Kickstarter campaign helps with renovation of Rockford pizza pub

All of the $17,000-plus raised on Kickstarter will go toward renovation, but the sum is just a drop in the bucket of the estimated $1 million renovation project. Rendering courtesy Rockford Brewing Company

After being live for about a week, Rockford Brewing Company’s Kickstarter campaign to engage the community with its restoration of the historic 1866 building is now complete. Now Malph’s Pizza Pub is one step closer to bringing back the glory days of Rockford Brewing.

At press time, the project had not yet landed itself a general contractor. Rockford Brewing co-owner Seth Rivard said the brewery actually has been doing much of the renovation and demolition itself so far.

All of the project’s architecture is complete. The team has to repair and add footings to relevel the old building. Additionally, the second floor must be removed entirely and rebuilt.

“Things like that are more work than we expected, but we knew it would be a lot,” Rivard said.

All of the $17,000-plus raised on Kickstarter will go toward renovation, but the sum is truly just a drop in the bucket of the estimated $1 million renovation project. Rivard said it was just a way to get the community involved and earn some fun prizes in the process.

The majority of funding will come from long-term Rockford Brewing staff who are invested in the company, as well as longtime and first-time investors. Rivard predicted the project will not require any bank financing.

“The Kickstarter is probably going to be less than 1% of the funding,” Rivard said. “But we’re glad the community was excited to get involved … there are a lot of Rockford history enthusiasts here.”

The original building existed before the name Rockford was even established for the city, Rivard said. The town was first named Laphamville after Smith Lapham, one of the original settlers to the area in the mid-19th century, before it became incorporated as the Village of Rockford in June 1866 with only 315 inhabitants.

“All these guys that founded the town and various companies, they built only a few structures still standing, and this is one of them,” Rivard said.

The more than 150-year-old building saw previous life as Rockford’s first hotel, a boarding house, and various stores and restaurants. It most recently was the home of Vitale’s Pizza of Rockford for the past 40 years.

Many existing parts of the building were added over the years. The original was built in 1866, and 20 years later, a second party bought it and doubled the size. In the back of the building is a small addition from 1940s that was poorly constructed. Rivard said Rockford Brewing plans to remove it completely, and in its place will be the new brewery/distillery and a rooftop deck.

The remodeled 5,764-square-foot pizza pub will feature two separate bars and a scenic view of the historic Rogue River Dam and downtown Rockford. Building plans also feature expansive outdoor seating complete with a large beer garden/patio and an elevated deck.

Malph’s menu will continue to feature some of the favorite recipes from the past 43 years along with a host of new items already being developed by the RBC culinary team.

Rivard said Rockford Brewing Co. will remain at 12 E. Bridge St. NE, and Malph’s Pizza Pub will exist to serve a different demographic, harkening back to the days when Rockford Brewing first opened.

“Originally when we opened, we didn’t have food and Vitale’s provided pizza,” Rivard said. “When we decided to open the kitchen, we went for more of a gastropub-type menu. We hired chefs to come up with creative food, and we got a whole new foodie demographic. Doing something like the pizza place is going to recapture some of those glory days that people appreciate.”

The addition of an on-site distillery is going to be a game-changer as well, Rivard said. His business partner and Rockford Brewing co-founder Jeff Sheehan will be putting his distilling chops to good use. Sheehan was involved in the early days of New Holland Brewing Co. when that company first began distilling spirits.

Malph’s Pizza Pub is expected to welcome patrons in spring 2023, but Rivard said he is hopeful it will be done sooner, depending on the investment partners and contractors the project lands.

Follow Malph’s progress on Kickstarter and on Facebook and Instagram.

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