James Purifoy, a lifelong Rockford resident, is making it his mission to feed the community with friendliness and gourmet burgers.
His restaurant, 15th & Chris, is a revival of a childhood favorite and his food truck is fueled with food and fellowship.
And with all of this, Purifoy is living his Rockford dream.
"Rockford is just so undiscovered. Rockford is waiting for the next great thing to come. When it does, you would love to be a part of it," Purifoy says. "I'm doing my part to Transform Rockford."
He grew up in Rockford's inner-city, graduating from Jefferson High School in 1993.
"To me I was a success story when I graduated high school."
Rockford saw hard times back then, but Purifoy says his community was fruitful and giving. He says it was home.
"You had Black Hawk Park. As a kid you wanted to go out and play at the park. You had the ice cream parlor that is now 15th & Chris. It was the tip of the iceberg then," he said. "And I had family all in the neighborhood and everybody was OK with each other. Everything was good."
Fast forward nearly 25 years and Purifoy is making it his mission to revive the area and give back to the people who helped put him where he is today.
To start, he opened 15th & Chris in October of 2014.
"Every burger on my menu is taste-tested at least 10 times before it goes on the menu," he says. "So when it is OK by me to say 'That's a 15th & Chris burger,' it's going on the menu."
He says it's the people and the welcoming atmosphere that make 15th & Chris a cornerstone of the Rockford community.
"They are making parts of the conversation with people that they may never see again, or they only see when they see them at 15th & Chris," Purifoy says of the camaraderie at the restaurant. "They come around and say 'Hey! What are you trying today? I'm having the First Lady," which is a popular burger based with steak sauce and served with Swiss cheese, mushrooms, grilled onions and mayo.
The 15th & Chris building came first — it's located on the corner of 15th Avenue and Christina Street. Then came the food truck, which makes it way across different locations in the city.
"I wanted to start with the building and then the food truck came when I knew I was not going to be able to reach the demographic I wanted to reach," Purifoy says. "You don't have to come to me. I can come to you."
You can also look forward to a chain someday.
"I want it to pop up like the McDonald's and the Beef-A-Roos."
It's Purifoy's dream. And it's a dream for his city.
The restaurant is closed during the winter months so Purifoy can enjoy the holidays and time with family. The food truck, however, is out and about.
For its schedule, location and most-recent updates, visit the 15th & Chris Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/15thChris/
For a look at menu items, please visit the 15th & Chris website: http://15thandchris.com/