Providence’s economy is ailing and continues to lag in its recovery efforts. The job market is tough. The taxes are high. It routinely ranks near the bottom on various lists of cities that are good places to do business. These harsh truths are among our favorite topics of discussion – on talk radio, during election season, around the barbershop, at the dinner table, it seems like someone is always decrying the economic climate in our fair city. While none of these facts are in dispute, and improving these grim circumstances remains imperative for the health of the city, we must also examine the full scope of our socio-economic reality before throwing up our hands in utter despair. There’s a lot more to a vibrant metropolis than taxes and employment numbers, and a lot more to the business climate than the concerns of – to borrow a phrase from one partner in a small, creative local business – “silver-haired CFOs.”
A couple of months back, venerable news site The Daily Beast published its list of “America’s Thriving Cities,” ranking the 100 largest cities based on factors like population growth, unemployment and earnings, and market strength. Not surprisingly, Providence was nowhere near the top. Among the cities that were: Gilbert, AZ (#8); Plano, TX (#7); and number 1, Irvine, CA. If you’re ready to pack your bags and leave Providence behind in favor of any of those boomtowns, I’ll drive you to the airport.
The problem with gauging a city’s health by purely economic readings is that they’re so cut and dry –there isn’t a whole lot of room for the intangibles that can make a place truly great. New Orleans, surprisingly, is in the midst of a tech-driven economic surge that has led some to call it “the Silicon Valley of the South.” If I were to ask you to list the top ten appealing things about the Big Easy, you probably wouldn’t land on that one. It’s the food, the music, the celebrations, the history and countless other …
Half Way Tree Authentic Jamaican Cuisine has opened at 44 Hospital Street in the Jewelry District, providing full service lunch and dinner as well as takeout. The menu includes all the Jamaican and Caribbean classics you’d expect. They offer authentic jerk chicken wings and spicy meat patties, plus small and large plates of oxtail, curry goat, red snapper and jerk chicken accompanied by rice and peas, fried plantains and vegetables. On Friday and Saturday they’ll have a special of ackee fruit and saltfish, another classic Jamaican dish.
The season looks promising, with several new bars and restaurants in full swing. Probably the biggest news was the late March opening of The Grange, a vegetable restaurant from Garden Grille veteran Jon Dille. Much like its predecessor, The Grange’s plant-based cuisine is intended to appeal beyond the vegan/vegetarian set and attract all diners – even carnivorous ones. The Kyla Coburn-designed restaurant (she’s responsible for Loie Fuller’s, The Avery and several other restaurants that have caused you to comment on how gorgeous they are) occupies the fantastic space on the corner of Broadway and Dean Street that has sadly come and gone in various incarnations over the past few years. But judging by the work they put into it (the new façade is beautiful) and the early buzz, The Grange is here to stay.
Elsewhere on the West Side, enigmatic restaurateur Mike Sears (Lili Marlene’s, Ama’s) has opened Justine’s, his newest cocktail lounge, in Olneyville Square. The speakeasy style bar is squarely aimed at appealing to women (and by extension, of course, men): you enter it through a curtain in the back of a lingerie shop, and the “ladies’ lounge” (read: bathroom) has its own bar inside. There is a well-curated selection of classic cocktails that are shockingly only $5, and some light snacks. There is, of course, no website and I’m not going to tell you the address because Sears is probably already upset just that this is appearing in print. You’ll have to ask around and find it yourself.
After a long delay, Nami is finally open on Federal Hill, serving sushi and other Japanese fare in a handsomely renovated space. Moving Downtown, Bodega Malasaña is the new wine bar from the …
We went back to school for the cover photo shoot of our July edition. For the third annual installment of our Superlatives Issue, we found two native Lincoln gals who made it to the big leagues as members of the New England Patriots cheerleading squad – who better for our cover photo? In keeping with the high school yearbook superlatives spirit of the story, we brought rookie Brittany Dickie and third-year veteran Jodi Ricci to Classical High School for the shoot with photographer Corey Grayhorse. Needless to say, they caused quite a stir. They slipped in the door relatively unnoticed in the warmup sweats, but once they changed into the iconic uniforms they became an undeniable presence.
