“When we came to Wickford to see what pre-Christmas business was like, it was raining and cold, yet people were still bustling around the village, popping in and out of stores,” Katie Fusaro recalls. “It was unexpectedly busy. So, Wickford Village did something right and held their own during this chaotic period.”
Katie and her husband Jim opened flatfish cottage on 12 Main Street in March after operating out of Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket. The new location, Katie says, brings the couple back to their roots, reminding them of the coastal towns in which they grew up; the store’s contents reflect this, too, with shelves of stationary, self-care products, home goods, and more. “Wickford is a happy place,” Katie explains, “and felt like the perfect place to put a shop that encourages people to ‘find their happy’.”
The Fusaros aren’t the only entrepreneurs who saw the historic village’s potential, even amidst a pandemic. Wickford has undergone a retail rebirth in the last year, saying farewell to long-standing favorites and making space for new ones. Janelle Feigley closed the doors to Gossip Boutique to pursue her passions in acting and screenwriting, while the owners of Village Reflections, Lulabells, and Canvasworks+ decided to retire. Others have quickly sprung up in their stead: women’s fashion destination Therapy Boutique, artist co-op Harbor View Artisans, apparel and art store Vanessa Piche, and clothing and accessories retailer Binnsy Boutique.
“I am so fortunate to have opened this business when I did,” says Caitlin Gendreau, owner of Binnsy Boutique, which, like flatfish cottage, opened in March. Gendreau grew up shopping in Wickford Village and has worked in retail since she was 15, so starting her own store had always been a “backburner day dream” until recently, when the Village Faire’s former space at 7 Main Street was up for grabs. While she admits it was strange opening with so many restrictions, she also notes that foot traffic is picking back up and the chance at a real grand opening is on the table this summer.
For Candace Brown and Lauren Wells, co-owners of Therapy Boutique, the moment also felt opportune: “When our new space became available, which doesn’t happen very often in Wickford, we decided we had to make the move.” Therapy, which can also be found in Wakefield, quickly traded their spot in East Greenwich for the village; Brown credits the seaside setting and strollable main strip with shaping the perfect shopping experience for visitors.
“The pandemic encouraged people to shop locally and served to remind people of the uniqueness of shopping small,” muses Katie, adding that this, coupled with the room for slow growth, made opening during the pandemic the perfect time. And while they’ve only been up and running a few months, the Fusaros share Gendreau’s observation that business is picking up as tourists return – lured by warmer weather and, perhaps, news of a revitalized village.
While you may notice these new storefronts as you meander Main Street, the essence of Wickford remains true. You’ll still find notable mainstays like Green Ink, Different Drummer, Wickford Gourmet, Beauty & The Bath, Wickford Village Antiques, Eclectic Bungalow, and Midnight Sun. You’ll still be able to drop in for lunch at Wickford on the Water, grab a coffee from Shayna’s Place, or rent a kayak to discover Wickford Cove.
“Retail, more than ever, is about the experience,” says Brown. “Wickford completes that, with its historical significance, design, and preservation that makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time.”