Sick of Gloom and Doom? Rockford Reports Positive News

by BETH ALTENA

frenzWe need to get over our pride and ego and get on with our lives, Frenz Coffehouse owner Rich Zeck believes.

He is one of many local businesess people who haven’t bought into the news that we are going through the worst of times.

“I can speak for myself because I have lost my job,” he said of a former high-paying career. Zeck opened his own shop after the job loss and also works another part-time job.

Zeck said he believes Americans have allowed their financial fear to dominate their lives and this has made things worse.

“What if there were no newspapers and no televisions? The economy ”d go about our business and have a life.” He believes the stockmarket slumps follow each dire news report as people hunker down, afraid to spend money and get on with things.

Zeck, who is also a college professor, said he understands the economy is a hot topic and his students want to discuss it at length. “It’s such an emotional issue,” he said.

Zeck believes there is plenty of good to be learned and practiced in tough times.

He said friends, neighbors and families helped each other out to make it through the Depression. We should take a page from that chapter of history.

“I knew we were in big trouble when people came in worried about the cost of a barrel of oil and gold,” he said. “That makes no difference to most people.”

Putting hope in corporations and companies rather than in people is part of the error behind economic troubles. “Two hundred years ago you were a seamstress and I was a farmer,” he said. “We helped each other out and did business together.”

Doing this today is what we should be doing, Zech believes. As a coffee shop owner, he has sent customers to the other coffee shops in town. “Too often it’s ‘Me, me, me.’ It’s not me, it’s just us.” He is a firm believer in paying it forward. “If we all took the time to help someone else out, what would that do?” he asked.

Zeck gave the example of people who have lost their jobs. “Get out and volunteer,” he said. “People lose their jobs, collect unemployment and sit around saying, ‘woe is me.’ There are others out there a lot worse than you. Go help. Go volunteer. We’ve got it so good, we have no idea how good we have it.”

The second part-time job Zeck took is in a gerontology organization that helps the poor elderly. After six weeks it has become his inspiration and the greatest thing he’s ever done with his life.

“It’s all perspective,” Zeck said. ” The economy is poor. It’s not the end of the world. Talk to the people in Haiti who have nothing. Talk to the mom who lost her husband in a crash on a snowy road.”

Mike Moyer has owned Bostwick Lake Bakery since 1993. He believes businesses should work together and consumers should shop locally and at locally-owned stores.

He used the examples of Rockford Ace Hardware, where the store is 70 to 80 percent smaller than a Lowes. “You can’t beat them. I bet their prices aren’t even higher and there are people there ready and able to help you.”

Another example Moyer noted was Rockford Floor Covering. He said shops like this are what make Rockford unique and keep our economy local and vibrant. “It is a huge advantage to do business locally,” he said.

Don Kurylowicz, owner of Cannonsburg Grist Mill, Cannonsburg Market and Honey Creek Inn, offered his thoughts on the economy during a Rotary meeting on Tuesday, February 24.

He said he changed his college major in the ’70s because things were so bad. “We were involved in two wars, our president was being impeached, there was no gas, inflation was high,” he said. Kurylowicz eventually studied business and bought a bar in Cannonsburg, and is in his 25th year there.

“You don’t succeed in business, you survive it,” he stated. Now, he said he sees a positive outlook for West Michigan.

Mark Bivins, owner of Creative Concepts Plus on Courtland Street, likewise sees plenty of reason for optimism. “We live in a bubble in West Michigan. We felt the downswing first and maybe we will be the ones to come out of it soonest. I have a lot to look forward to.”

Zeck advised that even in tough times, there is plenty to appreciate. “I have a lot to be grateful for. I have my family, children, health. We all make choices in life. I chose not to be fearful and participate in a bad economy. Your coffee cup is either half empty or half full.”

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