Grace Graduate Builds Community in Winona Lake One Scoop at a Time
The Village at Winona is a popular destination for shopping, eating, and spending time with friends and family. An eight minute walk from the Grace College campus, it offers many popular restaurants and shops such as Light Rail, Belove, and Cerulean.
Frequent village visitors will notice one change this year: the previous home to Kelainey’s Sweet Dreams is now the location for the newest restaurant on the block: Social Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop.
Born from the parent catering company Shawnanigans, co-owners Shawn and Carrie Bianchini are launching the new restaurant with big dreams in mind.
Social serves gourmet ice cream and homemade soups, sandwiches, and salads. They’ll offer hot sandwiches like paninis and grilled cheese as well as cold sandwiches. All the food will be made from scratch.
“We called it Social with the hopes of it being a place for people to spend time together,” says Carrie. “We love creating spaces for people to enjoy being in each other’s company.”
The restaurant launched its soft opening the second week of May.
Shawn has worked in the restaurant industry for a long time. He has previously served as a manager at Applebees, a chef at Oakwood Resorts, and the executive chef at Windham Gardens. He also helped renovate 110 Craft Meatery in downtown Warsaw.
Shawn met Carrie when they both worked at Ruby Tuesday’s while Carrie was pursuing her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling at Grace College. They got married, and Carrie worked as a licensed mental health therapist until she closed her private practice in December to work with Shawnanigans full time.
Shawn and Carrie, who also opened a catering company in 2018 and a food truck in 2020, were always open to new business opportunities.
“I was really excited to have a physical space to invite people into,” Carrie says. “We’ve gotten to know so many people just because they come to our food truck regularly. Having a brick-and-mortar restaurant seemed like the perfect next step to engage with people in the community.”
Shawn and Carrie wanted to make their shop unique. Instead of closing during the colder months, they will be open year-round. The upstairs, which previously was only for employees, will be open to the public as a quiet study area. People can bring a laptop to get work done, and students can meet for group projects. There will also be conference rooms that can be rented out.
And fortunately for Grace students, Social will be accepting Village Flex dollars, money included in the Grace College meal plans that can be spent at a number of shops and restaurants in the Village. Shawn and Carrie hope this will encourage Grace students to use Social as a place to hang out, study, and eat good food.
“Sometimes you need a place to come that’s off campus,” Carrie says. “Our menu will be reasonably priced, so you’ll have another good option if you want to try something new.”
The owners plan to stay open late in the evenings, but if students want to use the space after hours, Shawn and Carrie want to create opportunities to make this possible.
“If you have a 9 or 10 p.m. group meeting that needs a space, reach out to us, and we will work with you to get a space available,” Shawn says. “We’re big on partnering and collaborating with people.”
Other than sandwiches, soups, and salads, Social will offer their bison chili, which has become a fan favorite from the food truck. They will also continue serving chef’s specials.
“We try to keep our staples so you can always get what you love, but also try whatever’s on chef’s special because one: I promise it’s good. And two: it won’t be here next week,” Shawn says.
They will be introducing many exciting new menu items, such as the dessert poutine, which Carrie is most excited about. Funnel cake fries will be topped with churro ice cream, chocolate sauce, and bacon bits.
Shawn and Carrie are also partnering with Sweet G’s in Nappanee to have an ice cream flavor only available at Social.
Their biggest priority is making sure they are providing a unique value proposition in the Village. For example, they won’t offer espresso drinks or pizzas because those are Light Rail’s specialties.
“We don’t want to compete with anyone,” Shawn says. “There are some great restaurants here that do what they do really well. We want to collaborate with them, not compete with them.”
As they enjoy the beginning of their new shop, Shawn and Carrie look to the Shawnanigans motto: “Engage people, embrace life, and eat well.”
“We did it in that order because we first want to spend time with people,” Carrie says. “We see food as our ministry. We tell people it’s our love language. It’s our way to reach people.”
Follow Social Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop at www.instagram.com/social.by.shawnanigans/.