I moved from Chicago to my hometown of Rockford, IL in 2013 after my father passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack. While continuing to pursue my career in music, I decided to stay and invest in the downtown Rockford community.
I've always had a passion for food and music. I've been throwing 'supper clubs' out of my many tiny apartments for years. Before receiving a Music Business Degree from Columbia College, I attended the International Institute of Culinary Arts in Massachusetts and went on to work in several restaurants along the East Coast, as well as in the city of Chicago.
My dream is to create a hometown breakfast pub (7 am to 2 pm) that is occasionally open in the evenings for dinner and live music. It will be called The Norwegian. The menu will feature a mix of Scandinavian and soul foods (think eggs Benedict, Akvavit-cured gravlax, organic salads, smokey mac and cheese, locally roasted coffee, elderberry mimosas, and old-time cocktails).
I looked at several buildings before finally purchasing 1404 N. Main Street, near the new roundabout on Auburn Street. This historic 85-year-old building has gorgeous features, and I love that it's located on the west side of the city near so many residential neighborhoods and Auburn High School, where I graduated in 1998.
After spending several months working in the downstairs restaurant area, I started addressing the upstairs office lofts in the building. They were in extreme disrepair, but still salvageable. My plan was to rent out these sunny, spacious lofts to local businesses in need of comfortable and attractive headquarters.
I had an environmental health inspector come in to take samples and check for mold upstairs. Great news! No mold! Bad news: lots of asbestos.
I had initially budgeted for a new roof, windows, and some electrical work, but I didn't budget for asbestos; the previous owner did not disclose the existence of asbestos to me at the time of sale. I attempted to remove the carpet that covered these tiles with the intent of having fresh flooring laid on top of them, but the tiles are too brittle and break as I try to lift the carpet.
I talked to the EPA and the Illinois Department of Public Health, and I have no choice but to have the asbestos removed by professionals. It will cost tens of thousands of dollars to remove, and then I'll need tens of thousands more to install 4,000 square feet of new floors. The environmental and health inspectors I spoke with said that most people who encounter asbestos simply don't report it, but I want to do what's right for this building and for our community.
I tried to get a loan. I figured that--because I own 100% of the building and have invested so much already into a new roof, HVAC system, and plumbing--I would be a good candidate. Unfortunately, because my full-time job is "independent musician," lending institutions won't give me any financial support.
I met with Rockford city government and development officials, and they are enthusiastic about this project. They have offered to defray my future renovation expense in the form of sales tax relief and matching funds for facade upgrade, but they can offer no outright start-up assistance.
So now I either find a way to come up with the money, or I need to sell the building. I thought the best way to raise funds is to do what I do best: write music.
I'm about to release my 13th studio album. It's called "Shine Kid Shine;" this collection of soulful songs features messages of hope that I wrote for my baby (I'm due with my first child in a little more than a month). The album was recorded live in Chicago at King Size Sound Labs, and the artwork was done by my talented cousin Anne Chanson. I'm asking the community to pre-order this record. All of the funds raised will go into repairs necessary to get The Norwegian up and running.
More about my life as a musician can be found on my website. If this Kickstarter succeeds, The Norwegian's information will be located at thenorwegian.com. I hope you'll consider supporting this project!
Risks and challenges
If this project is successfully funded, I'll still be faced with the challenges of any new restaurateur: getting a liquor license, passing inspection, and most notably, gaining a following in the community. Rest-assured, I'm used to working hard to meet my goals, and I will follow through to accomplish these tasks with integrity and community-minded action.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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