JUSTIN FLAGEL is an entrepreneur and the creator of writings, podcasts, and more at Red Chuck Productions. His most recent venture through his production company is Mambo Sauce, a music-heavy podcast that discusses American roots music and tells the stories behind the songs and the history of the artists.
In the community, he serves as the vice chair of the Niles Main Street Downtown Development Authority, serves on the board of the Ferry Street Resource Center, and is involved with Niles-based community group HOPE.
Justin grew up in Bridgman before relocating to Niles more than seven years ago. He lives with his wife, Kristin, and dog, Alice.
Why do you love Michiana and think it is unique?
I actually left for a little while, but came back after not knowing what to do with myself. I realized that the town I grew up in is one people paid to visit for vacation, and I had the luxury of living there. That gave me a different perspective. [Later,] I got to know Niles really well, and I fell in love with it and felt the energy here. I made some friends, met my wife and have been here ever since.
What is your favorite season in Michiana?
I’m a summer guy. I love them all, but I’m a summer guy. I’m a beach bum, and I like to do a lot of activities, like hiking. When I’m at home, I get to spend time on my porch with my dog, Alice. Those are some of my favorite moments.
What do you think makes Michiana a good place for entrepreneurs like yourself?
I think this is a really up and coming area. I think for a long time that manufacturing was such a big part of life here, and the creative spirit wasn’t prominent, but that has kind of gone away a bit. There has been an opportunity for people to open up creatively and pursue their passions. I think you see that in a lot of our restaurants and some of the more unique businesses we have here. We have that Midwest friendliness and the entrepreneurial spirit, and the mix of the two makes for some really interesting people.
Do you have a favorite hidden spot in the area?
There is a place on the lake — I think it is technically part of Warren Dunes. It’s a trail most people don’t know about, and you can take it all the way up to the water. Even in the heat of summer, you don’t run into too many people, so it’s nice and peaceful.
Do you have a favorite Michiana memory?
One of my more recent ones, I think it would be one of the very first Third Thursdays we put on in downtown Niles. I’m a transplant to the area, so I was kind of looking in from the outside. I just remember the street party we had with everyone gathered around having a good time. It was amazing to see so many people really believing in their city. It’s a motivator for me, when things are tough, to look back at that moment and remember that we can do this thing.