Robin Dionne is the director of outreach and client services for the Arcade Providence, which as many know is the oldest indoor mall in the U.S. Since its renovation into micro-lofts and retail was completed in 2014, the building has remained fully occupied.
In her position, Dionne helps coordinate some of the programming that brings events and new vendors to the arcade and its interior atrium, such as Women Owned Wednesdays, which features small, women-owned businesses, and the seasonal farmers market, which allows vendors of food and food-related products to sell their goods. She spoke recently with the Providence Business News about trends at the arcade.
PBN: Has demand for the micro-lofts remained consistent?
DIONNE: The micro-lofts are generally at 100 percent occupancy. We have very few vacancies. Many of the tenants are the original tenants. We tend to see people renewing their leases at least one time, but some of the tenants are on their third leases now. Sometimes they do move around within the building, from bigger to smaller, or vice-versa, depending on their needs.
PBN: Is there programming within the building aimed at tenants and how has that changed over the past four years?
DIONNE: It’s expanded. My goal was to create a neighborhood within a neighborhood, trying to create a fun place for the people who live there but also an active part of the community. A lot of the people who live there are not native Rhode Islanders; they may not know what’s going on in the city, so we use the [arcade] newsletter to let them know what’s going on inside the building, and around the building. We do a lot with nonprofits. We have some fundraisers coming up in the fall. We allow the nonprofits to use the atrium free of charge. [For example], we have the farmers market coming up at the end of October. We’ll do that until the end of December. We try to bring things to the building that add to the downtown community, or that I think would be fun.
PBN: You recently had an event related to the H. P. Lovecraft Necronomicon event? [Lovecraft Arts and Sciences is an arcade tenant.]
DIONNE: They put on that conference, they plan it. People come from all over the world. During that day their shop is like a mecca for people coming to the conference. I thought we should bring artists and other vendors inside the building because we would have increased traffic that day anyway. [The vendors] line the interior. I book them into 8-foot-by-8-foot spaces inside the atrium where I know I can fit them.
PBN: How do you find new vendors?
DIONNE: A lot of times they find me. They know I love small business and they know this would be a good place to see what the market is like, to test drive your concept. They know the focus on the first floor is all small business. They find me, or through word of mouth, friends of friends. This time around, for the Lovecraft festival, I tried something new. I put together a vendor form. And said, who is a maker? Who is an artist? We got a ton of responses and I weeded through and picked the most interesting and the most appropriate for the function.
PBN: Within the arcade, your existing tenants, who are some of the new businesses in the last two years?
DIONNE: Bad Taste is really cool. He’s a big pop-culture guy. He has a massive following. During PVD Fest, he had massive crowds all day. He previously was at the Providence Flea. He has a huge network. Another store, Impulse Hair Salon, was part of the original arcade tenants. We had to get everyone out during the renovations, and they went down the street on Weybosset. The stars aligned and we had space for them. We combined a few units and now they’re back in the arcade.