DRC formally announces formation

Downtown retailers have joined forces to offer each other support and take on some issues facing them.

The Downtown Retailers Collective (DRC) announced its formation during an Aug. 29 meeting. According to the collective’s literature, the DRC aims “to create a positive and profitable retail environment that inspires, embraces and promotes our unique downtown culture.” The group is composed of nearly 30 downtown businesses.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said, “(Downtown) retailers are their own subset.”

J.R. Kortman’s co-owner and Gallery Director Doc Slafkosky said their unique location calls for a special approach to their enterprises.

“You have to be more creative to operate in this type of environment,” he said.

Downtown retailers put that creativity to the test to form the group, Brio Restaurant, Wine Bar and Patio owner and DRC member Paul Sletten said, adding the DRC doesn’t hold face-to-face meetings. It comes together online.

Sletten said the group was formed to make the downtown area more business-friendly. Sletten stressed input from J.R. Kortman Center for Design owner Jerry Kortman and Slafkosky was crucial saying, “If we all get together, we act in one voice,” because the group’s goal is to make the area better.

According to Slafkosky, downtown development is prompted by one thing: “The chicken that lays the golden egg is retail.” Slafkosky expressed thanks for the support of city officials in the group’s efforts, noting “we have a positive ear on the eighth floor of City Hall.”

He noted development should follow a certain pattern, and retail development should go on the first floor. “Stores belong in storefronts, offices belong in office buildings,” Slafkosky said. He pointed out developing downtown is about using existing infrastructure the right way, complete with establishing a legal definition of downtown.

River District Executive Director Kim Wheeler, who spoke during the press conference, said she was pleased the DRC had formed. Rockford Deputy Chief of Police Michael Booker pledged Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson’s support for keeping watch over downtown retailers.

“I’m glad to see this new organization formed,” said Ron Tenin, former owner of Rockford Furniture. “One of the reasons I dropped my River District membership was because the River District was locked in against taking any position that would threaten their government funding. I’m glad to see the retailers forming their own group to stick up for themselves politically and to take quick action.”

Last month, the DRC was effective in winning expanded liquor permit provisions for its members during On The Waterfront. The first issue on the DRC’s agenda was panhandlers in the River District, and members have met several times with the police department, which has resulted in pending City Council legislation.

From the Sept. 6-12, 2006, issue

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