Rockford RAMblings – Jade, a Rockford destination boutique

Jade owner, Julie Cronkright.

By Chris Jones

What is it about Rockford that draws people to it? Is it the beauty of the Rogue River and the Rockford Dam? Maybe it’s the variety of local shops and restaurants? Is it the quality of the education our kids receive? Or is it the people that live, work and visit that make Rockford special? The answer is yes to all of these!  This week in our journey to learn more about the businesses that help make Rockford what it is, I visited the destination boutique known as Jade.

Jade, located at 17 Squires Street in downtown Rockford, is owned and operated by Julie Cronkright. Julie and her husband Tom opened Jade in 2003.  Julie had no previous experience running a business prior to the opening of Jade.  She was a hairstylist at a downtown Grand Rapids salon, but she always had a passion for the fashion industry and had dreams of opening her own boutique.  In 2001 she relocated to Rockford from the Wyoming area and fell in love with the community, but there wasn’t a lot of available locations for a boutique in Rockford.  Originally Jade was going to be opened at the Monroe Mall in downtown Grand Rapids, but it just didn’t feel right.  On a whim she decided to take a walk around Rockford again and wandered into the consignment shop known as Twice as Nice.  The original owners were getting ready to retire and before you knew it, Julie had the location she wanted right in downtown Rockford.  But the work was just beginning.

After purchasing the building in 2002, (which consists of the Jade location all the way down to Ramona’s Table), they set out to completely remodel it and bring it up to the standards that Julie had in mind for her dream boutique.  Out went the drop ceiling and carpeting and in came the beautiful hardwood floors and exposed beams.  The building was originally a grain mill and still has some of the pulleys and wheels from the mill operation to go along with the exposed brick, 25-foot vaulted ceilings and custom-made furniture and fixtures that give the building its unique and charming looks.  It’s truly a site to see and is very surprising to first-time visitors as they walk in.  After restoring this building, another passion of Julie’s was discovered.  Since opening Jade, Julie and her husband have purchased and refurbished other downtown Rockford buildings, creating unique spaces for other businesses.

In the day and age where more and more shopping is done online, Jade caters to clientele that still want to come to the boutique, look around and “touch it and feel it” before purchasing.  In the 15 years since Jade opened, Julie told me that the biggest change she has had to deal with is the increased usage of social media.  It allows her to connect directly with her target audience, whether via Facebook or Instagram.  This is what allows her customers to know that she’s on her way to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, which is where she goes to stay on top of the upcoming fashion trends and pick out the next best seller at her shop back in Rockford.

Talking to Julie, you really get the understanding of the love and passion she has for fashion, Jade and the community of Rockford.  When I asked her about the future of Jade, her response summed up this feeling perfectly, “I hope we have another successful 15 years.  I’m really blessed to be able to do this, because I still am passionate about it and I still love it.  I feel like there aren’t a lot of people that get to do what they’re passionate about every day”.

Jade will be having their 15-year anniversary sale and celebration with swag bags, giveaways, treats, drinks and surprises from August 23rd through the 25th.  Make sure you stop by, check out the beautifully designed building and amazing fashions and, who knows, maybe some of Julie’s passion will rub off on you!

If you own, or know of, a business you’d like to see featured in Rockford RAMblings, please let me know at cjrockford@gmail.com