By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — A former ice cream shop that James Purifoy revived into one of the city’s most popular burger joints is ready to reopen for the first time in roughly two years.
Purifoy, who opened the original 15th & Chris spot on the city’s southeast side in October 2014, has spent the past two years motoring his burger creations across the region in a food truck. Now, he plans to reopen the original take-out restaurant at 201 15th Ave. at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
“I’ve been on this food tour taking my food to all these different places,” he said. “It’s like coming home.”
Purifoy’s business has become a staple in Rockford for burgers, winning the What Rocks Register Star reader’s poll for best burgers five times, including the most recent contest.
The reopening could benefit Rockford, too, he said. The two-year “food tour” allowed him to build a larger fan base outside Rockford that could come dine in the city now.
“I’ve been in all these cities: I’ve been in Candlewick, I’ve been in Freeport, I’ve been in Beloit, West Lake — I can’t even name all the places,” he said.
He closed the brick-and-mortar restaurant near the onset of the coronavirus pandemic here in 2020 as a means to operate safely and within the restrictions handed down by the state. He’s been preparing for the right time to reopen the original spot.
“It was a scary situation for everybody, didn’t nobody know too much about it,” Purifoy said of the pandemic wreaking havoc on the restaurant business. “It’s that much easier just moving the food truck around and doing the best you could do to stay safe.”
The menu at the restaurant is larger than what was offered at the food truck, and ice cream is also available at the restaurant.
Hours for restaurant are not set in stone yet, but Purifoy said he’ll start by operating under the previous fall schedule of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
He said once he’s able to add staff, he could operate both the truck and the restaurant. For now he’ll put his focus on the brick-and-mortar business.
“Right now, I know I’m going to be here watching smiling faces and stuff like that, looking at how vibrant the neighborhood is again,” Purifoy said.