Guest Column: All of downtown Rockford being revived

At last week’s River District Mixer, I was complaining to Frank Schier, editor & publisher of The Rock River Times, that a certain (albeit very popular) columnist who promotes downtown business has gotten fixated on just the 500 block. I explained to Frank that someone needs to write about the west side of downtown. Just my luck, he said go ahead, and now I have two problems. One, I’m new to downtown, and two, I can’t write. But what the heck? I’m not a real bashful or shy person, so I’ll throw it out there and take the lumps as they come.

The entire downtown district is in a “club” together. As Mike Leifheit has so well explained, the downtown is back. Not coming back, but actually back. Is there still more to be done? Absolutely. The next wave is coming, more and more residents are interested in living downtown.

I bought and refurbished Swilligan’s The Pub in October, and since that time, I have met a lot of downtown business owners, and they are focused on making their business and downtown equally successful.

I am an entrepreneur at heart, and it’s nice to see people trying to live the dream and to have the vision to do it downtown. There are some people who have been down here for years who impress me. One of the most interesting people I have met is LeRoy Jones, my landlord. What he has done with the Lafeyette Hotel and what he does for his guests is truly amazing. What a man and what a family. The same can be said for the folks at the 320 Store, Parthenio’s Luncheonette, MS2 Graphics and many others.

Immediately when you hit the west side, there are hard-working business owners at Octane, Paragon On State, King’s Table and Kryponite, among others. They are bounded by a mall and some major parking challenges, but they work hard every day to work with their obstacles and work with the city to explore solutions.

Sure, there are challenges to downtown merchants, but every business has its challenges. That’s what makes our blood pump. Remember, we are all in it together—the entire downtown—and let’s continue to prosper and stay focused.

We applaud the 500 block, and don’t want to take away from their hard work and accomplishments. However, I challenge Mike to write about all of downtown and continue to be all he can be. Nobody wants me to spew my rhetoric onto these pages on a consistent basis.

Reggie Roberson is owner of Swilligan’s “The Pub,” 200 N. Church St.

From the Dec. 13-19, 2006, issue

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