Farm Supply: Why Drake Patten is Crowing About Cluck
Drake Patten, owner of Providence's new urban farm supply shop, is choosing to focus on the silver lining of the cloud of controversy that surrounded her shop's opening. Delayed for months due to legal woes stemming from neighbor complaints, as well as zoning and permitting nightmares, court appearances and unanticipated setbacks, Cluck was finally able to open its doors in early June of this year, offering provisions for the growing number of urban gardeners, beekeepers and backyard chicken owners in the city of Providence.
"The controversy and surrounding coverage certainly got our name out there," says Patten, "and although it was hard to open three months late and in the middle of the growing season, we are so thankful for the show of support."
Indeed the West Side community rallied for Cluck, not only with letter-writing campaigns and demonstrations but through an indiegogo.com fundraising campaign that raised $9,380 to help Patten with the mounting legal and permitting fees.
One peek inside the shop, housed in a long-abandoned gas station, and it's obvious why Providence's green thumb community has so enthusiastically supported Patten's cause. The selection, variety and display make for a shopping experience that is nothing like a visit to your standard feed shop.
Heirloom seed packets are artfully displayed alongside artisan soaps, colorful gardening tools for children and an array of homesteading books. Hand-forged gardening shears share the shelf with indie artist greeting cards and lavender bath salts. But most importantly, Cluck has the basics covered: chicken feed, pots, compost, gardening tools and a first-hand knowledge of urban farming.
"People have brought me bugs, diseased plants, pictures of their garden problems … and I love that," Patten says. "We talk through it, I point them to the right tools, and when they leave they tell me, 'I feel like I can do this.' Whether it be chicken keeping or growing tomatoes, I want people to leave here feeling capable."
It is creative businesses like Cluck that are so needed on the West Side. Already a foodie destination thanks to the likes of Julian's, Nick's on Broadway, Broadway Bistro and a host of other restaurants and unique watering holes, the area now looks to grow its retail offerings.
"I've been here for over 14 years and I've seen waves of retail come and go," says Jeffrey Kerkhoff, owner of Jephry Floral Studio.
Cluck is just the kind of business he would like to see more of. "I'm excited Cluck is finally open. It's an innovative business model and a positive change for Broadway," he says. "The more retailers on the street, the better for the vitality of the community."
Not content to operate as just a retailer, Cluck aspires to become a gathering place where both new and experienced gardeners and homesteaders can trade ideas and inspiration. A calendar of classes is in the works, as well as weekly events like Little City Farmstand and Food Truck Friday. The store itself exemplifies urban farming life with on-site beehives, a chicken coop and raised beds.
"I had always hoped to be a place where people could come for knowledge and information," says Patten. "I think our offerings will grow in an organic way as the community sees our space develop, and customers approach me with things they would like to see offered."
Which is exactly how Saturday's Little City Farmstand came about. Catherine Mardosa and Matt Tracy of Red Planet Vegetables, along with the five other farms that make up Little City Growers Coop, were strategizing how to get their produce to more people in their neighborhood when they came up with idea of approaching Patten.
"We are invested in seeing Cluck succeed," says Mardosa. "As a resident of the neighborhood and as a farmer, I have been thrilled to see what was an eyesore become a thriving shop, a garden, a community space where people can come, hang out and learn. Patten has created a beautiful space, and we are excited to be a part of it."
Reflecting on her first months in business, Patten shares one of her proudest moments since opening: A local customer dropped by the shop bearing gifts from his community garden plot, excited to share them with the woman who inspired his new gardening hobby.
"When he first visited me he only had a few window boxes," she remembers. "Now he has a community garden plot that is producing an abundant harvest." Patten hopes this gardening fairy tale will become just one of many as Cluck inspires and informs Providence's new wave of growers and homesteaders.
Indeed, the other fairy tale might be Patten's own story, replete with villains, anachronistic ordinances and a determined heroine who overcomes the odds, spreading hope to the villagers of a new paradigm.