The Duck & Bunny — an East Side restaurant that closed in 2019 — will return to Wickenden.
Residents were shocked by the demolition of the Duck & Bunny, a popular local snuggery, in early April 2021. But three years after closing for renovations and one year since the building was knocked down, owner Daniel Becker plans to rebuild.
Duck & Bunny was open for a decade and modeled on cozy English taverns. Becker and his now ex-wife, Jessica Becker, announced a temporary closing in March 2019 for renovations to make event space, a bakery and a library bar.
“The simplest way to put it is that the house was going to fall down if we didn’t knock it down. It was in serious disrepair,” Daniel Becker told The Herald. The decision “wasn’t taken lightly,” but he saved all of the fixtures and fireplaces so that the first floor of the house will be “almost identical to what people remember it being.”
“Kind of a disaster”: Reasons for demolition
“There was no consistent work done to maintain the integrity of the structure, beyond the shoddy roof, in the decade we rented,” Jessica Becker wrote in a brief about the building. Renovating “would have been significantly more work, and just as costly, to save what existed, which would have left us with a virtually brand-new building supported by a still crumbling foundation anyway,” Jessica Becker wrote in the brief, explaining the rationale behind the demolition.
“As much as I’m cautiously optimistic, I’m super excited for what the future holds,” Daniel Becker said. The new Duck & Bunny will have a second floor, which didn’t exist before because the upper floors of the original building were “just dilapidated,” he added.
“The second and third floors were just kind of a disaster,” Daniel Becker said. The new second floor will be an extension of the Duck & Bunny, but a more separate space usable for private parties and events in addition to the main floor, he added.
Community reactions to the snuggery’s disappearance
Before the original building’s demolition, Daniel Becker reached out to the Providence Preservation Society and Fox Point Neighborhood Association to inform them of his plans and get “their blessing,” but it was impossible to inform all the patrons of the Duck & Bunny, he explained. “It’s a very personal thing … it’s hard enough dealing with this process, nevermind … trying to keep everybody informed at the same time,” he said.
312 Wickenden, the Duck & Bunny lot, lies in the College Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, “a largely honorary designation that does not come with local protection,” wrote Rachel Robinson, director of preservation for the Providence Preservation Society, in an email to The Herald.
“I expected some blowback, but I was really taken aback and shocked by some of the reactions and some of the vitriol that came out that was incredibly misguided,” Daniel Becker said.
Social media posts and some broadcast segments spread misinformation and rumors about the age of the building and what was going to become of it. “I jokingly have referred to it as the East Side QAnon,” Daniel Becker told The Herald, with people perceiving him as an “evil developer.” Rumors were swirling, asserting that Daniel Becker was planning on building expensive condos in the space and others saying it would become a parking garage.
On online forums discussing the demolition, Becker said he initially joined the chats to tell people exactly what was going on. In response, he “would get answers like ‘Well, that’s not what I heard,’” he said.
“I would think that the community would be happy that instead of doing some awful things that people are saying … I’ve done the complete opposite,” Daniel Becker said. He said that he paid to knock down the damaged building and is paying to rebuild a virtually identical version that “if anything … is going to be nicer.”
“Hopefully by that time, everybody will be out from their computers and will come and see what the new space is, and we can all maybe have a laugh about it and have a cocktail and move forward united,” Daniel Becker said.
The rebuilding process
Daniel Becker has faced delays and other challenges with the rebuilding process. He had to get new permits for the building after the old ones expired and is currently waiting on one final permit to allow construction to begin.
According to Daniel Becker, the price of lumber — the main component of rebuilding the house — was at a 400% markup just six to eight months ago, which would have made the entire project three times more expensive than it would have been pre-pandemic. Prices are starting to come down, and the cost of cement stands at a relatively standard price, which has Daniel Becker feeling hopeful.
Once the digging begins and a full construction plan is put together, Daniel Becker will have a timeline for Duck & Bunny’s reopening. “If it were up to me, I’d have the thing built already, but there are external forces that have hindered the process,” he said.
Daniel Becker said he is looking forward to welcoming students from local universities back to the Duck & Bunny. “It’s exactly what I hoped for and more … having it be sort of a generational thing,” with students coming to the space throughout their time in Providence, he added.
A new era for Duck & Bunny and what comes next
Neighbors of the restaurant told The Herald that they were looking forward to the return of the Duck & Bunny to Wickenden.
Daniel Becker “runs a good business and we’re all for them rebuilding it,” said Ken Loft, owner and bartender of the Wickenden Pub. “They were always fantastic neighbors,” said Loft, who has been on the street since 1989 and was there when the Duck & Bunny opened. “I hoped that they’d continue.”
“The Duck was definitely a unique experience and a great place,” wrote Vincent Scorziello, the owner of Campus Fine Wines who also helps run the Wickenden Area Merchants Association, in an email to The Herald. “It was a restaurant built into an old house with ducks and bunnies everywhere, charming tight and awkward spaces, fireplaces, crooked creaky floors and a beautiful outdoor patio area in the warmer months.”
“They called it a snuggery, and that's what it felt like: warm, close and cuddly,” wrote Scorziello. The snuggery was a frequent tea-and-cupcakes stop for Scorziello’s wife and son when he attended Vartan Gregorian Elementary up the street.
“The neighborhood heard a rumor that they wanted to tear down the house, claiming it was beyond repair. No one who wasn't involved liked the idea,” wrote Scorziello. “A few of our regulars worked there and would just shake their heads at the state of the foundation and condition of the basement, saying it flooded frequently and there were leaks.”
Recreating the charm of the original Duck & Bunny may be a challenge, but neighbors like Scorziello said they are looking forward to the new space.
“I'm curious to see what they'll do. Part of the charm of the Duck was that it was a rickety old house that they managed to turn it into a magical little restaurant,” wrote Scorziello. “You would sip your tea and stare at the old walls and floors and fireplaces and realize families lived here a hundred years ago, and you could wonder about their lives as you ate your maple bacon cupcake. The place had character in spades.”
The return of Duck & Bunny to Wickenden will make the street “more of a destination area,” Loft said.
With the project facing numerous obstacles, from the COVID-19 pandemic to economic uncertainty and supply-chain difficulties, Scorziello wrote that he believes Duck & Bunny’s neighbors and owners “are ready for something to happen.”
“I could not have foreseen what would happen with the pandemic,” and going through a partnership dissolution, but “nothing is going to stop (the rebuilding) from happening,” Daniel Becker said. “It’s my baby. … if I had to only own and run one place for the rest of my life, (Duck & Bunny) would be it.”
“I’m ready to cut a ribbon on this thing already and we haven’t even broken ground yet,” Daniel Becker said. “I'll be the guy swinging from the chandelier when we reopen.”