RIP Thayer Street

I’ve been complaining about the demise of Thayer Street since the dawn of the new millennium, but it’s now officially, finally, once and for all dead.

I said it when In Your Ear closed, and when Tom’s Tracks closed. And when Ocean Coffee Roasters closed. And when the College Hill Bookstore closed. I could have also seen the signs when silly Oop! closed, or when Esta’s closed and nothing ever replaced it.

But now, and this is freaking crazy, Spike’s is closing.

Spike’s, people. The original location of the ten-restaurant hot dog chain. The one adorned with pictures of people that could eat a dozen hot dogs–buns and all–without puking. The place even Mark Patinkin recommends, even though it’s more than two blocks away from his house. Spike’s was the one place that could unite Thayer’s disparate population of college students, Eurotrash, bikers and teenagers.

Of course, Thayer’s also lacking the bikers and teenagers these days, since motorcycles aren’t allowed to park on most of the street anymore* and the teenagers have no reason to hang out there anymore since all the record stores, the comic book store, and the skate shop have all gone the way of the dodo. Hell, this is a street where even a freaking Dunkin Donuts can’t stay open.

Anyway. Spike’s will be there until the end of the month.

(*But don’t get me started on that.)

26 thoughts on “RIP Thayer Street”

  1. I hate to be a pedant, but the language of a previous post bothered me a bit. I’m not sure ‘corporate and private’ can be used as a derogatory term compared to the ‘private corporations’ that all these stores are (even the small, local ones).

    The opposite of ‘owner-operated local shop’ is not ‘private corporation’, it’s ‘impersonal chain store’.

    Every store (for all intents and purposes) is private and corporate, even Blue State Coffee. I do not recall a time when Thayer street was a community-owned co-op of not-for-profit retailers, because it never was.

    The choice of words we use not only speaks volumes about how we view the world, it opens us up to criticism. Thayer Street doesn’t need less ‘private corporations’, it needs some form of incentive for ‘the little guy’ (like a tax rebate or sales-tax waiver for locally owned independent sole-proprietorships), that way the big ‘private corporations’ don’t displace the small ‘private corporations’.

    If the developers of the Providence Place Mall can get $208 Million in tax breaks ( ), why can’t we do something to make sure the little guy can stay in business?

    How about a ‘Keep Providence Weird’ Tax? Kill the inventory tax and levy a 1% municipal sales tax (on all goods, including clothes and food) that gets rebated to locally-headquartered retail and dining businesses that maintain at least a defined ‘living wage’ for their employees.

  2. Brown Bookstore isn’t, and isn’t going to be, run by Barnes and Noble. That idea was kicked out two years ago.

    Also, Second Time Around is actually a chain with sixteen locations, mostly in malls around Boston. They’re in Providence Place now, too.

    And I thought the Chipotle thing wasn’t happening, either. They’re certainly taking their damn time if it is.

  3. Thayer is all about corporate and private ownership now, again bunking out the small bussiness.

    In addition to recent trends:

    -Brown Bookstore will be run by Barns and Noble
    -Esta’s has been slated to become a Chipolte’

    Fortunately enough we have accquired locally crafted middle of the road markets such as Blue State Coffee, Second Time Around, and Roba Dolce. Not to meantion some of the remaining Thayer Street staples (Avon Cinema, Via Via, The Creperie, Burks, etc.)

    We are facing the fact that business’ are becoming more upscale, if not moderate in attraction and nature. Growing pains are good- but for whom?

  4. Frymaster–out of curiosity, what’s a _real_ biker? Are we talking straight pipe loudness, or ZZ top beards and studded leather, or forking out $10K for a shiny Ducati Monster or tourin’ Harley?

  5. Terrible news! I don’t even eat hot dogs and I like Spike’s. The Thayer Street location by far has the most personality of ’em all.

    I better come get my poodle fries as much as possible this month!

  6. Oh no! This makes me really, really sad. Spike’s is one of the only things left on Thayer Street that I actually like.

    Also, how could it be closing? Wasn’t it doing pretty well, as businesses go? Any Save Spike’s campaigns in the works?

  7. matthew lawrence

    mayonnaise is wonderful on french fries. and most other things.

