Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Eat, Drink, and Celebrate Paterson

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Eat, Drink, and Celebrate Paterson

Article excerpt

Running an upscale restaurant and entertainment venue in his hometown hasn't been an easy endeavor for Mike Jackson.

A sagging economy, combined with some people's perception of Paterson, has hurt business at Jacksonville. Ten years after it opened, however, the former Kennedy High School quarterback remains firmly committed to providing Patersonians and others with dining and entertainment experiences Jackson considers distinctive within his city's limits.

Jackson considers himself horrible at self-promotion, but the energetic entrepreneur doesn't hesitate to promote Paterson.

"Knowing that I grew up here," Jackson, 42, said, "and that I was able to open a business here that's supported by the community, that's probably the best part for me. But I think Paterson gets a bad rap, so when you try to bring clientele in from outside the city, sometimes it takes a little more work to convince them that it's a place that they should explore."

After playing briefly for the Canadian Football League's Ottawa Roughriders and two seasons for the Arena Football League's New Jersey Red Dogs in the 1990s, Jackson worked in the music industry prior to opening Jacksonville in 2003. He expanded Jacksonville essentially by himself in 2008, when Jackson put the engineering and architectural design degree he earned at Bethune-Cookman University to great use.

Jackson converted a "dirty, raggedy warehouse" area behind Jacksonville's bar into a cozy, contemporary, 3,000-square-foot dining space with an adjacent patio.

"I did things I never did before," said Jackson, whose younger brother, Stanley, played quarterback for Paterson Catholic and Ohio State. "I put the cobblestone down. I put the stones on the walls. I did all the construction.

"Doing it myself definitely made it more rewarding. But I did it that way out of necessity, based on budget, based on circumstances. …

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