By Steven Froias
At first glance, it may seem somewhat of a mystery as to why Ian Shields opened Coastal Provisions at 142 Arnold Street in West End, New Bedford.
In terms of commercial retail, it’s somewhat off the beaten path. Certainly not as happening as downtown, Acushnet Avenue, Dartmouth Street, or Brock Avenue, for example.
But Ian Shields saw something both in the building he bought in the West End and the neighborhood surrounding it, that was irresistible to him.
He was drawn to the property by the character of the building. The classic 1920s-era retail storefront – with its big display windows – held vintage romance for him. As did the walkable, largely residential, and close-knit community that defines the neighborhood.
So, he bought the building eight years ago. Three years ago, he decided what he wanted to do with it. The idea became his “passion project,” he says. And on Friday, March 10, Coastal Provisions on Arnold Street held a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Coastal Provisions is a modern take on a classic corner grocery. It offers a wide range of products, including basic grocery staples and produce, plus prepared meals, specialty items, beer and wine, and gift items. Customers can also enjoy self-serve coffee while they shop.
One of the special features of Coastal Provisions is the use of Coastal Foodshed, which sources products from different farms in the area to offer local produce, dairy, and meats. (Check out the website for more inventory.)
His vision for bringing the store to life in the neighborhood has never been in doubt. However, there were some challenges along the way to becoming an urban pioneer. Personally, he had to trade in the mindset of a real estate and investment professional for a retail one. (He shared his backstory – including a teenage stint as an A & P Supermarket employee – in this Southcoast Today story.)
Other challenges were unique to the time period we are living in, while others will no doubt be familiar to entrepreneurs who have made the decision to chart their own course.
Naturally, a worldwide pandemic tops the list of hurdles to overcome, as the build-out of Coastal Provisions happened to coincide with the onslaught of COVID-19 in the United States. Not only did Ian have to navigate starting a new business, he had to do it during lockdowns and supply chain interruptions, and labor shortages, and the list goes on and on of those challenges.
That’s when a support network helps. He says Ward 5’s Scott Lima – City Councilor for the area – was a great help to him working through any logistical municipal hurdles to jump, as well as being an invaluable resource on the history of the neighborhood itself.
Shields also used the regional Webster Bank, with branches in New Bedford and Dartmouth, to help finance the project. And, he benefited from the New Bedford Economic Development Council NB100! program, which he used to provide assistance with inventory, operational costs, and hiring employees.
The NB100! initiative was made possible through the US Small Business Administration (SBA) Community Navigator Program supported by the City of New Bedford’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding package. It aims to promote entrepreneurship, grow local wealth, and strengthen community bonds by helping 100 new businesses get off the ground while having positive impacts on New Bedford’s neighborhoods.
Businesses like Coastal Provisions.
Coastal Provisions is staffed by Ian’s two brothers, their mother, two part-time employees, and a chef for the prepared take-away dishes. The team is committed to providing exceptional customer service and a welcoming atmosphere for all who visit the store, along with fresh, high-quality food that is locally sourced whenever possible.
Just as Ian is transitioning from one career to another as an urban entrepreneur, he promises that Coastal Provisions will also retain a sense of adventure.
“We’ll be constantly evaluating and reevaluating our inventory,” he says. “The response has been great so far – and we’re excited to be a part of this wonderful neighborhood.”
Walk on over to Coastal Provisions, 142 Arnold Street, New Bedford, daily from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM to say hello to a new neighbor in West End, New Bedford.