images of this Property
23 images: Press to view larger or scroll sideways to see more. Contributions from Christopher Martin of Quahog.org
About this Property
The Purple Cat Restaurant closed its doors in 2005. It was a local favorite with its home-cooked meals and down-to-earth atmosphere. A related business, the Purple Cat Vineyard and Winery, shared the name but was located in a different building (11 Money Hill Road) behind the Purple Cat Restaurant. It was open for only a few years, 2015 through 2019.
The Purple Cat remained in the Lavoie family for its entire long life. It started with the first generation, Fred and Ada, and continued into the fourth generation (see History below). In the end, it was too much to keep up with, and was a rewarding but challenging business.
Architecture & Artwork
The original restaurant was cleverly built from two recycled circa 1907 trolley cars. The cars were manufactured by the Watson Company in Springfield, and ran from Woonsocket to a mill in the Pascoag and Harrisville area of Burrillville. When the mill closed down, it was moved to Chepachet at the Stafford Yard in 1929 and converted to a diner by the LaVoies.1
The interior of the restaurant was built up over time. In the early 30s it was expanded, and again in the 1960s. A fire in 1971 closed the business for a short time but it reopened and expanded more in 1976. Employees of the restaurant knew the diner cars were still there in the walls — one interior was visible from the kitchen — but the patrons may have never noticed.
Wood carved wall hangings and sculptures completed by local folk artist Al Zifchock adorned the walls. His work is collected in the Library of Congress and had been purchased and moved as far away as South Carolina.
Self-taught, Zifchock, grew up in Burriville and started carving “little things” like boats and guns when he was a young boy. He entered the Army, then worked with his father in the printing business, but kept whittling on the side. In 1971 he left the printing business to pursue art full time. He carved figurines, clock faces, ornate beams for buildings, blanket chests, a totem pole, as well as a Cigar-store Indian. He also enjoys masonry, often cutting the stones himself. His carved signs adorned many businesses in the area as well.2
Developer Al Costantino and business partner Meshell Adamo announced plans in March, 2022, to refurbish and transform two diner cars found within the former Purple Cat structure into an ice cream and soda fountain. Al said the process would likely take nine months to a year before the refurbished trolley is back on site. The second trolley, formerly used as part of the kitchen, would not be refurbished as too much of it was gone.3
Derived from information found on thepurplecat.com, via Archive.org, December, 2001. Other sources credited.
The Purple Cat Restaurant was established in 1929 by Fred and Ada (Stafford) LaVoie by combining two trolley cars from the Old Woonsocket-Fairmount line, converting one into a 13-stool diner counter and the other into a kitchen.
Where did the name come from? According to one article, the name came from a club in Lake George, New York, from when Fred was young.4
In the early thirties, an addition provided living quarters for the family — Fred, Ada, and son Kenneth (“Skip”) — as well as a small tap room and a dining room. The liquor license for “The Purple Cat Diner” was the first issued in the town of Glocester following Prohibition.
In the late forties and early fifties The Purple Cat was under the management of Ada’s oldest son, Jim Silverthorne. With the opening of the Pascoag Race Track, the staff was kept busy catering to busloads of patrons from nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut, as well as horse owners, trainers, and jockeys.
In 1964, son Skip LaVoie & wife Rose took over. They remodeled the dining room and added a cocktail lounge. A fire on Thanksgiving eve of 1971 forced a three month closing, but the restaurant reopened after extensive renovations to the dining room, kitchen, and “Cat’s Mee-ow”.
In 1977, after 48 years of service, the original thirteen diner stools were removed. This made room to expand the kitchen and convert the cocktail lounge into a third dining room, “The Pub Room,” and also permitted the owners to concentrate on the restaurant business.
The Purple Cat Restaurant was managed into the early 2000s by the third generation of the LaVoie Family, Kevin and Keith LaVoie, with the fourth generation — Tara and Kelsea — pitching in as needed.
By May of 2005, however, Skip and Rose were ready to close the doors, citing many personal health problems. Skip suffered from a stroke in 2004 and was paralyzed on one side. Rose had two stents implanted to keep blood flowing through her arteries and an artificial knee. And Kevin had a defibrillator implanted to regulate his heartbeat.5
Rose, president of the Glocester Heritage Society6, was instrumental in getting the new owner to save the trolley cars buried within the walls.
In the News
Purple Cat trolley offered to Glocester
by Jacquelyn Moorehead
Valley Breeze | February 8, 2024 (abridged)
The Purple Cat trolley car that once served as the restaurant’s dining area may be on its ninth life as developer Al Constantino offers to donate the historic piece to the town.
Costantino, 76, said the car could take years to restore, and he may not have those years. There is still work to be done at the six-building Purple Cat redevelopment at 4 Stafford Yard, he added.
After fire personnel said he’d have to get the trolley up to code before it could be used as an ice cream parlor, he told the Town Council last Thursday, Feb. 1, he realized he didn’t have the time.
