by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL At the May City of Rockford Planning Commission meeting, Wolverine World Wide (WWW) offered up a conceptual proposal and rendition of the company’s plans for redevelopment of the tannery facility. The following in verbatim is the verbiage of that spring 2010 update. “Following Wolverine World Wide’s 2009 decision to close our Rockford, Michigan-based tanning facility, the Company has been engaged in exploring future options for the centrally located, 15-acre site. This process, which has continued to involve discussions with the City of Rockford and area officials, is intended to fulfill Wolverine’s stated intent to ‘do something special for the community and the City of Rockford on this unique waterfront property in the heart of downtown.’ “The Company’s current plans call for a patient, flexible and responsible approach to redeveloping the former tannery site. Our approach is guided by two important objectives: preserving and enhancing the overall economic vitality of the City of Rockford; ensuring that any future development of the site is sustainable over the long term. “Pursuing sustainable development means taking into account the challenges posed by today’s economy. The downturn has taken a heavy toll on real estate investment and development activity, both regionally and nationally. As a result, there are currently fewer potential partners with the resources for implementing a broad, near-term plan for the site. On a related note, the economic downturn has been hard on existing Rockford businesses. Any new development activity must be considered in light of current and projected consumer demand. “While these challenges do not preclude our working with interested partners to pursue a comprehensive redevelopment plan, Wolverine believes it is in the best interests of both the community and the Company to focus on smaller-scale initiatives in the near term that can help lay the groundwork for additional development activity in the future. “Wolverine is currently in the process of working with City and state officials to move ahead with two specific projects: constructing a new Wolverine retail store at the south end of the vacant property. (3.7 acres of the 15 total acres of the site.) Our enhanced retail presence would replace the Company’s Rockford Footwear Depot at 235 N. Main Street and provide an added “draw” for the portion […]
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Ric’s Food Center Rockford store Director David Brickner can’t believe how fast two years have flown by at the store. He holds up the new Tell A Friend logo, caricature of store owner Andy Woodrick, who bought the business from his dad in 1997. It seems like yesterday Ric’s Food Center opened for business, but on Monday, February 8, the store passed its second anniversary. “It feels like two minutes, not two years,” said Store Director Dave Brickner. He didn’t want the date to pass without thanking the customers that have become regulars at the family grocery. “The people have been very supportive,” he said, noting that he is often surprised at how far shoppers come to visit. Many local residents have become regulars, but shoppers come from Belding, Ada and often beyond. “They’ll tell me they live in such and such place, but every time they come through here they have to stop in.” Brickner believes winning customers comes from many things staff at Ric’s does. “I don’t believe anything is a small thing,” he said of the company philosophy of customer service and making each shopping experience a pleasure. Periodic open houses with free product sampling are among ways the store thanks to their shoppers. Periodic super-specials, such as a meat sale held this Thursday, February 11 and running through Wednesday, February 17, are other examples. Still, it is the smallest things as well as big events that Brickner believes drive loyalty. “People can do everything right, but if they don’t mean it, you can tell,” he said of his employees’ cheery attitudes. “I hear all the time how people appreciate our staff and they want to know how we do it,” he said. “If you want a friendly staff, hire friendly people.” He used as an example Carol in deli, who was the subject of a note praising her caring attitude. Brickner also credits the store’s success with the feedback they receive and follow. “We can’t do the best job if we don’t know what people are thinking,” he said. The store’s new campaign, Tell A Friend, debuted the first of the year. A caricature of owner Andy Woodrick is the star of the program, which encourages people to share their […]
The West Michigan Crime Prevention Association of Michigan (WMCPA) voted Deputy Tom McCutcheon of the Kent County Sheriff’s Office to a one-year term as their president for 2010. Deputy McCutcheon, a 19-year police veteran, is a D.A.R.E. officer for the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy McCutcheon has a passion and commitment for crime prevention and looks forward to using his experience to further expand crime prevention practices in West Michigan. His passion for people extends not just in his routine daily job but also off duty with his involvement in teaching, mentoring and coaching children in the community. Most recently, McCutcheon had served as central vice president for WMCPA. WMCPA of Michigan provides training and crime prevention resources to police and sheriffs’ departments throughout Michigan. The association, which boasts over 100 members, is recognized as the leader in crime prevention practices.
