Vacation downtown at Jackson’s Urban Retreat

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11836645131701.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Jackson’s Urban Retreat, upstairs from Brio Restaurant, Wine Bar and Patio on East State Street, offers the comforts of home with the privacy of an expensive hotel—all within walking distance (or carriage ride) of many downtown establishments.‘);

Your husband opens the door to a room filled with flowers and a gourmet dinner waiting on the stove of your private kitchen. You dine on the back porch under the stars until the doorbell rings. A horsedrawn carriage waits streetside to take you to the evening’s best entertainment just blocks away. Sounds like an expensive anniversary in Chicago, right? How about all this pampering right here in Rockford?

Jackson’s Urban Retreat offers this and much more. The newest division of Brio sits directly upstairs from the downtown restaurant. Guests at Jackson’s can stay for just an evening or for a whole week (just make sure you call ahead, they’re booking up fast!). Their concierge service arranges anything you like—from tickets for local events to flowers and massages. Sister enterprises Cru and Brio offer room service during regular kitchen hours, “The best in the city,” according to owner Paul Sletten.

The person who previously rented the space used it for storage. When he purchased it two years ago, “There were boxes 5 feet high in the whole room,” Sletten said. “You could hardly move to get around.”

Sletten enlisted the help of local businesses and artists to create one of the most interesting spaces I’ve ever seen. The light fixtures alone made me drool (look up when you first walk in).

Molly Kann-Carey of Kanncept Design created the room. Rich earth tones blend well with industrial flair in this unique arrangement. The whole space flows nicely from one room to the next. Directly ahead when you enter lies the bathroom. To provide privacy, they installed a waterfall window with frosted glass and rocks at the bottom intake. For less privacy, hop into the five-head shower with eight of your friends (you’d all fit, I assure you).

The bed hides a closet and vanity while providing access behind the headboard/wall. The bedroom opens out to the patio, where table and chairs await a party or dinner. Sletten tells me of repairs pending on the deck, eventually leading to an addition of a hot tub (the one thing missing, as I saw).

The open kitchen gives the space an airy feeling, aided by a double-fan on the ceiling. Local artist Chris Hopper of Hopper Design created the kitchen cabinets and countertops, a butcher-block look with a more natural Todd Oldham-esque flair. A mini-bar offers goodies, and guests have access to a full kitchen for those preferring a more hands-on experience.

Sletten says the idea for Jackson’s just fell out of the sky. Working catering at weddings and business meetings, Sletten heard of many people staying in Rockford from out of town. Rather than send his guests to the east-side hotel block, he decided to renovate the upstairs to serve the same function.

Jackson’s is perfect for business stop-overs, parties, anniversaries, a Rockford vacation or a trial run for living downtown. Certainly the most exclusive stay in town, Jackson’s offers the comfort of a neighbor-free stay. Sletten warns those who hope for peace and quiet completely: “You’re downtown. There’s fire trucks and sirens and people honking their horns. It’s not quiet like a bed and breakfast.”

June 15, the American Cancer Society held a fund-raiser at Jackson’s. Guests included Rick (of Cheap Trick) and Karen Nielsen and Dr. Kris Tumilowicz (Dr. T) of Dental Dimensions. I spoke with Dr. T June 18, and he had this to say: “It’s on par with any place I’ve stayed in Chicago.” He spoke highly of Jackson’s and the event, which raised $1,500 with its “Dinner With a Rock Star” auction item.

Jackson’s offers the comforts of home with the privacy of an expensive hotel and all within walking distance (or carriage ride) of many downtown establishments. Neighbors donated many goods used in Jackson’s—5 Spa donated Aveda bath products, and JR Kortman donated the artwork adorning the walls.

If you’d like to get away for one day or one week, call Paul at Brio and make your arrangements to check out this amazing room.

Brio is at 515 E. State St. and can be reached by phone at (815) 968-9463.

from the July 5-10, 2007, issue

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