Beth Altena

Wolverine speaks up over development disharmony

January 27, 2011 // 0 Comments

‘At no time did we decide not to build the shoe store’ by BETH ALTENA  Christi Cowdin, corporate communications spokesperson for Wolverine World Wide (WWW), said news stories of Wolverine’s decision not to build a shoe store this spring on the site of the former tannery have been misleading. “It’s a matter of timing,” she said. “We are not in an economy that is hungry for development.” Cowdin said not much has changed in terms of the company’s long-term plans for the property between Rockford’s Main Street and the Rogue River and flanked by a section of the popular White Pine Trail. The existing shoe store, one of the company’s largest and busiest, will continue to operate, and, Cowdin said, draw shoppers to Rockford. “We have always expressed that we need to be patient, flexible and most importantly, responsible in this development,” she said. “We are still open to any and all ideas for the future of the site.” Cowdin said a plan to break ground for a new building has been delayed and it is unclear what an ideal development for the property might be. “We have spent a lot of time and money on that site and when we develop it we want it to be a nice development, to bring something special to the City. We want it to be nice for us, too.” Cowdin said the company will continue to be patient and open to any new development ideas that come their way. “Right now there is nothing. There is no plan to build X, Y or Z.” Cowdin was critical of reports that indicated Wolverine dropped plans for future development of the land at the last minute. She said it was her understanding that the groundbreaking for the shoe and apparel store, which was promoted as a flagship retail facility for the company, was slated for March. Rather than a last-minute reversal of plans, she said development of the site has just been postponed. “We will still have a shoe store. We will still have green space,” she stated. “The plan hasn’t really changed.” Cowdin said in the current economy it is unlikely a builder will step forward to partner with Wolverine in the development, but eventually the company would […]

Leaders panel examines the state of the community

January 6, 2011 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA  The year 2011 is a milestone for the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, which will celebrate 50 years of supporting the greater Rockford business community. At the organization’s December luncheon, a panel of five community leaders shared their thoughts on the present and future of Rockford. Rockford Chamber Board President Dr. Carl Stites, outgoing State Representative Tom Pearce, County Commissioner Roger Morgan, Rockford City Manager Michael Young, and Rockford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Shibler each spoke Monday, Dec. 6 at Rockford High School. Stites said the Rockford Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1961 and the community was very different. That year, Rockford High School graduated 150 seniors, compared to 660 this year. “Back then, Lake Bella Vista was a swamp,” said Stites. “This whole area has grown immensely. The Rockford Chamber has doubled in size in the last 12 to 15 years.” Stites said that as a board, the Chamber has been contemplating how to manage the growth of the organization and recently held brainstorming sessions, has organized focus groups and has asked members for their feedback. He said the number one request members asked for was marketing. “It’s an exciting time to be in the Chamber,” Stites stated. “We intend to use your input to plan for the next ten to twenty years and look forward to another great fifty years.” The Chamber membership, within just a few percentage points, exists of the businesses in downtown Rockford and the outlying business communities, such as Belmont, Cedar Rock and Cannon Township. “It’s not just the downtown anymore, the way it was in the 1960s when the business community existed as the Squires Street Square Association. We do represent everybody,” Stites said. State Representative Tom Pearce spoke following Stites. Term-limited out of office, Pearce said his years as state representative “were an incredible time for me.” He said there were many things he and his colleagues in Lansing were unable to accomplish, but one point of pride was reintroducing the 2X formula for school funding. This is a measure designed to increase the lowest-funded schools at an increased level compared to the schools which receive higher levels of state funding. He said for the last three out of four years the funding […]

Birthday on 1-1-11 a once-in-a-lifetime

December 30, 2010 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA  When Darleene Crysler (nee Carlson) was born 64 years ago, the event made the newspapers and netted her father a passel of prizes. She was the first baby born in Montcalm County in the year 1947, six pounds, fourteen ounces and greeting the world at 5:40 p.m. Sixteen local merchants contributed prizes for the contest and at first it looked like twin boys would take the honors, until Kelsey Memorial Hospital announced Darlene’s arrival. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime birthday,” said Crysler, who appreciates the January 1, 2011 date of her 64th. Crysler found the newspaper clippings of her father receiving an award and prizes among his things. Among the advertisements in the paper are a grocery ad with hamburger at 44 cents a pound. Another advertises Camels as the cigarette more doctors smoke. It hasn’t been tough having a January 1 birthday, Crysler stated. She said it was like having two Christmases and there is no excuse for forgetting the date. Recently a Rockford family made world news by having their three children on significant dates 8-8-08, 9-9-09 and 10-10-2010. With Crysler’s interesting birthday date this year, 1-1-2011, we can only speculate what other significant numbers the new year will bring us. If you were born November 11, be sure to call The Squire this year, we want to hear from you.

