Rockford

Compared to most of the other small towns in West Michigan that I’ve photographed, Rockford feels like a “boutique” small town. It has a garage in the business district, albeit on the edge. It has lots of cool old buildings, similar to many of the others towns. But most all of the businesses are cafes, ice cream places, pubs, restaurants, and shops, most of which feel more “bougie” than blue-collar. That’s not an insult. It’s just striking. (I grew up in rural communities, but I’m closer to bougie than blue-collar these days.) I did not see a hardware store in the business district, for example. But I did see a place to recharge an electric car.

As in the past few weeks, I again used a Polaroid style in processing the images. Soft highlights and shadows, rich color but not too saturated. Soft rather than hard focus. These images don’t use the classic 1X1 format, mostly because the images I saw did not work well with that format.

This small town no longer seems to serve farms, orchards, and small industry, as the other small towns in the region do. It seems to serve a white-collar crowd. This does not make Rockford any less authentic as a small town, it’s just that it feels more like some of the tourist industry small towns you see in the Midwest and far West than a place defined by agriculture, mining, timber, or small industry. This image suggests what I mean.

It probably does not attract tourists from outside the region, but it is a great place to put a kayak in the river or start a bike ride on road or trail.

I love the old neon sign in the “The Corner” bar in the front of this image. In the background, you see a place that used to be the Rockford hotel and “Sam’s Joint.” Now it’s an Uccello’s restaurant franchise. The next image is the Sam’s Joint/Uccello’s building from the back. A great old building. The third is a closeup of “The Corner” neon light.

You can get a feel for the boutique quality of the town with the next few images. One is a new build, or at least renovated building, that houses a waxing studio that does “Brazilian,” “Botox,” and more. Definitely bougie more than blue collar, unless I miss my guess! The second is a outdoor sports-clothing place, is a nice old building. The third sells prize-winning olive oil and other foodie supplies.

I was there on a Saturday morning, and the downtown was busy, with cars parked everywhere and lots of people walking in the area. Some were heading for the farmer’s market, others to their favorite café or smoothie place for a morning beverage. A few found a quiet place to chill. One family headed into a place that promotes Michigan.

I can’t imagine living in Rockford. That’s mostly because it’s about 25-35 minutes north of Grand Rapids, and I’d weary of fighting the morning and evening traffic. But there’s lots to like about the amenities there and it’s a good place to live from the viewpoint of outdoor sports and exercise.

It has been a hot few days, as the school year starts up. Next week promises to be a bit cooler. I hope that people mask up to prevent a burst of COVID19 cases in Michigan, but I have heard enough stories of schools ignoring COVID health guidelines to know that there are a lot of problems in some school districts and that we may well see a rise in COVID cases among school-age children and their families.

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