Ramblings from Reggie: Spring is here! It’s time to go downtown

Downtown has been my focus for five months. As I have been getting out more and more to my old haunts, it has come to me how much and how many of my friends I miss by not being on the east side as much.

We went out to Josef’s Saturday night, and the place was full of old friends. As a new businessman in the downtown market, my mind is always struggling with how to pull my friends—and the rest of east-siders—down to our neck of the woods. All my friends tell me, with true sincerity, that they mean to make it down. I appreciate that, and realize they are sincere.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of my friends who do come to Swilligan’s, and I appreciate it with all my heart.

Business is good, and that’s because of the old and new friends. I can only say to the ones who haven’t made it, come on down. Downtown has some fantastic offerings, and I think some people would be surprised. Our place is “The Pub” with pub food, but people like it.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) was in Friday night, and we had a good business conversation. I don’t really know him very well, but with each conversation I can see he does have a vision and a plan for the future. After our discussion, there was a sense in me that we are on the right path with the mayor blazing the trail. His “machine” needs to get his message out in nontraditional ways. Unfortunately, sound bites and references to his agenda in 30-second clips on the local news don’t cut it.

Thursday is that State of the City Address, and that should be terrific. I hope the mayor can reach out and impress the crowd as well as he is capable of doing one on one.

The local media keep referring to the consultant from Madison who told us how to make Rockford a more attractive place to be. The issue that keeps sticking in my craw is the “talk nice about the community” issue. It goes beyond that. There is an edge in this community about this community. Generally, the older generation talks more negatively than the younger generation. This is a result of the experiences they have lived through—plant closings with lost jobs, deep recessions, high interest rates, racism, etc.

That is very natural. People who lived through the Depression still don’t trust banks and still cannot spend money much beyond the basics of life. They certainly can’t understand “the young people” who live as we do. In the daily paper Sunday, there was a survey that said about 49 percent of people from this area are considering moving back. I have lived out of this area twice, and came back twice. Even in advertising, there is an edge to our messages.

I cannot stand the local bank advertising the message that basically says, “At least your bank is good.” The message clearly is, “Your life and or your kids stink, but your bank is good.” Horrible message that is misguided.

My point is that, as a community, we all need to realize life is good for most of us. Anybody willing to work hard has a legitimate shot at success in life. As a society, we are habitual to a fault. Let’s just stop perpetuating the negatives, and be positive. Simply a change in a bad habit! That doesn’t seem that hard.

Jimmy Buffett has a line that I live my life by—“it’s my own damn fault.” Whatever has been good or bad in our lives, for the most part, is because of our choices. It’s not Rockford’s fault, the politicians’ fault or anybody else’s.

Back to downtown! IceHogs, Raptors, St. Patty’s Day—oh my! The bridges work fine. The crime is very low. The place is buzzing during the day. Come on down, the water is fine! Spring is here. Enjoy a walk on the bike path and stop down afterward for a little dinner and beverages. Soon, we’ll have a new neighbor on Church Street, so change your habits—we’re here for ya!

To all my old friends and new ones, thanks for the support, physically or in spirit.

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

from the issue March 14-20, 2007, issue

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