By Betsy Dolan
One afternoon not long ago, five women from East Bernard drove to Rosenberg to do some shopping. In the early afternoon they stopped for a glass of wine at BR Vino in the historic downtown area and didn’t leave until 7:30.
“They had a blast,” Mike Mercado, owner of BR Vino, said.
Women enjoying some wine is hardly an oddity except when you consider that the women from East Bernard likely would not have stopped in downtown Rosenberg five years ago.
Gone are the thrift stores and seedy taverns of yesteryear. Today a variety of specialty businesses and restaurants have gone into the multi-block downtown area and the merchants, a crew of determined go-getters, are fully committed to turning the downtown area around.
“I see it becoming like Bandera or Fredericksburg,” said Sandra Macik who runs the Rustic Kuts furniture and western decor shop with her husband, Alan. “We had our best January in four years. We’re seeing the benefits from what they are trying to do.”
The goal is to transform downtown Rosenberg into a destination place –harkening back to the city’s hey day as a hub for shopping, business and rail transportation. Even the Central Fort Bend Chamber Alliance is buying in. They created the Historic Downtown Rosenberg Division, the fourth for the chamber, earlier this year.
“No one thought Fredericksburg would be Fredericksburg when it started,” said Rachelle Kanak, Member Relations Director with the Chamber. “There is a lot of energy downtown and a lot of diversity. Who knew that Rosenberg had a wine room, delicious food and two theaters?”
The arts is one way downtown Rosenberg is trying to build an identity. Imperial Arts, which relocated to Rosenberg from Sugar Land a year ago, now offers art classes, an art gallery and a variety of offerings at the Imperial Theater. A partnership has also been formed with the Houston Chamber Choir and a similar deal is in the works with the Houston Symphony.
“Moving to Rosenberg was a risk,” said Edward Crowell, Executive Director of Imperial Arts. “We didn’t know how many patrons from Sugar Land would follow us and we didn’t know how many new patrons we would be able to add but the response has been very positive.”
Currently the push is to get a Cultural Arts Designation from the Texas Commission on the Arts. The first application attempt was denied but the downtown group was urged to reapply.
“The first application might have been premature in that they didn’t have enough to say ‘look what we’ve done'”, said Kanak. “The extra year has given them the chance to polish what they already have and to implement things they wanted to do.”
Any major change comes with growing pains and there have been a few for Rosenberg. Parking is an issue and some merchants complain that certain areas of downtown haven’t been cleaned up enough. But the signs of a turn around are everywhere from the busy weekend events to the cars still parked on the streets after 5 p.m.
“It feels good to be a part of something that is growing,” Mercado, owner of BR Vino said. “The stars, the sun and the moon are all in alignment. People are strolling along our streets, eating in our restaurants, shopping in our stores and enjoying the arts. I couldn’t be happier.”