Downtown Rockford is Cultural Soul of Of The Rockford Community.
The three founders of Prairie Street Brewing Co. all agreed that their craft brewery could not be more perfectly placed, hard on the Eastern banks of the Rock River in thriving downtown Rockford.
“Quite simply, downtown Rockford rocks,” said Chris Manuel, co-founder and CEO. “One of the things that I like best about being located here is the fact that I know our presence and our investment is making downtown better and more vibrant. When a city has a healthy urban core, the whole city is healthier.”
“We made a very conscious decision to make our brewery happen right here in this city,” said Reed Sjostrom, co-founder and Head of Brewery Operations. “Chris, Dustin, and I are all three native Rockfordians and we all grew up together. We all went away to school and we all came back. In many ways, it might have been easier to do this in a bigger city and a bigger market, but we wanted to make a difference right here. We still do. But, we know we’re standing on the shoulders of others. We weren’t the first ones who chose to locate to downtown and we’re proud to recognize all those who have made a difference and have helped carry on together.”
Downtown Rockford was a virtual ghost town in the late 1970’s when the MetroCentre Authority made the decision to locate what is now BMO Harris Bank Center on a then-desolate block of downtown property. The presence of the “big orange box” and its ability to draw thousands of concert-goers, hockey fans, and others to downtown has been an anchor whose sheer gravity attracted private investment. Riverview Ice House, directly adjacent to Prairie Street Brewing Company and many governmental buildings have also done their parts.
Over the years, ambitious, faithful private sector downtown pioneers have staked their claims and fought the good fight, drawing people and energy, such as Doc Slafkosky and Jerry Kortman of JR Kortman Center for Design, a high end gift shop and art gallery come to mind. Mike Leifheit of the Irish Rose, as longtime restauranteur and bar owner. Chris Wachowiak of Kryptonite (now Capital Grill). Palace Shoe Service has been downtown and thriving for many decades. There are many, many others whose more recent bets of good faith have helped create the kinetic energy one sees in Downtown Rockford now in the New Millennium. State Street is lined with fairly new eateries, independent shops, bars, and another local craft brewer, Carlyle Brewing Co. Lloyd and Diane Koch, Dustin Koch’s parents, also come to mind; it was they who in 1999 purchased Jonathan Peacock’s old brewery and completely revitalized it, helping make possible Prairie Street Brewing Co.’s rise to prominence.
Downtown Rockford is the community’s “Cultural Corridor” with several noted and amazing museums ensconced at the Riverfront Museum Park: Burpee Museum of Natural History (home of Jane, the famous one-of-a-kind, world-renowned juvenile T. rex), Rockord Art Museum (with a noted permanent collection and a propensity for developing its own exciting locally themed temporary exhibitions), and Discovery Center Museum (the world-renowned children’s museum with more than 250 hands-on exhibits for kids). The Rockford Public Library’s main branch location is also located downtown. UW Health Sports Factory and it’s 105,000 sq ft of hardcourt playing services (home of Prairie Street’s own Owly Oop Sports Pub) is located just across the river from BMO Harris Bank Center and Riverview Ice House, a hockey and figure skating facility, is Prairie Street’s next door neighbor.
Downtown Rockford is constantly hatching exciting new ways to attract citizens and visitors, alike. So, when you visit Prairie Street Brewing Co., be sure to spend a little time exploring all the other things to do and places to see just outside the brewery’s doors. A good resource for information of things to do and see in Real, Original Rockford, Illinois is gorockford.com.