

What is your favorite event in NWI?

Popcorn Fest

As Indiana is home to the famous Orville Redenbacher, who launched the Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn, it is only right to celebrate his legacy through the Valparaiso Popcorn Festival. With a parade, races, craft vendors, and plenty of popcorn to go around, Marshall and Urbaniak feel this is a can’t-miss event in NWI.

Dark Lord Day

On Dark Lord Day, Ruiz looks forward to meeting other beer enthusiasts for a day full of sampling unique craft beers at Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Ind.

Shorewood Crossroads Festival

Being one to enjoy a classic carnival, Urbaniak’s favorite event in the Region is the Shorewood Crossroads Festival. At the festival, attendees can enjoy rides, live music, drinks, local vendors, fireworks, and more.

Hometown Happenings 5Ks

If running for fun and for a cause is more your speed as it is for Shoemaker, Hometown Happenings 5Ks are for you. With a variety of 5Ks like the Anything is PAWSible 5K/2K, the Christmas Lights Run, and the Santa Run, Walk & Ride, there are plenty of races run throughout the year.

Crown Point 4th of July Parade

DeHaven takes pride in not only the Region but also the country during the Crown Point 4th of July Parade. This parade shows off plenty of red, white, and blue each year and is followed by a brilliant fireworks display that night.

What is your favorite natural feature in NWI?

The Dunes

The Dunes is home to so many scenic spots such as DeHaven’s favorite, The Ridge at the Dunes. It also hosts fun events and challenges, and Shoemaker’s favorite challenge at The Dunes is The 3 Dunes Challenge in which participants climb the three highest sand dunes.

Lake Michigan

Perhaps one of the greatest points of pride for the Region is Lake Michigan. Whether swimming, fishing, racing boats in a grand prix, learning at the Old Lighthouse Museum, or sunbathing on the beach, Marshall and Urbaniak do not take their proximity to Lake Michigan for granted.

Lake Louise

While it is lesser-known than Lake Michigan, Urbaniak is happy to visit Lake Louise in Valparaiso, Ind. Lake Louise is a great place to relax, fish, and explore, and it is off the beaten track.

Creekside Trails

Creekside Trails has over 13 miles of trails for an assortment of outdoor recreational activities. It is open year-round and allows biking on the trails, making it a favorite spot for Ruiz. 

What is your favorite part of working at Oak Partners?

While the Oak Partners staff appreciates a variety of locations and events in NWI, they all agree that their favorite part of working at Oak Partners and living in the Region is the people.

As the staff works to help clients work toward financial success, they develop close relationships with those clients. Even closer still are the relationships the staff builds with each other. Urbaniak shared that Oak Partners has even afforded him the opportunity to work with friends he has known since fifth grade and high school.

“My favorite part of working for Oak Partners is the office camaraderie,” DeHaven said. “We are one big family, and we have a lot of fun. I especially love pranking my co-workers. In addition to our awesome team, I adore our clients. Over the years, we’ve come to share some pretty special stories and moments together.” 

For more information about Oak Partners, visit https://www.oakpartners.com/