Wickenden Street: Providence's East Side

 

The East Side of Providence has always fascinated me, from the time I first discovered it as a teenager. Of all the cities and towns throughout Rhode Island, the East Side is probably the most eclectic collection of culture, art, style, food, and people that you’ll find. In fact, the East Side almost feels like its own city, separate from Providence entirely. And within the East Side there are different areas such as College Hill, Thayer Street, Hope Street, Wayland Square, Blackstone Boulevard, Fox Point, and Wickenden Street. Sure, it’s a lot to take it in at first - but for any Rhody native, when we speak of the East Side, we typically refer to the specific location. Today, my specific location for our Neighborhood Walk is Wickenden Street.

 

Wickenden Street is located at the southern tip of the East Side, and runs from Benefit Street to Gano Street in an East - West direction. Most people come over the Point Street Bridge to gain access to the area. Having plenty of experience in this locale, we decided to step away from our usual haunts such as Fellini Pizzeria, Coffee Exchange, or Wickenden Pub, and focus on shops we don’t get to as often. This plan led us to some of the most interesting places we’ve ever visited during our walks.

Usually when we come to the area, we stop in at Brickway Cafe for a bite - but today we popped into Amy’s Place for breakfast. 

Amy’s has a uniqueness about it that I really appreciate, and fits very well with the neighborhood. The walls are adorned with pieces from local artists and the furniture appears to be an interesting mix of reclaimed and thrift store finds that you would expect for such an artistic area. Although it’s basically a traditional sit-down breakfast and lunch restaurant, we were given menus and invited to sit down to decide what to order.  Then, once we were ready to order, we did so at the counter. We also paid for everything when we ordered, a process I found to be highly efficient given the size of the establishment. We enjoyed our meals, warmed up on hot coffee and headed out to continue our journey.

Just across the road from Amy’s Place, we stopped in at The Curatorium. Not your typical gift shop, The Curatorium is a very well thought-out collection of beautifully designed, incredibly desirable items of all shapes and sizes. This is a “must stop” for anyone who appreciates unique finds. Melissa and I felt such an attraction to this shop that “Chief Curator”, Matt Bird, commented on how thorough we were in considering every single item. We walked away with several gift ideas!

Heading on our way, we started east up the hill toward Hope Street. It was a particularly cold day, ducking into a few shops along the way to our next destination, Three Wheel Studio. We were in the area recently, and wanted to pay a visit just to see the incredible pottery found here but unfortunately, they were closed. As we stepped in today, Melissa and I were greeted with a smile and a fantastic smell of incense burning.  Three Wheel Studio is a working studio as well as a storefront with the Studio Potter, Dwo Wen Chen, throwing clay from behind a counter. His easygoing demeanor added to the atmosphere as we poked around. Not all of the work at Three Wheel Studio is Dwo’s; there is also a good mix of artwork from around the country displayed. During our visit we were fortunate to meet Tzu-Ju Chen, a Studio Jeweler who gave us a personal look at her work as she explained her process.

We probably could have spent a majority of our day with Dwo and Tzu-Ju at Three Wheel but our next destination was waiting, so we said our goodbyes and headed down the road. Gallery Belleau is just next door to Three Wheel Studio. This is a spot that we’ve frequented; in fact we’ve purchased several nice pieces as gifts in the past. Chris Belleau, owner and resident glass artist, greeted us with a smile. His work is astonishing, there is a certain command of the glass that is displayed in each piece he produces. I’m completely drawn to his “Wave” pieces that line the shelves in the front windows. I was happy to discover that Gallery Belleau has been at this location for more than 11 years, while his off-site glass blowing studio has occupied the same location for over 26 years. Unfortunately, the studio has to be relocated due to the building owner’s plans to develop the property. Luckily, Chris has plans to move the glass blowing operation to a new location in the coming months. As for Gallery Belleau on Wickenden -  nothing is changing there, except perhaps the addition of more quality inventory.

I especially enjoyed this Neighborhood Walk -  partly because of my love for the East Side, but more so because of the people we met along the way. I encourage you to get out into our Rhode Island neighborhoods and walk around.   You never know – you could find a gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend, discover a new cuisine, and learn something about art – all on a weekend morning!