Shared from the 3/26/2020 The Providence Journal eEdition


Empty main streets from Westerly to Woonsocket


A quiet Cross Mills Public Library, Charlestown. [THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL / G. WAYNE MILLER]


Stacey Riendeau, owner of Bake My Day on Main Street, Pawtucket, is open for business. [THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL / G. WAYNE MILLER]


Rob Roy Academy on Main Street, Woonsocket, is closed. [THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL / G. WAYNE MILLER]

The day began cold and dreary, a depressing dawn with no hint of spring.

On Main Street in Westerly, a few vehicles were in motion. A few stores were open.

One was Stop & Go Food Mart, where Tony Capalbo parked his pickup and went inside, walking with a cane. Capalbo lives with a disability.

He returned with lottery tickets.

He was sticking to routine.

“I don’t see it coming to an end soon,” Capalbo said. “You see the acceleration of the numbers.” What part is he playing?

“Trying to do the right thing. Keeping my hands clean. Distancing myself from others.” We were standing eight or nine feet apart.

Capalbo was asked what advice he might give.

“Listen to the doctors, the Health Department and the others,” he said. “You can’t tackle this on your own. You’ve got to do what they say.”

Next door to Stop & Go Food Mart, a sign hung on the entrance to The Blue Mitten Thrift Shop: “We are closed until further notice.”

Next to the Blue Mitten, a laundromat was open. One man was alone with his clothes.

Down Main Street, an American flag flew outside Buckler-Johnston Funeral Home. Across Main, older people shopped at McQuade’s Marketplace. Next to McQuade’s, workers carried beer from a big truck into E-Z Midway Liquors.

Heading up Route 1 to Charlestown, the radio was tuned to Westerly station WBLQ, AM-1230. The morning hosts were broadcasting a right-minded mix of light-hearted conversation and coronavirus news.

A side trip to Ninigret Park found its parking lots empty, he playground and courts desolate, too. A sign at the entrance flashed: “SOCIAL DISTANCING IN EFFECT. STAY SAFE & HEALTHY.”

Old Post Road is Charlestown’s Main Street.

Along it, the mail and newspapers were piling up in the chutes outside Cross Mills Public Library, which, a sign declared, is “Closed March 23 – April 4. Be Well!” Wind had blown the sign upside-down. It seemed an apt metaphor for late March 2020.

A bit further along Old Post Road, the notice on Kingston Pizza declared the eatery is “Now Hiring.” It could not be determined if it really is. A glance through a window revealed no sign of activity, save for a live computer screen. Outside here, too, wind had done damage: the “Open” flag was blown over.

Not so the boards outside Church of the Holy Spirit, Episcopal. “Sunday, 9:30: Drive-thru Prayers & Blessings.” This is the protocol: “Drive on up. Stay in your vehicle. Flash your lights.” More was available on the church’s Facebook page.

Past the church, sustenance of a non-spiritual sort was dispensed at another drive-through: Dunkin’ Donuts, where a long line of cars had formed.

On the way to Wakefield, a detour to East Matunuck State Beach brought views of an angry ocean, the surf high, the wind punishing, a friend only to the turbine near the pavilion. No one but a reporter was in the parking lots or on the shore.

With in-house dining suspended, Mews Tavern on Main Street, Wakefield, was offering curbside pickup for all orders. Around back, Jason Bishop, an employee of Toppa’s Foodservice & Paper Supply in Middletown, was making a delivery.

“It’s a lot slower now,” he said. “Fewer runs are going out.”

But they are going. Like frontline medical personnel and others, workers in the food chain have become heroes.

Asked how he was, Bishop said: “I’m doing fine.”

“Be safe,” a reporter said.

“You, too,” Bishop said.

At 187 Main St., the offices of Southern Rhode Island Newspapers were open for staff only. In front, the honor boxes for The Chariho Times, The Coventry Courier, The East Greenwich Pendulum, The Narragansett Times and the North Kingstown Standard Times sold the latest editions. Coronavirus headlines dominated each front page.

A short drive away, hand-lettered signs were posted on lawns across Kenyon Avenue from South County Hospital.

“Thank you, Nurses & Doctors, We Appreciate You,” read one.

“Thank you, Hospital Workers!” read another, decorated with a white cross drawn inside a red heart.

In Wickford, a couple strolled Main Street. “The virus can stay alive on cardboard and hard surfaces,” the man was overheard saying.

Plaque houses spoke to Wickford’s long history: “Christopher Champlin, 1802”; Thomas Cole, 1786”; “Captain Daniel Fones, 1770,” and many others. The buildings, if not necessarily their inhabitants, survived the 1918 Spanish Flu and other disasters.

Closer to the village center, Radiance Yoga, 1 West Main St., and Alma Juice Bar and Market, 2 Main St., were closed, signs mentioning COVID-19 explaining why.

True, too, for businesses on Main Avenue in Warwick. A sign at JB Pharmacy & Compounding told another story of the day: “Due to extremely high demand, we are out of Hand Sanitizer.”

Pawtucket Pawn brokers, “The Peoples Pawn Shop!” at 261 Main St., was open as noon approached.

Nearby, Stacy Riendeau was inside her Bake My Day bakery, putting the finishing touches on loaves of zucchini bread and mini-pies. The aromas enticed.

“It’s been very scary,” Riendeau said. “My main business is catering. Obviously, there are no events going on. But I’m trying to be positive.”

She was, with a smile and the promise of tasty offerings for anyone who drops by.

“I do sandwiches and box lunches, too,” she said. “I want to make sure everyone’s OK.”

A handful of pedestrians walked Main Street. One an older man, wore a mask.

Overhead, the sun broke through the clouds.

In Woonsocket at 12:55 p.m. workers outside Hamlet Middle School were just about done with their daily mission: providing free “grab and go” lunches for children now taking instruction at home via distance learning.

“We’re just wrapping up for the day,” one worker said. “We’ll be back here tomorrow, 11 to 1.” She and her colleague seemed satisfied. Two more heroes.

On Main Street, employees inside the closed Stadium Theatre were handling phone calls from patrons. Chan’s Chinese Restaurant and Jazz and Blues Music Club was closed, but was offering drive-through and home-delivery meals.

With a note about the health and safety of staff and students being a priority, Rob Roy Academy was closed. A banner across a photo of a model inside the foyer of the hair and beauty school read: “Discover a new you!”

On the radio, Gov. Gina Raimondo was beginning her daily briefing.

“We are doing everything we can to meet the needs of this crisis,” said Raimondo “I am working every day to reopen this economy.” gwmiller@

(401) 277-7380

On Twitter: @gwaynemiller

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