ROCKFORD — The owner of Fuego Nuevo Grill will invest up to $1 million to transform a long-vacant building on East State Street into the new home of his restaurant.
Despite a strong customer base, the global pandemic hit the restaurant hard and it is still recovering, owner Jose Chavez said.
What was already high rent at his current Spring Creek Road location was due to increase, Chavez said.
Instead of renewing his five-year lease, Chavez tapped low-interest small business loans to purchase the 6,800-square-foot former location of Tumbleweed, 5494 E State St. which closed in 2008.
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If all goes well, the new location — which is about 2,000-square-feet larger than the current restaurant — will be up and running this fall, Chavez said.
Chavez knows he is in for a challenge. His restaurant will attempt to be successful in a location where other restaurants have failed.
Most recently it was known as Ichiban, a restaurant featuring Chinese and Japanese cuisine which was then reformatted as Hibachi Buffet in 2012.
“I am a hard worker,” Chavez said. “I really believe that if we can do things in the right way, we can make it.”
Rockford City Council has agreed to subsidize a portion of the redevelopment cost with tax increment financing to keep the business in the city and breathe new life into an empty building.
As Chavez’ investment in the building increases its property value, the increased property taxes it generates — called tax increment — will be used to reimburse him for eligible development expenses and property acquisition.
It is estimated that Chavez could be reimbursed up to $150,000 over 14 years to defray some of the costs of the project.
“If I have the right food, if I pay attention to the customers and work hard, I can make it a success,” Chavez said. “And the best thing — it will be my own building. I won’t have to pay rent anymore or deal with landlords anymore.”