Polly VonEschen

Chamber praises celebration cooperation

June 14, 2012 // 0 Comments

Dear Editor, The Rockford Chamber of Commerce (RCC) would like to thank this great community, the businesses, and all the volunteers for their participation and support of another fun-filled Start of Summer Celebration. The RCC would like to sincerely thank the Start of Summer Celebration committee for all their hard work, tireless efforts and dedication to excellence—and their continued commitment—to this event:  Polly VonEschen, Event Chair; Gay McDonald, Entertainment Chair; Linda Southwick, Craft Chair; Lynda Nance, Fireworks Chair; Ruth Reickard, Clean Up Chair; and Candy Lancioni, Children’s Tent Chair. We would also like to thank Dr. Mike Shibler, John and Mike Scheidel, and City Manager Michael Young for their help in bringing the event to the community. Every year the Start of Summer Celebration is seamlessly ran and it is due to their combined efforts that it happens year after year. We want to extend a special thank-you to the staff of the City of Rockford, Rockford Department of Public Safety and the Rockford Department of Public Works. The kindness, professionalism and hours of hard work that were extended for this event were a huge contributor to its success. Rockford Ambulance, Scheidel Electric, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Aunt Candy’s Toy Company, ASP team from RUMC, and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department also contributed to the event and were a factor in creating a safe, clean, fun and very successful Start of Summer Celebration. We would like to extend our thanks to Byrne Electrical Specialists Inc., Wynalda Packaging, Meijer Inc., and D&W Fresh Market for sponsoring the fantastic fireworks display on Saturday night. Our sincere thanks also goes to our Chamber sponsors, who help us bring these amazing events to Rockford—gold: Byrne Electrical Specialists, Wolverine World Wide Inc.; silver: Grand Rapids Controls LLC, United Bank of Michigan; and bronze: Action Tax Service, CedarRock Dental Care, Kellermeier Plumbing, and Macatawa Bank. If you see any of these companies’ representatives around town, please give them a big thank you for their support of the community. We would also like to thank the wonderful Rockford community, who came out to help us welcome the start of summer 2012 with smiles, laughter and fun. It was a great way to close out the school year and celebrate the start of […]

Sponsors stepping up to Healing Fields memorial

June 23, 2011 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA United Bank’s CEO and president Art Johnson, honorary chair of the West Michigan Healing Fields, has stepped up to present his bank as Field Sponsor for the memorial tribute to those killed on 9/11. The bank gave the project a $10,000 check Tuesday, May 24. According to Nancy Martin, manager of the Rockford branch of United Bank, the area tribute to those lost in the terrorist attack is likely to result in national media coverage. Martin said the tribute will take place on the 10th anniversary of the attack—a milestone memorial—and this Healing Fields event will be one of the biggest in the country. “It’s very expensive to put on, but we felt we had to go full bore with it.” The parent organization of the West Michigan Healing Fields is the Rockford Area Community Endowment (RACE), which put up the $50,000 required to stage the event. The public, organizations and businesses are invited to buy one of the three-by-five-foot flags at just $75, which are limited to 3,200—the number of people who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Martin said she is excited her company CEO wasted no time deciding to be a major sponsor and is already joined by such familiar names as Meijer, Grand Rapids Press, Ingraberg Farms and others. Flag sales are currently underway as well. “This is going to be so huge,” she noted. Johnson spoke during a press conference held at Cannonsburg Ski Area, where the display and associated memorial events will take place. He talked about the affect the attacks had on the country and the world and how all Americans’ lives have changed as a result. For United Bank, there was a personal connection to the tragedy. The legal team employed by the institution was located in the Trade Towers and every one of them lost their lives that day. Johnson himself, the former chairman of the American Banking Association, had been scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C. that day and had a late morning, so he postponed his flight. The flags will fly on eight-foot poles, a “living display of heroism,” which will be a temporary tribute to the strength and unity of Americans. Flags may be dedicated in honor of an […]

