Shopping on Broadway

There’s something peculiar about the West End — a distinct vitality that sets it apart from the other Providence neighborhoods. As soon as you step foot onto Broadway, the energy hits you hard and you’re suddenly a part of something exciting.

I recently took a stab at exploring the shopping options in the area. One of my first stops is Hall’s on Broadway, a treasure chest overflowing with vintage fashion, art, antiques and furnishings. The store is run by owner Mary Ellen Hall who first opened up shop in Warren 18 years ago. My willpower doesn’t last very long and I’m soon salivating over cases of sparkling necklaces, earrings, rings and brooches. Hall is more than accommodating of my self-diagnosed jewelry addiction and is happy to give me a history of each piece I drool on.

Across the street, the cheeky front window display at Rocket to Mars beckons to me and soon I am thrown back in time to a vintage paradise. Rifling through cards and crafts, owner Jennifer directs me to another corner of the store she thinks I’ll enjoy — and boy, do I! I dive headfirst into a bin of vintage sewing patterns before trying on half a dozen dresses. I eventually have to drag myself out before I spend all of my money, but I promise Jen I’ll be back.

I then decide to make a little detour down Dean St and end up wandering into Leviathan Exchange on Westminster St. Owner Phil tells me that I can take my old, unworn threads in and he’ll either give me cash for them or store credit. I try on a few Betsey Johnson dresses that are for sale at less than a quarter of the their original price. Before I leave, the store’s resident St. Bernard (Rocky) wanders up to me for a pat on the head.

Ada Books is just a few steps away. Since I never met a book I didn’t like, I stop in. The store is named after the title character of Vladimir Nabokov’s 12th and longest novel, Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle. Their collection is carefully curated with a predilection for topics such as literary fiction, poetry, indie comics, zines, art and biography.

I wander over back to Broadway and discover The Providence Share Space (PSS), a creative collaborative space for small businesses, entrepreneurs and artists. Some of the shops here include White Buffalo, I Want A Pony, MINT, Joyride Traders and Vintiques. These are definitely not your run-of-the-mill stores. All products are handmade, one-of-a-kind or both! Dana Williams, founder of PSS and owner of White Buffalo, says she wanted to create a space that wasn’t just a shop but also a venue for events, markets and artists looking to create: “It’s still growing and shifting and becoming a great place for everyone to help each other strive.”

Manning the checkout counter is Heather of Mirrorball Boutique. She gushes about the camaraderie of the neighborhood’s business owners and encourages me to pursue my own dream of starting a boutique, even offering to help me consign. Heather left a lofty corporate job in LA to buy and sell vintage items full time. This is her true passion, she says, and it shows, as it does with all of the businesses here.

The PSS is only a few months old (it opened in May) and is still establishing itself. Jesse Guillen of Rhode Island Reiki (also in the space) says it is a diverse and eclectic community with a mix of regulars and non-regulars. Guillen says it is “the beginning of something great.” Given how awesome a single afternoon spent shopping in the West End can be, I tend to agree with her.

For a complete look at Motif’s neighborhood profile of the West End, click here.

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