Tyler’s Two Cents: Thoughts from Behind the Bar is a weekly lifestyle column, written by Tyler Bernadyn, that will appear every Tuesday on What’sUpNewp this summer.
It’s easy to write a research article, it’s much more difficult to write an editorial. There’s never enough words to express a true summation of thoughts, especially about an interesting topic. The advancement of Broadway is one of those topics. With the construction inching closer to completion and the City of Newport/Broadway Merchants Association’s recently launched digital and social media campaign debuting earlier this week, Broadway has been the topic of conversation quite frequently these days.
I am fortunate to live and work on Broadway. My apartment is roughly a 30 second walk away from Caleb&Broad, where I bartend on Monday nights. Some of my favorite bars and restaurants are located down the road and some of my favorite people work at these establishments. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, Broadway is considered to be the ‘local district’ of Newport. Unlike Downtown Newport, which attracts most of the tourism with it’s waterfront views, large hotels and the highest concentration of shops, restaurants and bars in the City; Broadway is considered an off-the-beaten-path hangout for locals to unwind and relax amongst their friends and peers.
With the state funded Broadway Streetscape Project underway, the neighborhood is getting a much-needed facelift that will benefit local businesses and bring a cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing look to this wonderful 6 block community. “Extending the destination” is the slogan representing this project and the construction thus far has proved just that. Sidewalks are repaved and illuminated. Traffic crossings are clearly marked and monitored to ensure safe passage for pedestrians. Many local restaurants gained extra outdoor patio seating with the sidewalk bump outs, creating more jobs and opportunity for revenue. Although the project has moved along at a slower pace than most locals would deem ideal, all of these improvements are only going to benefit the community and help maintain the future of this area.
As recently as two decades ago, Broadway was an undervalued and overlooked neighborhood. It was not the hip, happening place-to-be that it is considered today. Known only for a few dive bars and holding a notorious reputation for being a somewhat dangerous neighborhood, few locals ventured up this way and even fewer visitors. The area did not seem like a place that any aspiring business owner would be intrigued to consider. However, all it takes is a few brave individuals to create something spectacular. Sue Lamond, owner of Salvation Cafe, took a chance and opened her business on Broadway twenty years ago and she hasn’t looked back since. When asked about her thoughts on Broadway, Sue praised many local small businesses and the independent and passionate nature of these establishments. “What I cherish is the entrepreneurial and unique spirit of places like Ben’s Chili Dogs, Vinyl Guru, the new barbershops, Leo’s Market’s tacos, Boru’s noodles, Scratch’s sandwiches and the Mad Hatter’s awesome cupcakes. Each of those places and products represent someone who went for it and works hard and passionately every day to create their own unique product. Hopefully that will continue into the future of Broadway.”
Creative, enthusiastic and eclectic individuals comprise the face that is Broadway. Broadway is home to so many amazing local artists and musicians, all of whom are constantly showcasing their talents at local shows and events. Last summer, I attended an event labeled as a ‘backyard art series.’ I did not know quite what to expect, as I had never heard of such an event, but I showed up enthusiastically with very low expectations. The show was a complete surprise. It was extremely well organized, complete with a cooler of cold beer, homemade appetizers and a handful of local artists showcasing their work in a vacant garage. That day, I befriended a gentleman named Ry Smith. After checking out a display of hand drawn magnets that he created, I left the event as the proud owner of a cartoon rendition Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen magnet. Ry also plays in a band and recently performed at a fundraiser that was held at Fifth Element to benefit local artists. Rich Willis, owner of Caleb&Broad, has achieved great success in his first two years of business on the block. “The locals and regulars that we see on a weekly basis are what make this neighborhood so special. Some tourists come to Newport and want to hangout where the locals hangout, those are the kind of people that deserve to see all that Broadway has to offer.” Rich also owns a home directly off Broadway and is a member of the neighborhood homeowners’ association. We randomly became friends one night after striking up conversation about the Soggy Dollar hat I was wearing at his bar. Now we work together one night a week. Hank Lawler, a local legend at the Broadway Dunkin’ Donuts, gives me a warm welcome and a nice compliment every morning that I visit, even when I was out until 3am the night before and definitely don’t deserve that compliment. It’s these kind of events and these kind of individuals that give Broadway it’s true character.
Broadway is not for everyone. It is a diverse area and it is most certainly not the postcard image of Newport that you see at gift shops. At times, it can be rough around the edges. It has its fair share of characters and personalities; just last week, I came home to a man passed out on my front step with a Natty Light can in his hand. I knew he must have been harmlessly reliving his college frat years so I just chalked it up to that and went on my way. Broadway is not a place to drop a ‘do you know who I am?’ or ‘my yacht is this big’ line, because that doesn’t matter here. Broadway is a place for people to go enjoy themselves and more importantly, to be themselves. It is an area that screams community. It is an area where people help people and locals embrace independent small businesses. Broadway will always be ‘where the locals go,’ but it’s important that others are encouraged to enjoy it too. The promotion and support of this community is essential for sustainability and its success moving forward. Broadway has the trendy reputation and is now getting the resources to help this area flourish. If the downtown area is the heart of Newport, then the Broadway area is most definitely the soul.
Tyler Bernadyn is a local hospitality professional, bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award winning $10 entree dinner special.
Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.
Email him at TylerBernadyn@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn.