Corner Bar: Grand Re-Opening and installation of restored sign

Orion Construction has completed the iconic Corner Bar in downtown Rockford. The team gathered with Corner Bar owners, the community, staff, and local officials to celebrate the completion with a ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening celebration on Saturday, August 25 at 11am.

The Corner Bar will be open Monday-Thursday from 11am-10pm, Friday/Saturday from 11am-11pm, and Sundays from 11am-9pm. Owners have reported that they will operate with a staff of 90 employees, 45 of which are returning staff from before the fire. To add to the nostalgia and familiarity, the owners will open with the original menu, including their signature chili dogs.

Signing the top of the Corner Bar sign before it was reinstalled on the building. Photo by Zoë Newmann

The famous hotdog “wall-of-fame” was re-created with the original names from decades of tradition. The charred bar top is reclaimed and refinished wood from the former building. The original exterior sign was also salvaged and was re-installed at a First Responders soft opening event earlier this week.

“We knew we were not going to be able to completely recreate the look and feel of a 100 year-old building, but it’s not really about the bricks and walls” stated Co-Owner Jeff Wolfe. “The heart and soul of the Corner was preserved with our staff and our patrons. Things like the reclaimed bar top and the original sign are reminders of the history here and how fortunate we are to have persevered through the last year with a sense of perspective and gratitude. For better or worse, that only comes from an experience like this.”

The community has demonstrated overwhelming support for The Corner Bar through various fundraisers, campaigns, and events throughout the last year. Co-Owner, Sarah Wolfe added, “This last year has been a rollercoaster for our family and our staff. We never expected our community to stand behind us like they did and it’s impossible to convey how much that means to us. We’ve come to realize the charm of The Corner Bar comes from the people and the experiences they have at the restaurant. We are so excited to open our doors and show everyone how much we appreciate them. We are grateful to the City of Rockford, the first responders, our neighboring businesses, family, and friends. It’s time to pick up where we left off and breathe life back into
this building.”

Orion Construction rebuilt the 10,000 sq. ft. restaurant/bar on the footprint of what once was Rockford’s oldest brick building. The original structure, built in 1873, was all but destroyed in a fire in August 2017. Orion was able to salvage the front façade along with relics within the building to commemorate the history of this community staple. The building was rebuilt with steel and block construction. The work flow between the kitchen and dining room was improved and the interior upgraded. A second-floor event space and outdoor patio was added.

Crowd lined up for the Grand Re-Opening, including one family that came hours early to be the first in line.

Orion Construction’s President Roger Rehkopf noted, “Everyone from the first responders, to our subcontractors, to the neighbors all played a huge role in this project in one way or another. It was an example of the power of community and the overwhelming support we saw was inspiring. Thank you to our subcontractors and our project team for bringing this one across the finish line with pride. Congratulations to Jeff and Sarah Wolfe.”