By Bob Uphues
Striking a balance between marketing the village to a wider audience and scaring the bejesus out of those who would just as soon keep Riverside a sleepy, isolated bedroom community has always been a major obstacle to economic development in recent decades.
But Donald Pogany, an advertising creative director who runs a boutique agency in downtown Riverside called Sticky Worldwide, is striving to do just that.
Spurred on in part by his work with other local businesses, such as The Chew Chew restaurant, Blueprint Tours and others, Pogany has created a website — Refreshing Riverside (at www.refreshingriverside.com) — dedicated to telling Riverside's story in a visually compelling manner, one he hopes will be a destination for those seeking to find out about the village, from its rich history to its business community.
"I think of it as an online Riverside Central," said Pogany. "We want to be a media vehicle, a conduit for business. Riverside needs that identity, that packaging. What is our 'I Love New York'? Like 'Pure Michigan,' it's a state of mind."
At the center of the website (you can view it if you clock on the "R" logo on the top left corner of the home page) is a 3-minute, 30-second video that encapsulates what Pogany believes Riverside is all about. There's the landscape and homes and historic character. But there are also families and neighbors participating in local traditions like the July 3 and 4 festivities, enjoying a meal at a local restaurant and taking advantage of the recreational opportunities the village provides.
The tagline at the end of the video? "An American original since 1875."
And there's business intertwined with it all.
Pogany would like Refreshing Riverside to be a central marketplace for local businesses. There is a section of the website that highlights a handful right now. Pogany is also working with Chew Chew owner Scott Zimmer to create a new website for that business. A video telling the story of a day at the restaurant will be a central feature of that site.
"We like telling stories visually," Pogany said, "to make it a Life magazine kind of thing."
Pogany has lived in Riverside since 1999 but worked at large and small agencies in downtown Chicago until 2012. Last year he decided to pull the trigger and open Sticky Worldwide on Longcommon Road. He did it mainly for the lifestyle options it opened up for him and his family, which includes a small daughter.
"I had low expectations of the kind of traction we'd gain from a business standpoint," Pogany said of his agency's location. "It was driven by the lifestyle that I wanted to lead."
But he couldn't have been more wrong about the traction. Since opening his agency in Riverside, Pogany has made many local connections that have led to plenty of work.
"I'm busier here than in Chicago," Pogany said. "The creative opportunities we've gotten here are better than when we did [downtown]."
Pogany has recently joined the Riverside Economic Development Commission, a committee appointed by the village board to explore ways to improve opportunities for businesses in the village.
While he's a member of that commission, Pogany said Refreshing Riverside remains an independent project for him. But he does feel that Riverside can promote economic development without sacrificing its essential character.
For example, he feels like Riverside could become a destination for weddings, given its scenery and the availability of spaces like the historic train station, which hosted a wedding this summer.
"We've got to figure out how those places display the forward vision of Riverside," said Pogany. "There's unfinished business. If we can fulfill that, it will make people happy."