About two miles from Brown’s campus sits a community of small and independent businesses on Hope Street This stretch of eight blocks is lined with craft shops, clothing stores, a ballet studio, restaurants and much more. The area aims to cultivate close connections between the street’s stores and the surrounding community, three local business operators told The Herald.
“We all feel like we won the lottery to end up on Hope Street,” said Jan Dane, who owns Stock Culinary Goods, a local kitchenware shop.
The area has long been home to a vibrant business community, said Pam Maddox, the owner of Blooming Blossoms Floral Boutique and a lifelong resident of the Hope Street area. Blooming Blossoms is a flower shop that has been on Hope Street for almost 30 years and previously operated another now-closed location on Thayer Street, according to Maddox.
She added that, though the exact composition of the street has changed, it has long fostered a sense of community. “In the ’60s, (Hope Street) had a market — the fruit stand, the butcher,” Maddox said. “It was set up a bit different, but it’s always been a community street for shopping local and small.”
Unlike Maddox’s shop, many of the businesses that currently reside on Hope Street opened between 2005 and 2010, according to Dane. For the most part, these businesses have stayed there.
The area surrounding Hope Street is residential, which Dane said allows the street to remain stable and family-oriented.
“I’ve watched kids grow from babies to age seven,” said Ashley Allen, the manager of the toy store Henry Bear’s Park. “I know a lot of the families, and it’s just great to have the support here.”
Local support has also helped businesses on the street weather inflation and supply chain issues that have made goods more expensive across the United States, she added.
Allen shared that community support, especially during the holiday season, has allowed Henry Bear’s quality of business and products to remain stable.
Now that almost all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in Rhode Island, Allen said that Henry Bear’s Park is bringing back storewide events such as weekly storytimes, music performances and game nights.
Dane added that Stock Culinary Goods has tried to keep prices steady for customers. “We want to be here for the long haul and so we have to ride out this inflation with the customers and the people and the community who (have) always been here for us,” she said.
According to Maddox, a sense of mutual appreciation between customers and businesses has helped the area thrive. Blooming Blossoms has been able to flourish over the last three decades because “it’s something that makes you feel good,” she said. “It’s something that keeps you smiling.”
The Hope Street Merchants Association, a local organization representing many of the independent businesses on Hope Street, works to continue cultivating this persistent sense of community, according to Dane, the association's vice president.
Currently, the association is currently planning a “beautification effort” by planting “perennials and some annuals” in the many planters that line the street. This initiative was made possible by a placemaking grant from the state funding the improvement of public spaces, Dane added.
The association will also host its annual spring block party that will feature “live music and performances,” “restaurants,” “food trucks,” “artists (and) more” on May 20, according to the association’s website.
“It’s really something to be celebrated when a community comes together in the way this community has,” Dane said. “It’s really critical to a city’s personality … we’re really grateful that we’ve been allowed to flourish this way.”