For months leading up to March 19, there were rumblings that Shake Shack was going to open a storefront on Thayer Street. Residents on the East Side and beyond anxiously awaited the arrival of the classic burgers, crinkle-cut fries, and creamy shakes. Days passed, the seasons changed, and finally, the neon sign with a little green burger flickered on, signalling the restaurant’s opening.
When one hears about a chain opening on Thayer, skepticism often sets in. Questions like “Are we forgetting about our local community and its eateries?” or “Is this entire street going to become corporate businesses?” spring to mind. But, the famous burger joint is unlike many of its corporate counterparts. One of the reasons that Shake Shack decided to plant itself in the midst of the bustling college thoroughfare was to integrate the Brown, RISD, and neighboring schools’ communities into its business.
“The Thayer Street area is an area that has been calling us for a long time…. We’ve been making great partnerships with RISD as well as Johnson & Wales… We have over a dozen JWU students employed here,” says Area Director Dave Yearwood.
Dave also remarks that one of the things that sets Shake Shack apart from other franchises is its willingness to introduce local products to the restaurants. According to Dave, the eatery has already fostered deep ties with other businesses here in Providence like PVDonuts, local breweries, and the Thayer Street District Management Authority. The most visible and immediate evidence of community involvement is a colorful mural painted on two walls of the establishment. RISD alum and freelance illustrator Jing Wei designed the mural with the help of current students from her alma mater, a work she says signifies her time on College Hill. 249 Thayer Street