Partners in Revitalization: Local Leaders Whose Roots Run Deep
By Erica Stewart | From Online Only | February 26, 2010 |
With Black History Month as a backdrop, now is a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity of business and community leaders that call Main Street home. The story of the entrepreneurial Rogers family and the revitalization of Mount Holly, New Jersey, are inextricably linked. Lou Rogers, Sr., and his son, Lou Rogers, Jr., have played an essential role in bringing jobs, services, can-do spirit, and vitality to downtown Mount Holly, New Jersey, for a quarter century and counting.
Like many commercial corridors in the mid-1980s, downtown Mount Holly was a depressing place to do business. Residential and retail vacancy rates were high, the result of downsizing at area military bases and competition from suburban shopping malls in the Philadelphia area. Lou Rogers, Sr., a Mount Holly native, was not deterred, however, and opened LGR Group, an office equipment leasing company in 1985. Slowly the business gained traction, succeeding by growing its client base and gaining the trust – and capital – of lending institutions, which enabled him to take on bigger and bigger deals. Today LGR Group counts a broad array of Fortune 500 companies and federal government agencies among its clients.
Lou Rogers, Jr., followed in his dad's footsteps, sharing his father's commitment to cultivating business interests in downtown Mount Holly. He opened LGR Media under the LGR Group umbrella and operates a recording studio, production company, and record label that serve local and national talent. Then in 2008, the younger Rogers took on the challenging rehabilitation of a historic Union Fire Station downtown. Thanks to his vision and perseverance, the station now houses the Firehouse Café, a relaxed dining establishment that has earned rave reviews from all of Mount Holly and beyond. The venue gives the community a comfortable place to congregate, enjoy good food, and listen to regional jazz and gospel performances.
Mount Holly Main Street Executive Director Lynn Scowcroft has nothing but praise for the impact the father and son duo have had on downtown Mount Holly. She works most closely with Lou Rogers, Jr., calling on him to support Main Street events by making financial contributions, marketing promotional activities, and even hosting events. His centrally located café and his enterprising spirit have made Rogers a key ally in Mount Holly Main Street's agenda.
For example, Mount Holly's BBQ & Blues event was held for the first time in July, 2009. Rogers, Jr., stepped in to help book the blues musicians, provide the sound engineering and host a reception for the participating chefs. At last year's Fire & Ice event – a combination chili cook-off and ice carving competition – Firehouse Café sponsored an 11-piece New Orleans-style brass band to warm up the chilly night and help promote the café's grand opening scheduled for later that winter. Rogers also sponsored an ice sculpture, commissioning the carving of the café's logo in ice.
"Having someone with his vision, energy, and resources, especially in these difficult economic times, is a huge asset to Mount Holly," says Scowcroft.
Lou Rogers, Jr., is quick to praise Lynn and the Mount Holly Main Street organization for their creative ideas and enthusiasm, and for their willingness to find new ways of cross-promoting each other. He laments that time is the only limiting factor to hatching new ideas for collaboration.
Meanwhile, the business district itself has grown alongside the Rogers family enterprises, abetted by Urban Growth Zone designation in 1995 (which lowers Mount Holly's sales tax rate to half of New Jersey's rate) and the tireless work of the Mount Holly Main Street. Today Mount Holly enjoys a job growth rate that is twice the national average, and even though the Main Street program has faced budget cuts, it remains at the forefront of Mount Holly's revitalization, with the Rogers family solidly behind them.