First, we met with Principal Scott Barr, who, as you might imagine, was more than gracious in welcoming the ladies into his school.
Next up, we brought them into the library. Not surprisingly, bringing two cheerleaders in uniform into a library full of high school kids proved to be a bit of a distraction.
We also got librarian Jonathan Ryder into the mix, playing off the job's reputation for professional shush-ing.
For the second photo setup, we moved out into the hallway, where student Odina Ellis was kind enough to let us commandeer her locker.
When the bell between classes rang while we were still mid-shoot, our ladies again proved to be the center of attention.
For the final set-up, we moved them out in front of the school's trophy case. Though the ladies were forbidden by NFL policy from jumping or dancing in our photos, that didn't stop Corey from showing off a couple moves.
Of course, fuzzy iPhone photos barely do justice to the incredible work these ladies put in. To see the final results, you'll just have to wait for our July issue. Suffice to say it will be one of our most cheerful covers ever.
The ultimate cult of the ultimate cult movie is coming to Providence. Celebrate the 38th anniversary of Rocky Horror Picture Show with Rhode Island’s Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast (RKO Army) during RKO CON 2013, the RHPS world convention, from August 22-25. This popular convention, in Providence for the first time, offers a variety of exciting activities for movie buffs, including shadow casting performances at the Columbus Theater, where performers will act out the film as the movie rolls. Not content to stop at just RHPS, they will give the shadowcast treatment to other beloved classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer: ‘Once More, With Feeling’, Shock Treatment, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and Repo! The Genetic Opera. Other activities will follow throughout the weekend at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, including The Newlywed/Not-So-Newlywed Game, where married couples will be quizzed about their spouses, and the Team Scavenger Hunt Gameshow, a classic scavenger hunt with a comedic twist. Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel will also be holding the Time Warp Dance Party, put on by both RKO Army and Tight Crew, a production company that provides electronic dance music in safe surroundings. Here, fans can spend an evening of dancing and refreshments to finish off the night with guest DJs. Make sure to wear your costumes! For more information and ticket pricing, visit their website.
At the age of ten I asked my parents if I could take music lessons. I imagined playing something badass like bass guitar, swinging wild the phallic instrument and doing that Gene Simmons-tongue thing. After some persuading, my parents came over to the musical dark side, felt its dangerous chill and knew their son had to experience the full effects of hardcore music.
So they signed me up for accordion lessons, at Arruda Music.
It’s important to remember my age, as the naiveté of youth made the following scenario possible: my parents convinced me that the accordion was a stepping-stone for playing the bass guitar. Like it was some kind of training wheels instrument that introduced me to music before I was allowed to rock.
Four years later, still playing the accordion, I realized that the bass guitar remained out of my grasp. Worse still, when I confronted my parents about the stepping-stone concept, they denied all allegations. So I quit playing the accordion.
Now, as a 25-year-old who digs Gogol Bordello, I felt the urge to again pick up the musical mantle and pursue my bellow-pumping ambidexterity. After snagging a used 120-bass accordion from Warwick’s Blue Merle Consignment, I scheduled a lesson with Arruda Music, still located on Newport Avenue. As if frozen in time, the place looked exactly the same as it had a decade before. The only thing that changed was my instructor – then a bubbly college girl; now a suave gentleman named Ralph.
First Ralph ran me through the basics, like reading music and counting time. Then he moved into the total-body coordination that makes the accordion such a monster of an instrument. Basically, playing an accordion requires one hand to play piano keys, the other hand to press bass buttons and for both arms to breathe the accordion’s bellows. All the while, the musician must simultaneously read two lines of music, one for bass and one for treble. It’s an overload of information that left me flailing like …
President and Founder of She's the First
Tammy graduated from The College of New Jersey with a journalism degree that unexpectedly led her to a career in social entrepreneurship - specifically, founding an organization that sponsors education for young girls in developing nations.
