Arts & Culture

Shake Shack shakes up Thayer

Opening day for the national burger chain brings long lines, eager students, tasty treats

Staff Writer
Friday, March 22, 2019

The Shake Shack on Thayer Street is the first in the state. The occasion was attended by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

Shake Shack finally opened its doors to the public Wednesday morning following a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Shake Shack team members and the owners of 249 Thayer St.

The ceremony took place in front of an ever-growing line of customers waiting for their first taste of Shake Shack’s Rhode Island offerings. Individuals waiting in line were serenaded by the local Extraordinary Rendition Band.

“Looking at the line of about 50 to 80 people right now, it is going to be a busy day for us for sure,” said Dave Yearwood, Shake Shack’s area director of Connecticut and now Rhode Island. Customers started arriving even before some of the staff. “Our first guest here, it’s her birthday today and she wanted to be a part of the Shake Shack opening, so she has been waiting here since 8 o’ clock in the morning, potentially earlier.”

Bryan Huang ’22 arrived at around 9 a.m. only to find a line already forming. Huang was drawn to Shake Shake by a “need for something meaty and delicious,” he said. “A consistently delicious burger is hard to find in Providence.”

Another student in line, Rebecca Herman ’22, headed straight to Shake Shack after her class ended at 9:50 a.m. “I’m a native New Yorker, so Shake Shack runs in my blood,” Herman said. “I’ve been planning on coming for opening day for a while.”

An advocate for the classic ShackBurger, Herman also looked forward to trying the new “Chocolate Thayer Cake” custard made with PVDonuts. Ben Myers ’21 already tried the flavor on Tuesday, calling it Shake Shack’s “real kicker … an extravagant but pretty simple treat.” But for Caleb Trotz ’22, the main culinary attraction remained Shake Shack’s special sauce. “It’s just really good,” says Trotz. “They won’t tell me what’s in it. I’ve asked, and they just won’t tell me.”

Students’ praise for the restaurant extended past the food. Myers was struck by the attention staff paid to customers and said that “everyone is highly professional and courteous, and will get you whatever you need.”

Part of the restaurant’s warm ambiance seems to stem from the mural that greets customers as they enter. The work of Rhode Island School of Design alum Jing Wei — who also attended the grand opening — represents Shake Shack’s first contribution to local art, which is one of their philanthropic goals, The Herald previously reported. Wei gained inspiration from “her college days, which were particularly community-oriented,” adding that she drew from “memories of hanging out and lounging on the RISD beach and also the Brown lawns.” Shake Shack also featured her designs on tote bags and notebooks given to the first 100 patrons of the restaurant, a give-away that drew even more students, including Trotz.

The lines continued throughout most of the day, reaching peak volume during the dinner rush. “It’s been a lot at once, and in-progress, but (with) all the anticipation and excitement, we’re just kind of ready to make some burgers, make some Shakes, and bring some of that Shackiness to Thayer,” Yearwood said.

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