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Last week I heard some shocking news from my hometown that I’m still processing: businessman John Schroeder announced his retirement from the restaurant that he started with his brother Charlie in 1981. Some may shrug. Many more understand why this is a seismic moment in the history of Rome’s city center.

Through boundless joy, vision and sheer force of will, Schroeder did something few could imagine 38 years ago. He looked at a Broad Street lined with derelict buildings and vacant sidewalks and saw the future. Even the restaurant’s name, Schroeder’s New Deli, reflected John’s love of puns and wordplay. With an inventive menu and passion for hospitality, Schroeder’s lit a fuse that set off an explosion of renewal, historic preservation and capital investment downtown that continues to this day.

John was only 27 when he introduced his Roast Beef Relief and Crummy Pita to the world. His enthusiasm for sharing great food, laughter and music never waned. Schroeder’s Courtyard has hosted countless musical artists over the decades, some famous, others enjoying their first stage experience.

I think it is important for us to take a moment to recognize what this hard-working, happy, creative man has done to make downtown Rome a genuine destination for tourists, students and families.

Schroeder’s New Deli will continue under able management and this will give John the freedom to explore new interests. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

The next time we share a pizza and a beer at Schroeder’s, let’s remember that the prosperity and economic vibrance that we see in downtown Rome today has its roots in the energy of a true visionary entrepreneur who loves people, loves serving food and built his business the old fashioned way — one corny joke at the time.

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