Devina is the store manager at Craftland. “I work here two days a week. I also have my own jewelry line, and I’m a mother of two. Who needs sleep, right?” Originally from Indonesia, she went to study in Oregon in 1997, and then came to RISD in 2004. She started working at Craftland just after graduation, four years ago. “I just loved working with the people who were organizing the store, so I decided to become one of them.”
The building on the corner of Westminster and Dorrance Streets was built in 1922 to house a Woolworth’s store. It still has the letter ‘W’ inscribed in various details, though the store left in the 1950s to move a block further up the street. Before Woolworth’s, there was a 120-room hotel on the same spot. The Dorrance Hotel’s rates in 1882 were between $2.50 to $4.00 per day.
About six years ago, Jerry was working on the renovation of these buildings, “and we were chatting about what might go here. We agreed it needed a good liquor store. “Two weeks later, a liquor license came up for auction. I got it, and went ahead with this store.” He called it Eno. “I know the least about wine of any of the people here, but my employees have been teaching me about it.”
Two Brothers Beauty Supply is not the first store of its kind on Westminster Street. A hundred and fifty years ago, right across the street, E Chabassol “from Paris” sold “wigs, half wigs, toupees, braids etc” as well as “bachelor’s hair dye.” They also offered “bathing rooms for both sexes.”
When Mike was about eight years old, he went shopping with his sister at the Peerless store, on the corner of Union Street. “I was in the elevator and it got stuck between the first and second floors. They forced the doors, and pulled me up. Just afterwards, the elevator suddenly started moving. Kinda disturbing to think about now.” Two years ago, Mike, who is a police officer, moved into an apartment in the former Peerless building. “I truly love living there,” he says. He takes the elevator every day.
The building with the Westminster Stories window has the name “Kresge” written on it, after the SS Kresge Company that built it in 1930. The company started in 1897 as a five-and-dime store in Memphis, Tennessee. By 1915, the Kresge store was occupying a building on this spot, sharing the space with the Chin Lee Chinese restaurant, before it built this building. In 1977, by which time it had already left Westminster Street, the company changed its name from Kresge to Kmart.
Pamela and Janet are roommates at Johnson and Wales University. They went to CVS in the mall to buy some food, and ended up “spending $200 at Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret.” They are sophomores in International Business and Criminal Justice. They describe themselves as “shopoholics.”
In 1859, seven years after the first department store opened in New York, Callender, McAuslan & Troup, aka The Boston Store, arrived in Providence. They built the building on the corner of Union and Westminster, currently housing Craftland and others, in 1873, expanding it in 1892. You can still their name written in the brickwork. In the 1950s, the Peerless Company of Pawtucket took over the space. It closed in the late 1980s, but its name remains as well. There are now loft apartments here, in a space known as The Peerless Building.