What’s New at Garden City in 2022
Fresh faces both national and local plus a surfeit of exciting community events and programming are livening up the iconic outdoor shopping destination.
Open since 1948, Garden City Center has witnessed and undergone many changes over the years, but perhaps none as significant as in the past two. When many retail hubs were in doubt during the pandemic, Garden City took it in stride, providing safe, open-air shopping and dining for visitors. It also doubled down on commitments to keep things fun and fresh for when we could regain some sense of normalcy. Well, that time has finally arrived, and the Center is ready to showcase its transformation into a modern retreat with small town charm. Whether you haven’t stopped by in a couple years or were just there last week, you’re bound to find something new to see, taste or do at Garden City Center.
Since 2020 alone, ten (yes, ten!) nationally hailed retailers have joined the ranks of beloved mainstays like Pottery Barn and set up shop along Hillside Road. Highlights include fashionista favorites like Madewell, Aerie and Old Navy as well as the beauty boss Ulta. The Center is also teasing the arrival of five more fresh faces in the coming months, with the luxurious Skin Spa New York and a bigger and better Lululemon among them, but you will have to keep a close eye on its social media for additional announcements.
But big-name brands aren’t the only ones making moves; the Center’s array of local flavor is also ever-growing. Providence Diamond, for instance, is currently in the process of expanding its gorgeous showroom and is set to reopen later this summer. Meanwhile, community-minded businesses like Ohanga are finding a home in Garden City.
“My cofounder and I started Ohanga in the midst of the pandemic as a means for artists to be able to tell their stories online and also to get their products into the hands of the people,” says co-owner and founder, Subham Sett. “The biggest challenge we found, especially in the context of COVID and in the context of local artists, was they went from being able to connect with their patrons at shows and fairs to having to compete with everyone online. If you make stuff in Narragansett, you were likely also competing with somebody in Florida. Your neighbor could be buying stuff on Etsy instead of coming and finding you. Not everyone has that platform to expose their products and their art to the world.”
That’s where Ohanga comes in. The arts collaborative provides a platform for local artists’ work to be appreciated and valued by the surrounding community. They also serve the consumer by verifying the artists they work with.
“We interview each artist to learn about their art making process, why they got into art and what are their aspirations, visions, missions in life, etc. So, when someone comes to Ohanga, we can confidently say we know the artists behind the art and confirm that they’re the ones making it. That’s something you cannot determine when you’re on a site like Etsy,” Sett says.
Another thing Etsy doesn’t have going for it? A lovely brick and mortar in a beautiful outdoor shopping area.
“We looked at Garden City and felt it was a very good location for our gallery because it has been able to create a very nice environment which attracts a lot of the local community — not just to buy, but to experience Garden City itself,” he explains. “And we felt having a platform in Garden City where we can expose these artists would be very beneficial. One, for the brand recognition of the artist so they can grow, and two, for the community to realize that there’s a lot of talent within Rhode Island. One of the biggest pieces of feedback we’ve had is people coming here and saying, ‘I wonder why a place like this didn’t exist here before?’ Well, that’s why we are here. To help you connect with the artists and get to know them better, because one of them could be your neighbor.”
Just across from the gazebo, Ohanga’s gallery features works from artists all over the state. The displayed products range from fine art like photography and paintings to functional art like home décor items, kitchen ware, handmade jewelry, upcycled fashions and accessories. Each purchase comes with a handwritten note from the artist detailing the item’s history or creation process.
“Everyone has a story to tell. Here, you’re not just buying a mug; you’re buying a story. You’re taking it home and it’s a piece of art. You can also go on our website and listen to a podcast on each of these artists, and if you want to connect with any of the artists in person, you can do that through the store.”
Sett also plans to have Ohanga and its artists participate more in upcoming events at the Center.
“When Santa visited Garden City last December, we had a couple of our artists come in to do kids’ crafts in the store. We had sessions led by an origami artist and someone who makes felt toys. We’re looking forward to getting involved in more things like that,” he says.
Speaking of, Garden City Center has been ramping up its events schedule. Already on tap are interactive family movie nights (we heard Mirabel from Encanto recently made a special appearance!), outdoor fitness classes (from Pilates to cardio) with local trainers and animal encounters with residents of Roger Williams Park Zoo. The ever popular Summer Concerts series is also making its triumphant return to the Center with tunes for every taste on Wednesday nights July 20 through August 10. Then, in September, visitors can join Garden City for a can’t-miss summer send-off in the form of a lively (and dog-friendly!) beer garden featuring local brews on tap.
The Center’s programming is also on the rise. For the bibliophiles, the center has an adorable Little Free Library set up between Avvio and Madewell where you can share your go-to books with others and also find new favorites for the taking. And more unexpected yet delightful recent happenings around the center include a super sweet Heart Warming initiative, a fun and mysterious What the Flock pop up and inspiring Lunar New Year Performances.
The only thing that’s not-so-new at Garden City Center? Its ability to provide several delicious dining options for when you need a break between shopping and fun in the sun. You can mangia at Avvio, satiate your seafood cravings at Legal Seafood, spice up your dinner routine at Chaska, indulge in a couple apps while you catch the game at Tavern in the Square and/or split a classic sundae on a Sunday with the fam at Newport Creamery. No matter what changes Garden City Center goes through, the all-encompassing destination has proven time and time again and will continue to prove that it has something for everyone in Rhode Island.