“I’m here before you tonight because we’re not going to be able to do it. By the time we get done with this project (Purple Cat), it (the trolley car) will take a few years to do. I just can’t do it and I don’t want to see it leave the town. There’s a lot of history in that trolley,” Costantino said. […]
Costantino said the trolley and its signage is iconic to Glocester. He suggested pouring a concrete slab near the town’s pavilion, and creating a weather-tight container to preserve it until the town has the funds to restore it.
He offered to let the council come take a look at the trolley before making any decision. He guessed that the work could be done for $50,000.
Costantino said the town could use the second trolley, which is sitting at the back of the old winery property, for parts to restore the donated trolley.
Captured February 10, 2024 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/news/purple-cat-trolley-offered-to-glocester/article_edd9221c-c51c-11ee-a3fb-e7751c5a9ebb.html
Purple Cat property purchased, owner eyes mixed-use development
by Jacquelyn Moorehead
Valley Breeze | January 13, 2022 (abridged)
The days of the nearly 100-year-old building that once housed the Purple Cat Restaurant in Chepachet are numbered after a business developer purchased the property and is formulating plans to revive the site.
Smithfield resident and business owner Al Costantino this week confirmed plans to demolish the commercial portion of the building at 4 Stafford Yard to make space for a barn-like antique store with space for boutiques as well as possible housing units.
Costantino said he has had eyes on Glocester to open a new business for some time. He previously scrapped plans for a similar type of business at a property he purchased at 1200 Putnam Pike.
When the Purple Cat property came up for sale, Costantino sold the Putnam Pike property and purchased the Purple Cat, according to Town Planner Karen Scott.
Scott said initial plans she’s seen show a mixed-use development with retail on the bottom floor and some residential units above the stores. She said the development would extend the walking feel of the village further.
“It will blend with the feel of the village of a historic walk and mixed-use area,” Scott said.
She said plans are in the very early stages, and they need to go through the right departments and processes for approvals before anything moves forward. Still, Scott said, Costantino and his “transformational” business ideas are welcome in Glocester.
“We’re excited to have him here and bring in new business,” she said.
Costantino said he has a lot of plans for properties across the state, and has had his eye on Glocester for some time. He said he hopes to build a post-and-beam style barn to house the finished furniture and antiques business. […]
Captured June 3, 2022 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/news/purple-cat-property-planned-to-become-antique-business/article_43a12426-72ac-11ec-a895-17f0a3acfc1a.html
History of Purple Cat Restaurant to be preserved by new owners
by Jacquelyn Moorehead
Valley Breeze | January 20, 2022 (abridged)
[…] LaVoie conceded that the years have not been kind to the Purple Cat Restaurant, which had walls built around the trolley cars inside to protect them from the elements. The roof is sagging and rotted, with areas of substantial moss growth. He said he and his family understand the building needs to be demolished.
When Smithfield businessman Al Costantino approached LaVoie with his business partner, Meshell Adamo, LaVoie said he knew he’d met the next generation to own the Purple Cat location.
“They have the vision, and they respect the history,” he said.
Adamo and Costantino met at the Antique Alley in Greenville, where Adamo sold restored and refinished antiques. The pair had friends and families in common, and said it was a wonder they hadn’t met sooner. They went out dancing, saying they quickly realized a business deal was in the future.
“She’s got the plans, I’m just helping,” said Costantino, who purchased the Purple Cat Restaurant property and the residential and commercial units located behind the restaurant at Stafford Yard.
He said he is ready for a change of scenery outside of Smithfield, where he has clashed with officials including school personnel and construction workers during an elementary renovation project last year.
Adamo’s concept for the buildings is a 700-square-foot barn-like post-and-beam building mirroring Chepachet’s historic charm as a space to sell high-end antiques with rental spaces for dealers. As an admirer of old things, Adamo said she hopes to keep and restore the diner trolleys inside the Purple Cat Restaurant.
“I haven’t seen their condition, but I hope they’re good enough to keep,” she said. […]
Captured June 3, 2022 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/news/history-of-purple-cat-restaurant-to-be-preserved-by-new-%20owners/article_5c759a3a-7811-11ec-8fa8-537f4f5c3868.html
MOOREHEAD, JACQUELYN. “Purple Cat trolley to be transformed into ice cream parlor.” Valley Breeze (RI), 24 March, 2022. https://www.valleybreeze.com/news/purple-cat-trolley-to-be-transformed-into-ice-cream-parlor/article_8619acec-aa15-11ec-846e-3b83e3bcd757.html. Accessed 4 June, 2022. ↩
ANDERSON, LESLIE. “With silent companions keeping watch, Pascoag native carves a life out of pine Sculptor to give new life to historic water trough at school.” Providence Journal (RI), BLACKSTONE VALLEY ed., sec. NEWS, 14 July 1986, pp. D-01. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/15252D3CF9DE3968. Accessed 4 June 2022. ↩
WARCHUT, KATIE. “Popular eatery to close its doors.” Providence Journal (RI), Northwest ed., sec. News, 24 May 2005, pp. C-01. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/152429AF476A0688. Accessed 3 June 2022. ↩