By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
LOVES PARK — A new business is set to move into the former Jacobs Signs at the corner of Windsor and Forest Hills roads after the building sat vacant for roughly three years.
Jacobs, with its recognizable neon sign, had operated for approximately 40 years in Loves Park before moving to Rockford.
In less than a year, you could be eating a slice of pizza while testing your luck on video gambling machines at Top Dollar Slots. Owners Frank and Sarah Laudicina also run Napoli’s Pizza and incorporate their restaurant into the video gambling business. Customers can order from Napoli’s and eat and drink while they play.
“We’ve got some great, exciting plans to renovate the inside and outside of the building,” Frank Laudicina said. “We’re in the demolition phase right now. Hopefully, within the next six to eight months we’ll have a new establishment.”
The site at 2189 Windsor Road will be the third Top Dollar Slots in the city. The others are at 6590 N. Alpine Road and 6130 E. Riverside Blvd. Napoli’s Pizza has two locations, at 6560 N. Alpine Road and 8289 Burden Road in Machesney Park.
“We always encourage good, quality business owners like Frank to do things like this because we know it’s going to be taken care of. They do a great job,” Loves Park Mayor Greg Jury said.
Video gambling is a key source of revenue for the city, and one that helps it operate without levying a property tax, Jury said.
The city had 64 businesses with video gaming operating as of the end of July, according to figures from the Illinois Gaming Board. Gamblers put $10.3 million into the 373 machines, losing more than $2.7 million. The city earned $135,680 in July for its share of the revenue.
When City Council members decided in July to expand the number of liquor licenses and therefore video gambling in the city, the goal was to help existing businesses expand, Jury said.
“We’re filling an empty building with an active business that is going to have people working there,” he said.
Jacobs Signs was founded by John Jacobs more than 40 years ago. It started on 18th Avenue in Rockford before moving the 6900 block of North Alpine Road in Loves Park, where Instant Jungle is now, said Jeff Jacobs, John’s son who runs the business now called Smart Signs. It was at the corner of Windsor and Forest Hills for about 40 years until moving about three years ago.
Smart Signs is now located at 4103 S. Main St. in Rockford.