In the Know

The latest rumblings and rumors from the East Side

So Rhode Island Magazine ·

The City Plows Ahead
December 21 marks the official start of winter, which means those first flakes can’t be far behind. With that in mind, Russell Knight, head of the city’s Department of Public Works is making the rounds on the East Side, reassuring us that everything will be much better this year than last. In meetings with both the Fox Point and College Hill Neighborhood Associations, he reported that three major pieces of equipment have been purchased, local maps have been updated with key routes prioritized and internal planning sessions have been held. Here’s hoping the preparations will bear fruit and, more importantly, that Mother Nature cuts us a little more slack this winter.

A Five Star Loss For Providence…
News of the recent death of George Germon, who with his wife Johanne Killeen founded the legendary Al Forno restaurant here in Providence, marked the passage of one of the giants of our local restaurant scene. A lengthy obituary ran in the New York Times that described them as the team that put Providence on the gastronomic map. The article went on to note that the two first met as art students at RISD (he as a sculptor, she as a photographer) and how initially “they saw the restaurant as a way to supplement their artists’ income, viewing it as something of an art project.” The pair are widely credited with inventing the concept of grilled pizza and pioneering the importance of sourcing local ingredients long before it became popular. They won the James Beard Award in 1993 for being the best chefs in the Northeast and the restaurant itself was named “the best casual restaurant in the world” in 1994 by the International Herald Tribune (now the International New York Times). It is difficult to underestimate Al Forno’s importance in creating the outstanding culinary reputation our city now enjoys.

… Plus One For Wayland Square
In additional local food related news, Wayland Square lost one of its most passionate advocates and lovers of fine food when Greg Holtkamp, who owned The Olive Tap with his wife Deb, passed away at the age of 55. A graduate of West Point, he served as platoon leader for the elite Army Rangers before returning and starting a successful career in food and restaurant marketing. He enjoyed sharing his passion and love for good food with his staff and customers, especially the tastings that were frequent and popular Wayland Square events.

Just the Right Ticket?
Some East Side store owners are complaining that their livelihoods are being threatened. Not just by an increasingly aggressive criminal element. Or high taxes. Or unplowed streets. This time, it’s parking meters. The onslaught began first on Thayer Street. This past month they appeared at Wayland Square. Can Hope and Wickenden be far behind? Given the nature of shopping patterns here, much of it by relatively quick in and outs by local residents, the new metering strikes us as an ill-conceived pennies wise/dollars foolish decision. Given the overwhelming support the mayor received from the East Side in the last election, one would think this is a decision City Hall might want to revisit. Just saying.

Bright Lights. Bigger City?
With the opening of the massive LA Fitness building near the Providence-Pawtucket line, the much anticipated facelift for that section of North Main Street may finally be at hand. Already a drive down the street is becoming considerably more animated and colorful. Part of it is the addition of some attention-grabbing new electronic signs from City Liquors and Empire Loans with more possibly to come. Let’s hope it’s the precursor of continued growth for an area of the city that once was quite vibrant (longtime residents may even remember when Sears and Anderson Little Clothes had large anchor stores on the street). The Summit Neighborhood Association deserves credit for the efforts they have initiated over the past few years with charrettes and meetings in an effort to rekindle interest in the street. For our part, we’d personally vote for a Trader Joe’s.

More Changes Coming to Hope, Thayer and Wayland Square
As signs seem to be pointing to an improving economy, several new stores are planning to open on the East Side. On Hope Street, Evolve Apothecary has beautifully renovated the space formerly occupied by Fresh Pearls to showcase their sustainable body and home products. The Japanese restaurant Ebisu is set to open a second location in the space vacated by Blaze. And Creatoyvity has been sold to Kas Sharma, owner of the well-known, three store, upscale chain in Boston called Henry Bear’s Park.

Things are happening around Wayland Square as well. Renovations continue at the old United Way building on the corner of Wayland and Waterman with Washington Trust and Message Envy expected to open shortly. They will be joined by a restaurant called Moe’s Southwest Grill. In addition, longtime women’s clothier Dorothy Williams, owned by Claudia and Bob Mills, has been sold to Jennifer Bose who will be moving here from New York. As we go to press, we’re told renovations will be beginning in the store after the holidays. And finally, amidst these new arrivals, unfortunately we also have to report that one of Thayer Streets oldest stores, the quirky but lovable ZuZu’s Petals, has closed.

Russell Knight, Department of Public Works, College Hill Neighborhood Association, Fox Point Neighborhood Association, George Germon, Johanne Killeen, Al Forno, RISD, Wayland Square, Greg Holtkamp, The Olive Tap, LA Fitness, North Main Street, City Liquors, Empire Loans, Summit Neighborhood Association, Hope Street, Evolve Apothecary, Ebisu, Creatoyvity, Blaze, Washington Trust, Message Envy, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Dorothy Williams, Claudia Mills, Bob Mills, Jennifer Bose, ZuZu’s Petals