SENIORS END HIGH SCHOOL WATER POLO CAREER WITH WINNING PLAY—Senior captains Derik Bothma, Connor Thelen, Kyle Peterson and Tyler Manikowski lift the state championship trophy. Photo by GORDON PETERSON Let’s start at the end. State championship game—end of third period—and Rockford water polo senior captain Tyler Manikowski has been struggling. At the side of the pool during the quarter break, he climbed out and said to Coach Dave McWatters, “Coach, put Eric in. He’s playing better than me”—Eric Chisholm the sophomore, Manikowski the senior. The senior captain gave way to a kid two years younger, a kid truly playing great water polo, saying, “Go, Eric. Go play. Go win this game.” With their tremendous shooters, Kentwood soon pulled ahead by two, but Rockford fought back with junior Jeff Schmitt’s three great goals, and then Kentwood scored a penalty shot to tie. Now under a minute, McWatters called time. Back at the side of the pool, he’s decided on the lineup to finish regulation time—six starters plus either Chisholm or Manikowski. The coach turned to Manikowski, who had been on the bench now for most of the fourth quarter, and said “Tyler, you’re the senior. It’s your call. Can you do it?” “Put me in, coach,” Manikowski replied. Peterson, to Bothma, to Thelen to Manikowksi is how the passing went. Manikowski had the greatest step-out to the ball he’s ever had, turned, saw the back of the net, and blew the ball past Kentwood’s great goalie, who had just moved to counter Bothma’s—and then Thelen’s—fakes. Manikowski’s two-meter defender hardly reacted. The defender was too tired. He had played every single second of the game. Coach McWatters commented, “Tyler’s unselfishness is a powerful example of what won us a state championship. Tyler calling himself out, making way for the young kid who was playing the best polo of his life, rested Tyler enough for that last minute, so he had the energy to make the greatest play of his life. Tyler’s unselfishness helped win us a state championship.” Many things go into winning a state championship. Peterson, to Bothma, to Thelen to Manikowski—that was the last play. Peterson, as he always does, set up his teammates for success. Bothma—the great shooter now because he’s also become a great passer—rose up […]
Owner believes ‘Jesus has kept us here,’ has plans for the future Terry Prowoznik knows the value of good food served in a unique atmosphere and at a good price. But he doesn’t think that is all there is to the success of the Rockford Vitale’s Pizza, not in their 31st year of business. He isn’t afraid to be open with his strong faith in God, and has images of Jesus, religious pamphlets and Bible quotes on the walls of the restaurant, located at 42 E. Bridge Street in downtown Rockford. Christian music plays nonstop throughout the building every day. “About five years ago we switched to Christian music. That makes us unique,” said Prowoznik. He is also among only a few eateries to have operated for such a long time in the City’s square. When Prowoznik started out at age 18, the restaurant was located in the former Antique Mall, which has since been torn down and replaced with the Welcome Center near Great Northern Trading Company. He recalls his neighbors at that location. On the very top was Baskets in the Belfry—and that lofty location is the reason the store earned its name. He said the Candle Shop was already in business there and the Downery, a ski shop that sold winter wear. He recalls a gun shop in downtown and plenty of others who have come and gone. Prowoznik said he was in a position to expand his business when his current building came up for sale. In his former location he had room for only three tables, and business called for more. “I liked that it was one of the town’s oldest buildings” he said of his large restaurant, which is even bigger in the upper level. He said the building Rockford has long known as Vitale’s was a stagecoach stop in its early years. Built in 1879, it was Squires Inn for years and also once was a boarding house called Bridge Street House. Room rentals were for overnight or longer. Prowoznik purchased the building in 1980 and renovated it to be suitable for his business. “It was a restaurant when I bought it, but it wasn’t fit for me,” he said. He opened up walls and made room […]