The recession has hit Rhode Island hard, and Thayer Street businesses have not been immune to the slumping economy.
In the coming weeks and months, as most students leave College Hill for the summer, a number of new players are expected to open shop on the busy strip — even as still more stores close.
Shark Sushi Bar and Grill, 275 Thayer St.
While progress may have seemed slow for those accustomed to walking by the space formerly occupied by Dunkin' Donuts and La Femme Boutique, the wait is almost over. Shark Sushi Bar and Grill is slated to open just in time for most students to pack their bags and head home for the summer, according to owner Ray Hugh.
The Japanese restaurant, which will feature hibachi grills and a five-foot shark swimming in an 1,800-gallon tank, will open in "about three weeks," Hugh said.
The restaurant caused some conflict when another local business owner, Grant Dulgarian, appealed the Providence zoning board's decision to waive parking space requirements for the 131-seat establishment. But those issues have long been resolved, according to Hugh.
"This is the final stage right now," Hugh said. "They are acclimating the shark in the tank as we speak."
Baja's, 273 Thayer St.
If the Ivy Room burrito bar doesn't quite satisfy students' cravings for south-of-the-border cuisine, another option will be available when they return to College Hill in the fall. Baja's, a Tex-Mex restaurant, will open in about six to eight weeks, according to Hugh, who also owns neighboring Xtreme Pizza and Wings and Shanghai.
Housed at Spike's Junkyard Dogs' former location, the restaurant will offer Philly cheesesteaks, burgers, salads, fries and burritos, according to Hugh.
Many ingredients will be imported "directly from Mexico," Hughe added.
Beadworks, 290 Thayer St.
Jewelry-making enthusiasts may have to trek a little farther to get their fix next semester. This summer, Beadworks will be moving from its current location to another space in Providence, said Beadworks employee Alli Coate.
"There's no parking here, and there are just some other advantages to the new space," Coate said. She declined to give the address of the new location.
Better Burger Company, 215-217 Thayer St.
Veteran burgermonger Andy Mitrelis is set to open Better Burger Company this summer in the space that once belonged to Yang's and the closing Morrison Office Supply, he said.
In addition to five other burger shops in New England, Mitrelis owns Andreas, Paragon and Spats. The new restaurant will offer sandwiches, pizza and breakfast food in addition to burgers.
Though Mitrelis announced his plans to open Better Burger months ago when he secured the Yang's property, he acquired the lease to the office supply store about 10 days ago, he said Monday.
Bryan Creighton, who has owned and run the independent stationery and office supply store for the past 20 years, told The Herald in March that business had been struggling for the past year and that he was planning to close the shop.
Without the additional space, the burger joint would have been too small, Mitrelis said. "I got my wish," he said.
Geoff's, 233 Thayer St
The "for rent" sign and three television screens that occupied the windows of the storefront that formerly housed the sandwich shop Geoff's were taken down earlier this month. Kent Stetson '01, who answered at the number listed on the "for rent" sign, said though he could not comment for privacy reasons on who the new occupant might be, "you will start seeing things going on in the near future."
John Zib, the mind behind Open Art Cafe, the temporary art installation involving the screens, told The Herald in November that he was being allowed to use the space until another business became interested in occupying it.
Roba Dolce, 178 Angell St.
A new tenant may soon move into the space left vacant after the eviction of Roba Dolce, Nino DeMartino, the store's owner, said. The landlord "wanted a national chain, to get more money for rent," he said.
The cause of the eviction, filed on Feb. 16 in Rhode Island's Sixth District Court, was negligence of four months of rental payments.
"People are saying that the concept that's going there is something that doesn't really belong on Thayer Street," DeMartino said, adding that he could not be more specific. "The only thing that we know for sure is that it's a national company."