  8. joe bernstein

    matthew-in Belgium and the Netherlands they serve fires with mayonnaise(!) and ketchup-and other toppings too weird to mention here

  9. matthew lawrence

    the thing i’ll miss most is french fries in the style of nachos. it’s not on the menu, but it’s fries with cheddar cheese and salsa and onions. sooooooooooooo good. of course, i had to stop eating them after i gained twenty pounds.

  10. I think it’s incumbent on all of us to head there as often as possible for the next three weeks and at least make sure that they go out ‘with a bang’.

    Even though there’s nothing we can do about it closing anymore, we can still make things better financially for the owner (now running the operation almost single-handedly) by putting some money in his register.

    I asked him last night if it would help to spend there, or if it would just end up in some lawyer’s hands, he said it would -definitely- help.

    You know you want a Veggie Patriot (bacon and cheddar). Go get one.

  11. I miss the Taco Maker!

    the Front Porch(tho tech on Angell),
    & the Merry-Go-Round

    I worked at the Silver Dragon for years~
    Thayer St continues to live on Wickenden , right?

  12. I understand that there’s quite a lot of retail space available in Pawtucket. And not a Starbucks for be found. Plus, the bikers that hang out at the News Cafe are _real_ bikers, if you know what I mean…

  13. matthew lawrence

    the motorcyclists were a lot more interesting than anybody else on the street, so yes, i do miss them. also, i’d rather not talk about the brown bookstore.

  14. Please tell me you are not waxing nostalgic over those damn motorcyclists on Thayer St!!! God they were annoying. I’d rather have chain stores than those obnoxious creeps any day.

    Also, I think the renovation of the Brown book store is going to include a coffee shop/cafe open at night, and it won’t be a chain store.

  15. joe bernstein

    There’s a Spike’s at Hawkins and Branch,but the ambience is just a wee bit different from Thayer.
    College Hill Bookstore was the single biggest loss.The manager there was a decent guy to discuss books with.Wasn’t his name Paul,or am I having a senior moment?

  16. I know what you mean about being cyclical. It just seems like there’s an awful lot of empty storefronts, including Esta’s which, even though it’s just a house, takes up half a block. And having it caged off to prevent loiterers isn’t exactly welcoming, either. There’s also the Oop!/Only In Rhode Island abyss of gloom and now the Yang’s pit of despair.

  17. Old-timers tell me Thayer is pretty cyclic. I’ve been in Providence less than a decade, and I’ve already seen Thayer go through a bit of a cycle. So I can only hope.

    Meanwhile, I still can’t get over the loss of College Hill Bookstore. The day it closed was the day the music died.

    PS: Wesli, amen to the Urban Outfitters door. Maybe they’re trying to cool the whole earth’s atmosphere. Or at least make it smell of their bizarre perfume.

  18. Even a McDonald’s and a GAP couldn’t stay open on Thayer. I miss the old pinball arcade that was next to Goldie’s Records. Long live Ronnie’s Rascal House and the IGA that became a CVS.

  19. Wesli Dymoke

    Like a lot of locals, I worked at a number of Thayer establishments in my early years here. All but one are now closed (and that one is dying slowly), as are all my original favourite haunts.

    Some I miss more than others. I don’t actually miss Tom’s that much, but no cup of tea is fine enough to make up for the loss of Faces. I liked all the coffee shops, but let’s be honest, none of them were ever spectacular. (The only coffee shop in town I really miss is the old Fellini Cafe.) Even in the early days (as I experienced it), Thayer was constantly in flux.

    So I think the honest statement here is that what’s different now is not so much that places are closing, but that the places coming in to replace them are bullshit things like Urban Outfitters* (or nothing at all, in the case of
    Esta’s). I was surprised when I learned that shady upscale ristorante Adesso is also closed, the space now being used for storage; we can only cringe at what will come in there next (if anything).

    Over the years, my impression from talking to business owners on the street is that the property owners are trying to see how much they can get for the fronts. And this, apparently, is not merely greed, but in part fueled by increasingly steep property valuations — which in turn is supposedly driven by the city trying to balance its books on the backs of people presumed to be rich because they own property on Thayer.

    If Geoff’s and Avon are any indication, it seems the only way to keep a small business running on Thayer is to own your own property. (Or make enough volume, as in the case of Store 24 — though also previously presumed to be the case with Dunky’s, right?) Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before everything on Thayer turns into an adjunct of something already in our mall.

    (*Whenever you pass by, be sure and close their doors for them.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Providence Daily Dose