The plaza at 250 Brook St. is a round-the-clock hub for the University community, with students grabbing late-night snacks from East Side Mini-Mart and easing into groggy weekend mornings with Bagel Gourmet’s hearty breakfast sandwiches.
But, after decades of business, East Side Mini-Mart and Bagel Gourmet will close by Sept. 30 to make room for the construction of new University housing on Brook Street. The plaza, which also includes the Providence Police Department District 9 substation, will be demolished in early October as construction contractors begin work on the development.
Although the shops will close in the immediate future, good memories and hope for the future make the closures more bittersweet than melancholy.
All tenants have been “long aware” of the project, as formal plans for the residence hall and the end of leases were conveyed in February 2020, according to University Spokesperson Brian Clark.
The residence hall plan includes two buildings that will house approximately 350 students, The Herald previously reported. While the addition of planned retail space has been a source of contention, in July 2021 the University committed to including a retail component in the west building, according to Clark.
The addition of the retail space aims to benefit both the surrounding neighborhood and the Brown community, Clark added, while the increase of University housing will help alleviate the impact of off-campus students on the local housing market.
Dave Faria, the owner of East Side Mini-Mart across its 28-year history, recently put up a sign on his store window alerting shoppers to the Mini-Mart’s imminent closure in October. While this came as a shock to customers, Faria confirmed that the potential development was communicated to him often and early on by the University.
“When I first signed my lease, there was always potential for development, they told me, so there were no surprises,” Faria said. “Actually, I’m happily surprised that it lasted so long.”
Although there were plans to temporarily relocate the Mini-Mart during construction, those plans fell through. “It's bittersweet,” said Faria, who has operated the store since 1992. “It’s a lot of work, it's a lot of responsibility, but I love it.”
Faria has formed relationships and rapport with his customers over his many years in College Hill. “I absolutely love my customers. I am going to miss them so much, and they’re going to miss the store so much,” Faria said. “A lot of these people … depend on us because a lot of them live nearby and it saves them from walking to Thayer Street at night.”
While the Mini-Mart will be closed during the construction, Faria said he is interested in returning to the original 250 Brook St. location when the designated retail space is available.
Bagel Gourmet, which has also leased the space from Brown for about 25 years, may relocate to a temporary location on campus, according to Clark.
“We have engaged in discussion with each tenant to support their relocation efforts, including discussion about potential relocation to other Brown-owned buildings,” Clark said. “We identified a location on campus for Bagel Gourmet to continue to bake its bagels in support of its other retail operations in Providence, including one in our medical school building.”
Still, the loss of Brook Street’s Bagel Gourmet will be felt by students who often frequent the beloved bagel joint.
“It was basically a staple of my year last year because I would, before class, almost every day, go to Bagel Gourmet because it was so conveniently close,” said Charles Levy ’24. “It was very easily accessible from (Vartan Gregorian Quad) because it was right behind it, so I always felt like it was something I could rely on.”
The police substation in the plaza will also relocate, according to Lt. Joseph Dufault, commander of the district.
“The nice thing about this location is we're pretty close to everything that's on the East Side,” Dufault said. “We have a good spot here, so whatever spot we get is probably not going to be as convenient a location as we have now.”
With the help of the University, Dufault is hopeful the District 9 command will move to a location close to the original office. “I'm confident that Brown wants us here, too, because we do have a close working relationship with Brown University,” Dufault said.
Faria also emphasized his partnership with the University, sharing his gratitude for its assistance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The last year and a half with COVID, we just got destroyed,” Faria said. “We had some government aid and cut our hours back. And (the University) reduced my rent tremendously … Without those things, I think I would’ve gone out a while ago. They’ve been really good to me.
Still, Levy expresses regret at the demolition of the plaza. “I'm definitely sad because it was a big part of my freshman year,” Levy said. “I hope that somehow, hopefully the East Side Mini-Mart can move somewhere close by or be included as a bottom part of the new residence hall.”
Correction: The photo attached to this story was previously credited to Nat Hardy. In fact, Ashley Guo took the photo. The Herald regrets the error.
Ashley Guo is an arts & culture writer and layout designer. She previously covered city and state politics as a Metro section editor. In her free time, Ashley enjoys listening to music, swimming, and reading!