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Wickford Economic Panel Gets Down To Business

One idea: set a date to "reintroduce" Wickford to the world.

Alex and Ani CEO Giovanni Feroci sets out his idea for jumpstarting Wickford.
Alex and Ani CEO Giovanni Feroci sets out his idea for jumpstarting Wickford.

For the inaugural meeting of the Wickford Economic Development Advisory Board, members were asked to both introduce themselves and share what they thought should happen in Wickford. The response that garnered the most interest came from Giovanni Feroce, the CEO of Alex and Ani, which owns the Wilson's of Wickford site and has plans to open a Teas and Javas there. 

"What's important … is a. identify a date in which you're going to reintroduce Wickford to the world," Feroce said. "Between now and then, how many businesses open? How many change the way they operate, and maybe have a facelift, do whatever's necessary. But you kind of say, ok, we're cutting the ribbon today and here's Wickford."

Several members liked that idea, in particular the target-date aspect. 

WEDAB chair Ellen Waxman talked about the need to expand store hours and options to visitors, especially those who come by boat. Waxman said she'd love to see more transportation options for visitors. 

Board member Sal Marinosci tempered other comments, noting it was vital to consider Wickford's "limitations," in particular, the town's lack of sewers. 

"That's a big big limitation," he said. "With that limitation, it draws a line through a lot of things that can be done." 

He also said that the very thing that makes Wickford so appealing – its waterfront – can be problematic, noting the village's susceptibility to flooding. 

One suggestion to enlarge sidewalks perhaps at the expense of parking drew concern from shop owner Palmer Beebe. 

"We have to be very, very sensitive about parking. Parking is an old, old issue," he said. "We have to be sensitive to residents… traffic will be opposed."

Giving voice to the elephant in the room, Beebe added, "A lot of people want to keep Wickford the way it is."

The panel agreed to meet on the first Wednesday of the month, at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall. Their next meeting will be on Oct. 2.

WEDAB board members include:

Ellen Waxman, WEDAB chair, EDAB liaison, owner of Five Main, an art gallery in Wickford

Martha Pughe, EDAB liaison, head of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce

Scott Gibbs, president of the Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island in Cumberland

Giovanni Feroce, CEO of Alex and Ani, a Cranston-based company with holdings in North Kingstown

Bjorn Wellenius, North Kingstown consultant on telecommunications policy, regulation, and economics in emerging markets 

Eli Beckman, founder of Reckoner Group, a technology and design firm based in Newport

Sarah Tallarico, director of the Wickford Art Association Gallery

Sal Marinosci, member of the Little Compton Planning Board, property developer and owner of Nautika and Blu restaurants on the East Greenwich waterfront

Michael Earnheart, manager of The Clean Bedroom

Palmer Beebe, owner of J W Graham in Wickford, Wickford Village Association president

Stephen Souls, a social media and email marketing consultant

Ex Officio – Curtis Given, Wickford Plan Committee liason, owner of Green Inc. in Wickford, and a real estate agent with Randall Realtor

Ex Officio – David Calwell, EDAB chair, owner of Caldwell Construction based in North Kingstown

Staff Support – Paige Bronk, North Kingstown Economic Development Manager

Eric Dukat September 07, 2013 at 09:01 AM
If you want locals, you have to look at which ones you want. A nice place to hang out and enjoy the afternoon overlooking the water appeals to one demographic, like me, but I don't have time to do it. There's nothing in town for teenagers to do and they have access to their parents money spending it wherever they shop or hang out. South County Commons and Warwick are where we drive ours all the time... mostly due to movies and shopping... but as a social event. I think the Old Ryan's Market should be a place that brings different generations together like the country store that is connected to a Cracker Barrel restaurant on the highway.
deb September 11, 2013 at 05:05 AM
It was predicted years ago, with box stores & internet sales Main Streets would disappear. Could you imagine when friends and family come to visit taking them to Wickford and walking by insurance, accounting and realtors offices and no shops? It's happening all over the country, that is the NEW Main Street. So how do we combat that? Enter Ellen Waxman & WEDAB. My husband and I were at the meeting and there were a lot of good discussions, much more than were covered in this article, for example there is a party interested in the space at Wickford Market! Huge news, and yet not a word and there was a quite a bit of discussion during the meeting about that, also. Although, no surprise. It seems Patch thrives on strategic reporting with a huge dose of sensationalism to keep you coming back to read the comments. Without it, you would just check in for the NK HS Football schedule! So of course the snippet contained here is one that was felt would create the most comment. But come on folks, is it any surprise to anyone that Wickford could use a facelift?? Buildings in dis-repair, residential properties in need of a good manicure, more sightings of the street sweeper hard at work would be great, some paint and even some simple window-washing-and that is just on Brown Street. Wickford needs her pride back and this board will examine ways to make that happen. Are you aware that Westerly won a make-over your town contest and Benjamin Moore is painting the entire town! WOW! Wish it was Wickford, but we found out about it at the end of the contest and it was too close to get everything needed to enter. We can talk about bringing in the sewers all day, but I don't see them coming anytime soon. So, we need creative and ingenious ideas to keep her going. To sit back in your armchairs and complain and criticize those that are trying to come up with viable solutions is ridiculous. My husband and I live in NK, and own a shop in the village. We need tourists in order to survive. We don't care if they arrive by car, plane, train or boat but they bring outside $$ into our local community and we appreciate them. I will tell you the mood has changed in the village, merchants are positive the economy seems to be moving in a good direction. Also, there are lots of new people that have just moved into NK, and they are wide eyed and seem to enjoy the shops and are excited over changes on the horizon. Good things are happening. If you have not come down to Wickford of late perhaps you should. Maybe support your favorite store in the village? After all, when you need a item for that raffle basket do you go to T.J. Max or Marshall's for a donation? Yup, that's what I thought...
Elizabeth McNamara September 11, 2013 at 07:39 AM
Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Deb. You are correct, I've been remiss about reporting Paige Bronk's update about the former Ryan's Market. Look for an article on that soon!
seed and soil September 11, 2013 at 08:59 AM
As the coordinating manager for a shop in the village, it is wonderful to see so much thoughtful debate going on! One addition we have to add. Our customers are a nice mix of tourists and locals. Both comment all of the time that they are looking for SOMETHING TO DO in the village other than just the shopping. Having the beautiful harbor and coastal surrounds, Harbor Tours on a nicely outfitted vessel might be just the thing to add bit more WOW to the Wickford experience! Harbor Tours are something I hope this new group could work towards! I have stopped in at the Chamber of Commerce who kindly outfitted us with all manner of Historic Walking Tour maps (thank you Tim Cranston!), fliers for Smith's Castle, Gilbert Stuart Museum, Casey Farm, Sea Bee Museum, as well as maps of the local area to help out tourists looking to explore South County. Tourists and locals alike, are very appreciative to have the information.
OrangesPoranges September 11, 2013 at 11:29 AM
If my memory serves, didn't the owners of Inside Scoop want to open a larger facility in the old Ryan's Market, but the town wouldn't give them a restroom variance so they could have indoor seating? Even though public restrooms are available in the parking lot across the street? Something that simple and cost-effective would have certainly helped jump-start business in Wickford, but I suppose that just made too much sense (and not enought dollars and cents for somebody in power).

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