John Adams owns the Bleu House Café and Bleu House Market in Historic Norcross. Both reside in brightly painted old homes in the city’s charming downtown, a few blocks from the sleek headquarters of the paperboard and packaging giant RockTenn, which is considering relocation after expanding their workforce when they bought another company, Smurfit-Stone.
He estimates that he does about $200 per day in catering business with the company, a good portion of his total of $3,000 or $4,000 per day. “It’s not a drop in the bucket,” he said on a recent morning on his new patio. “It’s good business that we’re going to miss.”
Adams said he could deliver to a new location, but it wouldn’t be as convenient. “I just hope the city is doing all that it can do,” he said.
The merchants can only pin their livelihoods to hope at this point. With those involved in the negotiations bound by a confidentiality agreement and very few city officials involved, the status of the city’s wooing remains hazy.
Councilmember Charlie Rheim said that he has very little information about the negotiations, but he can innumerate the effects that the business leaving would have on the city.
The first of those effects in his mind is the involvement the company has in the community. RockTenn and its subsidiary are putting together this weekend's Strawberry Stroll 5K. Their past contributions include helping to erect a Boys & Girls Club in the area.
And there's the business lost from the absence of a multi-billion-dollar company with hundreds of employees in the city limits. Also, if they decide to stay, they would be bringing many more jobs into the area instead of taking them away, Rheim says.
Down the block from the Bleu House at the Iron Horse Tavern, manager Mike Holley also expressed somber hope. “It would put a little hurtin’ on downtown,” he said. “I just hope they are doing they can.”
He said he can see how much of his business, especially during lunch, comes from the RockTenn crowd since the employees usually keep their IDs around their necks.
He said that often a lunch at the tavern turns into a Christmas party or an after-work drink—it is that kind of business that adds up for downtown merchants.
Neva Spell, owner of the Norcross Barber Shop, a mainstay of the historic area, says she counts the steady business of the employees of RockTenn, too. “I can could on my hands the number of regular customers I would lose,” she said.
She said she understands the growing pains, but she has felt like businesses packing up and moving out has become too frequent lately.
Editor's Note: An email address was set up for citizens to sound off about the RockTenn issue: firstname.lastname@example.org.