Thanks to a prime location on College Hill, most Thayer Street businesses are getting by even in tough economic times. With the new additions of Better Burger Company and potentially Verizon Wireless, current businesses are holding their own in a difficult economy.
Despite a nationwide recession, it is a "healthy climate right now" for businesses on Thayer, said Amintha Cinotti, deputy director of the Providence Department of Planning and Development.
Though most businesses noticed a decrease in sales when Brown students left for winter break, many are hoping that the students' return will offer a boost. There has been a "drop since we came in November," said Kamal Nouhaili, owner of the new Thayer St. Pizza, formerly X-treme Pizza and Wings.
Now is a time to "hold on to what you have," said Marcelino Lozano, an employee at Bagel Gourmet Ole, adding that while business was comparatively slow over the holiday, sales have still been adequate.
For Spectrum India — long a Thayer Street staple — this has been "the most challenging recession of all," said owner Jagdish Sachdev.
Diminished purchasing power and reduced foot traffic from students caused erratic sales earlier this year, jeopardizing Spectrum's continued operation. But a better-than-expected holiday season has allowed the store to pull through the recession, he said.
For many businesses, a difficult economy offers incentives to work harder to attract customers. Providence Byblos recently revamped its menu and its interior decor. Byblos wants to "start the new year with a new menu," said owner Marina Kallab. The changes are intended to attract customers to visit the hookah lounge during the day, a unique offering that makes Byblos "very popular" with students, Kallab said.
The recession challenges business to maintain high-quality service, said Ray Hugh, owner of Shanghai and Shark Sushi. Hugh attributes the decrease in customers to the economic slowdown and said that while the "numbers aren't where they were," he is confident that an attention to detail will allow his businesses to persevere despite adverse economic conditions.
Kabob and Curry has experienced a drop in revenue of between 5 and 10 percent, said manager Jai Amba. The restaurant now offers more discounts, particularly for students, in an attempt to maintain a steady stream of customers and to stave off competition from neighboring restaurants that opened on Thayer this fall, Amba said.
An increase in discounts on merchandise has cut into retailers' profit margin, said Ed Bishop '54 P'86 P'91, a local real estate agent. Urban Outfitters and City Sports are suffering as a result, and progress on a replacement for Roba Dolce has stalled due to zoning issues regarding seating for the prospective businesses vying for the spot, he said.
A parking task force in which Bishop participated cited insufficient parking on Thayer as an issue for businesses and offered metering many of Thayer's side streets in order to force a two-hour turnover as a possible solution.