Baskets in the Belfry to close after 33 years

June 9, 2011 // 0 Comments

Owner will stay surprisingly near as Polly’s Passions by BETH ALTENA The Baskets in the Belfry famous chocolate fountain may be gone forever with the closing of Baskets, a Rockford icon of business, but owner Polly VonEschen and her candy business Polly’s Passions, will remain remarkably near. When Baskets’ doors close forever by the end of this month, Traci Webber of Grand Cakes will transition from her current Courtland Street location to 18 Bridge Street. There VonEschen will use the kitchen to create her amazing sea foam, toffee, peanut brittle, turtles and a wide variety of truffles. “Once I made the decision, it was a relief,” said VonEschen, taking care to point out that she is all right with the decision to close, although it is bitter sweet. VonEschen came to Rockford because of job transfer for her husband’s work. New in town, she first met Chi Chi Rogers, former mayor and city council member. Rogers begged VonEschen to put her name down as entertainment chair for the Start of Summer Celebration, claiming the work was all done and they simply needed a name on the form. VonEschen has been an organizer for Start of Summer ever since, and this is her 24th year. “They had me in charge of the entertainment, and the band for the dance tent was the German Oompahs,” VonEschen said. “I couldn’t leave and let them think I’d done that.” Turns out the German Oompahs, while amazing, aren’t the best choice for a dance tent band. VonEschen, like Baskets, is a fixture in Rockford, and extremely involved in the town, the business community and service groups. She is a Lion, is active in the Heart of Rockford merchants association, an organizer for the Girlfriends Staycation, has organized Think Pink, and been an organizer for Rockford’s Harvest Fest. She is a board member of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, the Rockford Area Community Endowment (which brings the West Michigan Healing Fields to the area this year for an amazing 9/11 memorial), is on the Downtown Development board, and the Healing Fields board. Baskets was purchased from the store’s original owner, Paula Sedrowski, in 2005. “Paula was ready to retire and I wasn’t,” VonEschen said. She had worked in the business for […]

StayCation offers plenty of reasons not to leave town

April 14, 2011 // 0 Comments

Women just back from spring break vacation now have plenty of reasons to stick around town, at least on Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16. If you are one of the out-of-towners who frequent the downtown shopping district, this is a great time to spend a few days here as well. The Heart of Rockford Business Association again this year is offering a Girlfriends StayCation with plenty of special offers and events. The StayCation kicks off April 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. and continues April 16 during regular business hours. In addition to specials designed to spoil and pamper, one lucky winner will receive a Best of Rockford prize package plush with gift certificates, gifts, movie passes and more. According to organizer Christine Gault of A Charmed Life Nail Salon, the event is designed to highlight the many goods and services our little town has to offer. “This is a time of year when there isn’t a lot happening usually, but the weather is changing and it’s a great time for women to get out and celebrate that spring is coming,” Gault said. This is the event’s second year and last year resulted in a great turnout. With even more downtown shops participating, this year’s StayCation is even more exciting. Visitors to A Charmed Life Nail Salon can enjoy a free five-minute chair massage with the purchase of any service from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, a free hand paraffin with any specialty manicure, pedicure or shellac manicure. In addition the first 10 appointments booked will receive a Heart of Rockford shopping bag for future savings in downtown Rockford. At Baskets in the Belfry, enjoy 20% off your entire purchase and food-tastings (some exclusions may apply). On Saturday at 1 p.m. there will be a free demonstration on hand-tied bouquets at Rockford Flower Shop. At Great Northern Trading Company, join in their celebration of 34 years of serving Rockford and beyond. Everyone who enters the store will be allowed to choose a candy bar with a discount hidden under the label, ranging from 20 to 50 percent off the entire purchase. Dars Gems and Jewelry is offering 20 percent off one item and many in-store specials. […]

Right up Your Alley relocates to neighboring business

May 20, 2010 // 0 Comments

Shop owners find creative ways to survive economy The majority of new businesses fail, even in a good economy, statistics show. For downtown shop owners, finding an alternative way to keep the doors open proves statistics can be outsmarted. Jan Wallace enjoyed her Right Up Your Alley corner location at Bridge and Squires streets, but had a tough time making expenses meet. When she confided in fellow business owner Polly VonEschen at Baskets in the Belfry that she might have to close her doors, VonEschen offered a surprising alternative: buddy up. On May 1, Wallace opened her “door” to her new store located in a back room at Baskets in the Belfry. “I’m very encouraged,” Wallace said of the reception she’s received by her faithful clients and new ones as well. She had to pare down her floor space from 1,500 feet to a tight 250, but the experience wasn’t as hard as she had thought it would be. “You have to prioritize,” Wallace said. “I had to step back and say, ‘What are the best things that I have to sell?’” With just a short distance from her old front door to her new, Wallace and staff carried plenty of her inventory across the street and down the sidewalk to set up. Larger items they moved by vehicle. Wallace isn’t the first local merchant to find a haven at Baskets. Jeanne Hawkins is owner of The Secret Ingredient, a company she’s owned for about three years. Doing business mostly online, Hawkins set up a storefront presence in Baskets in October 2009, where customers could meet her and look at her products before purchase. She offers Victorian products such as herbal teas and sachets, faerie-themed items, and non-toxic cleaning supplies, and holds teas. She recently organized a tea party for Lena Meijer at Frederik Meijer Gardens. “It wasn’t planned,” said VonEschen of the unusual arrangement. “We’ve been friends for years.” VonEschen said she and Wallace used to talk about business and encourage each other. When Wallace told her she was closing, the offer just popped out. “It wasn’t me. I didn’t even know I was going to say it,” VonEschen described. “It came out of the blue.” Too many chefs may spoil the soup, but […]

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