Photo: Andrew Losowsky
Laura has been working at AAA for four years, and before that she worked at Dunkin’ Donuts. “Antes trabajaba en Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m hooked on their coffee now. It’s a problem.” She goes to the Dunkin’ Donuts a block further down Westminster Street, and in the winter she orders a small pumpkin spice latte, regular milk, no sugar, “once a day. I can’t have too much coffee or I won’t sleep.”
Laura grew up in a Dominican family in Brooklyn, and moved to Woonsocket with her mom when she was 15. She now lives on the west side with her partner, their four-year-old son and their nine-month old daughter. She usually has her coffee first thing in the morning, but she hasn’t had any today, so she’ll go at lunchtime. Only a coffee, though. After so many free samples from her time at Dunkin’ Donuts, she hates donuts.
Robert is an accountant who lives and works in the Alice Building at 236 Westminster Street. He likes to go for breakfast at Eddie and Sons Diner around the corner on Dorrance Street. He says it’s “perfect. I get coffee with a little cream, scrambled eggs and toast.” He grew up on Benefit Street and remembers coming downtown in the 1940s to visit the movie theaters that used to be here. He’s now 73 years old, has 12 grandchildren, and moved to this street about six years ago. “It seemed like a good idea at the time. It still does.”
Nadine lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is here in Providence visiting a friend. She is on her way to Sunday worship at the First Baptist Church, and is drinking a regular coffee from Starbucks. “Usually I don’t take anything in it, but since I arrived here, all I’ve been drinking is white coffee.” Her mom is in the hospital, and she hasn’t had much sleep, “so I’m more spaced out than usual.”
Back home in Florida, she teaches young kids, and she just got accepted to one of the best schools in the country that specializes in helping people write children’s books. “I came out here to celebrate.”
Katie, Tracey, and Kimberly are seniors at RISD, studying glass, jewelry and metal smithing, and animation. Today, they’re going shopping for clothes over by PPAC and for books at Cellar Stories. They stopped on the way at Dunkin Donuts. Tracy, who is from Virginia, got a coffee Coolatta and an egg-and-bacon bagel; Kimberly, from Florida, doesn’t drink coffee at all, while Katie, who is from Connecticut, is drinking a pumpkin coffee. “I became a fan of Dunkin Donuts in high school,” says Katie. “I try not to make it a daily thing, but sometimes it is.”
Felicia is going for her daily coffee at Grace Church. Right now, she’s staying at the Crossroads homeless shelter. She’s hoping to move in with her mom this week, and she’ll be a mom herself in a few months, too. “I’m looking forward to being a mom. I’ll be happy with a boy but I really want a girl.” In the future, she wants to become a bridal consultant. “I love party planning, I’ve been doing it all my life. Right now, I’m planning a Christmas party for my therapy group.” She goes for coffee every morning, which she takes sweet, with milk.
Dan is on his way from Boston Sports Club to meet his girlfriend for breakfast at Tazza. He drinks “a lot of Tazza coffee – you can’t beat it.” He grew up in Long Island, and came to Woonsocket 30 years ago to work in city planning. After a few years in banking, he became the director of the Providence Foundation, where he works “to try to revitalize this area.” “It’s a tough time right now, we’re a little worried. We have to get back into that aggressive mode where we were in the mid 90s, where you have to be a lot more creative. In the last few years, the momentum has been pretty good, but it’s more challenging now. That’s not a bad thing.”
If you’re looking for a late-night caffeine rush on Westminster Street, you might well wish that Walter Scott was still around. Unfortunately, it’s been 92 years since he retired his “night lunch wagon”, selling coffee and homemade snacks on this very street, between dusk and 4am, armed with a hickory club for protection. Gone, but not forgotten — he’s now recognized as the father of the modern American diner.
Shane and Bill are on a coffee break. They went to 7-eleven for “a black coffee,” and “a coffee and cream.” In a few minutes, they’ll head back to their desks at studio amd, a firm founded 16 years ago by two former RISD students, and based further along Westminster Street to your left. During the day, Shane and Bill work on computers creating 3D images and animations for some of the world’s leading architects. After work, they both play videogames.