An obviously driven individual, she became the first social media editor of Seventeen magazine, and landed a spot in the industry's "13 Under 30" straight out of college. She began a social media campaign inspiring women to raise funds for girls' education sponsorships, and within 3 years this campaign developed into the skyrocketing non-profit, She's the First.
Tammy frequently speaks on social entrepreneurship and Millennial leadership, and she has been recognized as one of Fast Company's League of Extraordinary Women as well as one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 in Education.
Catch Tammy as one of the Keynote Speakers at the Lady Project Summit on April 12 at the Southside Cultural Center. Buy tickets here.
Ah, Rhode Island: Over the past decade, our tiny, exclusive sanctuary of a state has developed a serious problem with "self-esteem," as the Rhode Island Foundation describes it, and they are dedicated to fixing that with Rhode Island: It's All In Our Backyard, a campaign showcasing and supporting the bounty which can be found right here in our… well, you get the point. Okay, we have unemployment – a lot of unemployment – but what poses a bigger problem to the morale of Rhode Island is that even through all of the economic growth, new start-ups and growing small businesses, there are still people – quite a few people – who manage to completely look past our triumphs and focus only on our hardships. To those people, I urge you to take a stroll through Providence’s art district or East Side, or Newport's Thames Street or Bellevue Avenue, taking in the idiosyncrasies of our one-of-a-kind restaurants, boutiques, wine shops, farms, cafes, bars, colleges, serene landscapes and antique architecture. Even the most pessimistic minds wouldn't deny that we are host to a vibrant community, spanning vast cultural gaps and showcasing some of the most innovative, artistic, ambitious minds in the country. This campaign will be advertising throughout the state as a way to re-connect our citizens with the local businesses and resources. The Rhode Island Foundation has partnered with Rhode Island based businesses, including farms, manufacturers, universities and more to help spread the word. The message that this campaign is trying to spread is that everything that we need really is right here in our backyard.
Around here, we’re used to writing the stories you read, not being in them. Imagine our surprise to find out that local author Charles Pinning - a ProJo alum who once wrote for Providence Monthly back in the day - included our magazine in his new book, Irreplaceable. In the crime thriller, an art heist has taken place at the RISD Museum (during production on a movie about the famous art heist from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, no less), and it’s up to a writer and his long-lost lady love to solve it. There’s one particularly thrilling scene when the lead has dinner with Iphigenia Melikis, the sassy, tough editor of this very magazine, at Red Stripe. Any resemblance to what we’ve really got going on here? You’ll just have to read it to find out. Order it on Amazon.
About the Homeowner
Rheta Mona is an outside sales rep for the interior design furnishings industry. She lives in Providence on Washington Street near the URI Shepard Building in the Lofts at the Strand.
1. I love living downtown. I love that there is so much energy and I feel like it is building with all the different restaurants and shops opening up. It’s very convenient; you can walk to anything and try new places. I’m more of a city kitty. I work in Boston and Providence is so affordable… relatively.
2. My interior designer Joshua Shockley pretty much added the creative element to my home and brought it all together. I had pieces that could work anywhere, and that is why working with a designer is so important. They can see your current picture and see what the future will look like. I trusted him creatively to add risk-taking elements.
3. I wanted a really calming color palette. Because it is such an urban landscape I wanted a calming environment inside. Josh is so good at picking wall color, in particular, and that translates to the upholstered pieces. I rent, so if I went somewhere I could bring these pieces anywhere.
4. I love everything about my place. I like this ottoman because it is linen, so you have a little tradition, but it is a skyline/cityscape. With a very urban home it’s nice to have that piece of tradition. I believe it is a Dransfield & Ross. Josh had picked that out for me. Things like the sofa and two chairs he got my approval on, but other things I just let him take the reins on.