the Chronology of Main Street
Many photos courtesy of the Pawtucket History Research Center.
Main Street: a study in the urban core of america
Main Street, and Pawtucket in general, followed an interesting path in the past 150 years. Since the birth of the Industrial Revolution down the street at Slater Mill in the early 1800s, Pawtucket's economy has followed the classic hyperbolic trajectory; rapidly up, up, up and then by the early 1960s, gradually down down down. The changes in manufacturing and the global economy as well as the symbolic and literal slash that Interstate 95 cut through the center of the city in the 50s didn’t help. Main Street’s once proud department stores had to compete with larger malls located outside of the urban core, and went through a failed attempt to become a large outdoor shopping mall in the early 80s.
We hope that we are preparing Main Street and the Grant for the next economy – the enterprenurial economy – by providing small office space key to the new decentralized work force. Like other cities of its size, Pawtucket is drawing people back from the suburbs and into an interesting, less corporate urban core where amenities are walkable again, and the classic “Main Street” attitude can flourish.
The WT Grant Building
Research conducted by Kathy Cavanaugh for the National Trust pertaining to the Pawtucket Downtown application to the National Register of Historic Places state that the building was built for the W.T. Grant company in 1934. Early tenants included Bowen Philip Hardware, Schetter Charles Ladies’ Hairdresser and Cohen Adolph Boots and Shoes from 1915 to 1920, Jordan’s women clothing in 1930, and a WT Grant department store from 1935 to 1980. In 1984, the Mill River Arcade shopping center was born, with Bleeker Street Fashions, Miss Mary’s Palm Reading and the Mill River Tavern. (click here for complete title search on record)
In 1993, Louis Yip bought the building and in 1999 a young man named Paris master-leased the space to various urban-inspired hip-hop stores, such as Fat Shack records, Diva’s Clothing, Munchies snack shop, Off tha Hook clothing, a barber, and P.O.A.M. The mall was then renamed POAMLANDS (Prospectors, and later, Preachers On A Mission). Matt Brown’s election campaign was run out of the second floor office space at one point during this time.
In June of 2006, the current partners purchased the property to convert it into a mix of office, retail and studio space with two apartments on the second level.
The WT Grant Company
William Thomas Grant had a dream to own his own store. At 30, Mr. Grant opened his first "W. T. Grant Co. 25 Cent Store" in Lynn, Massachusetts, with $1,000 he had saved from his work as a salesman. By the time Mr. Grant passed away in 1972, at age 96, his nationwide empire of WT Grant Stores had grown to almost 1,200. Mr. Grant was a born salesman with a will to succeed… [and he] discovered that he wanted to sell people what they needed at prices they could afford, with only a modest profit. This modest profit, coupled with a fast turnover of inventory, caused Mr. Grant's business to grow to almost $100 million a year in sales by 1936, the year he started the Grant Foundation. His concern for a fair deal won him much respect from his customers, who always came first in Mr. Grant's opinion… In his later years, Mr. Grant was Chairman of the Board of the WT Grant Company, and President of the Grant Foundation and later Chairman of the Board. Among his avocations were philosophy, painting, and local philanthropy… He retired from both the WT Grant Company and the Grant Foundation at age 90, yet still served in an honorary capacity until his death. The Foundation lives on in perpetuity, carrying out Mr. Grant's vision of helping to encourage programs that fashion young people into good citizens, and research that helps us to enable people "to live more contentedly and peaceably, well in body and mind.