Slice: Rockford Art Deli to celebrate 5 years in business with birthday party

Kristen Zambo, RRStar

ROCKFORD — To mark five years in business and celebrate their customers, a downtown Rockford store plans to host a birthday party on Friday. Rockford Art Deli, 402 E. State St., launched on Sept. 29, 2012. Owners of the shop — noted for its pro-Rockford and 815-themed T-shirts — plan to host a daylong party to help commemorate the day, complete with musicians, free T-shirt printing, food and brews. “We call it a birthday party. It sounds more fun,” said shop co-owner Britney Lindgren, 31, of Rockford. “It’s not for us to get recognition for being open. It’s a party for the benefit of Rockford lovers.” Thirteen years ago, Lindgren and Jarrod Hennis, 35, her partner in life as well as the business, began operating a custom screen printing business on the second floor of their corner storefront. About 10 years ago they began printing T-shirts, selling them outside the building during On the Waterfront while seated at the gate. They began selling T-shirts touting Rockford in 2011 at Rockford Handmade Market. But at that time, such T-shirts embracing Rockford weren’t hot sellers. “We would sit here with three or four T-shirts and try to sell them and no one bought them,” Lindgren said. “It took a long time trying to get people to buy T-shirts. A lot of people didn’t love Rockford. Lindgren and Hennis moved to Rockford 13 years ago from Byron. She said, “We just really quickly fell in love with Rockford” and slowly Rockford residents began to embrace the pride of living in Rockford. A business began to build, and they turned one of the second-floor rooms into their store, which was open one day each week. In June 2012, they began selling at Rockford City Market, Lindgren said. Hennis and some friends remodeled the ground floor, trying to preserve the original hardwood floors and intricately detailed tin work on the ceiling. While they embrace Rockford, they also prize the city’s history. That includes the history of the building. The building dates to 1890, Lindgren said, and once housed the Old Manufacturer’s Bank. The building also was used by an office supply company, political campaign office and the salon Fusion. “We try to make sure that a shirt we’re working on is historically correct,” she said. Their No. 1 seller is the 815 T-shirts. Also high on the list are shirts that read “Rockford” on the front and “815″ on the back and shirts showcasing the Rockford Peaches women’s baseball team. Friday’s birthday party kicks off at noon. From noon to 8 p.m., everyone who brings in a T-shirt will receive free printing of one select design. Musical acts are booked for 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Prairie Street Brewhouse will have beer for sale from 6:30 to 10 p.m. and a food truck from 15th & Chris will be on site from 8 to 10 p.m. The first 50 shoppers to buy merchandise will receive a free surprise gift, Lindgren said. The store’s unofficial mascot and greeter, Pepper, a 3-year-old Australian cattle dog and Jack Russell terrier mix, will be on duty, too. Kristen Zambo: 815-987-1339;; @KristenZambo

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The Rock River Development Partnership (RRDP) was established in 2009 as a 501c3 organization. The RRDP brings businesses and people together to create place. We are entrepreneurial and experiential market makers. Our strategies are to create connections between local entrepreneurs and customers to drive economic development to Rockford’s urban core and historic commercial districts, and to foster vibrancy through the activation of storefronts, placemaking and tourism.

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