Nationally recognized artist shares talent with Community Ed class

December 23, 2010 // 0 Comments

Berta featured on NPR’s ‘What Do Ya Know’ by BETH ALTENA   Jerry Berta is well known in Rockford for his dining-car fame, having purchased and operated Rosie’s Diner for years. Now in the hands of owners Randy and Jonelle Roest, the diner is still associated with Berta. Less well known is that Berta was once interviewed on National Public Radio’s (NPR’s) show “What Do Ya Know” with Michael Feldman. Berta, along with his wife, has managed the difficult task of earning a living as an artist and works in ceramic and neon. Now “newbies” or old hands at ceramic art can learn from Berta in his new Rockford Community Education (RCE) class, which is held at Rockford High School. Rosie’s Diner, located on M-57 in the CedarRock business district, is nationally known for the Brawny “Quicker Picker Upper” commercials featuring Nancy Walker as Rosie the waitress. Rosie’s Diner wasn’t Berta’s first, however. Berta has been a lifelong fan of dining cars and used to travel to the country’s east coast where the old mobile restaurants were more common. Berta found Michigan’s last remaining diner in Flint in 1987, built by the Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Company. He purchased it for $2,000 and moved it to a lot on 14 Mile Road in Rockford and used it for his art studio. Despite a neon sign that read “No food, just art,” people still wandered in, hoping to sit down for a meal. Berta was out east, admiring a dining car, when the owner came out to talk to him. He discovered that Berta already owned one diner and asked if he’d like to own two. A minute later, Berta had purchased Rosie’s, which was built by Paramount Dining Car Company in 1946 and was originally called the Silver Dollar Diner. The restaurant was 700 miles from Rockford, however. After four days, 10 flat tires and one fire, the diner was in Rockford where it continues to be a landmark and has served well over a million meals.   Berta’s work as an artist in neon may be related to his dining-car interest, but he is also known for his ceramic work, which is featured in the RCE classes. With both experienced and new artists in […]

Algoma Township drops D.A.R.E. funding

December 9, 2010 // 0 Comments

Program the last in Kent County by BETH ALTENA Rockford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Shibler and Rockford Police Chief Dave Jones can’t understand the reasoning for Algoma Township’s decision to discontinue their $5,000-a-year funding of the D.A.R.E. program, and they aren’t taking it quietly. Plainfield Township is also taking a hard look at their budget and had a discussion on whether to continue to fund the D.A.R.E. program. With revenue down across the board in municipalities in Michigan, including the City of Rockford, many government organizations are looking longer and harder at every service they offer, but Jones and Shibler don’t believe D.A.R.E. should fall to the wayside. On Monday, Nov. 29, Jones, Shibler and representatives from the Parent Teacher Organizations of each Rockford school attended a wake-up call meeting at Rockford City Hall to discuss the funding and future of D.A.R.E. “If Algoma doesn’t come around, if we lose Plainfield, we’re done,” Jones said. The D.A.R.E. program is much more than an anti-drug lesson, described Rockford’s D.A.R.E. officer Dave Jehnzen. It is a program that encourages good decision-making with lessons that ideally last a lifetime. Every student in the district takes part in D.A.R.E. in the fifth- and sixth-grade levels, and Jehnzen said that if it helps even a few kids avoid behaviors that lead to criminal activity or drug use, it is a no-brainer with the annual cost of $67,000 split between the City of Rockford and the townships who have students in the district. Jones said the program was originally offered by the Michigan State Police, which cancelled it due to budget cuts 10 years ago. Determined to continue D.A.R.E., the Rockford Police Department took on the program for Rockford Public Schools, and established funding by splitting the costs with Plainfield and Cannon townships each at $10,000 a year, Algoma and Courtland townships—with only part of their students in the Rockford district—at $5,000 a year each, the City of Rockford at $10,000, Rockford Public Schools at $12,500, and Our Lady of Consolation Church contributing $2,500. That total of $55,000 is still short of the entire funding by $12,000, which is currently made up with contributions from groups and an annual D.A.R.E. golf outing held by the Rockford Police Department on volunteer […]

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