Depot coffee shop set to open this month

Depot coffee shop set to open this month

Anamarie Aponte-Rivera is ready to serve guests at The Coffee Depot, at One Depot Square in Woonsocket.
Four cities sign agreements with Woonsocket-based commuter train investor

WOONSOCKET – With the tracks outside still warm from guests’ holiday trips aboard the Polar Express, One Depot Square is primed to see a new rush of activity in the upcoming weeks as Anamarie Aponte-Rivera opens The Coffee Depot.

The shop will serve the standard caffeinated beverages, along with snacks such as fruit cups and yogurt inside the space where Aponte-Rivera’s boyfriend, Vincent Bono, plans to launch a new commuter rail service next year.

Aponte-Rivera obtained a license for the facility from the City Council on Monday, and by the end of the month, she intends to start serving cappuccinos, hot chocolates, donuts, muffins and bagels to anyone that stops in to the historic train station.

“Every train station needs a coffee shop,” she said.

The trains, which Bono says will begin runs to Providence by the end of 2019, aren’t drawing in throngs of commuters yet, but it’s not hard to envision the space as a hub of activity. A city landmark built in 1882, the historic depot is a central element to Bono’s plan for transit to eight New England cities, and is the headquarters of his Boston Surface Railway Company.

Bono has been working on a plan to launch commuter service on the tracks, which currently carry only freight trains and guests to the annual holiday train ride The Polar Express, since 2012. And while detractors may think the plan is little more than a fantasy, he’s making some real progress.

Four cities, including Woonsocket, recently signed memorandums of understanding with the fledgling railway company, partnerships that should help Bono secure needed federal and local grants to fund the project. The company has secured track and station house rights, along with operational authority from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, for service between Worcester and Providence, and that segment of his larger commuter network should start runs in 2019.

Bono projects that by its fifth year of operation, BSRC will carry an estimated 360,000 annual passengers annually to stops in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Within seven years, he predicts that number will grow to 1 million passengers.

As partners, Bono choose the “underserved” cities of Lowell and Worcester, Mass., Woonsocket, and Nashua, N.H., in part, because the agreements could bring in millions of dollars in grant money for infrastructure improvements at BSRC stations. The memorandums of understanding, non-binding agreements signed by the four municipalities over the past several months, represent some $10 million in transportation grant money annually to be split between the partners, with BSRC getting 90 percent.

In Woonsocket, Bono says the grants will amount to about $250,000 annually once the train is up and running from One Depot Square.

The money would come through Urbanized Area Formula Funding, a program operated by the Federal Transit Administration aiming to provide operating assistance in urban areas and for transportation-related planning.

“They’re left behind out of proportion to the benefit they give to their states,” Bono said of the four partner cities, which will also individually gain greater access to transit funds through the agreements. Worcester, he notes, is already applying for grant money to renovate Union Station. In Lowell, “Gallagher Station is in tough shape, and they can always use money to improve that.”

Bono is applying for a federal loan to fund the project with help from the memorandums, and once he makes commuter service a reality, the formula grant is something of a sure thing.

“There’s no approval process. You just have to have met the criteria,” he said.

As an empty stadium just before a big concert, the Woonsocket station sits primed and ready for the traveling masses. Bono has cleared the parking lot, and can now accommodate 80 vehicles in the depot lot, up from 27. TV monitors hang on the walls, ready to broadcast train schedules.

The wood for Aponte-Rivera’s coffee bar was chosen to match the ornate original beams that make the historic Woonsocket depot unique. Six high-top tables will eventually offer travelers a place to grab a bite while they wait for their train.

For now, the coffee shop’s customers will have the space to themselves, potentially making the depot an interesting community space.

“You can come and lounge,” Aponte-Rivera said.

Aponte-Rivera said she plans to open The Coffee Depot between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m., and again from 4 to 7 p.m., six days a week, with the business closed on Sundays. While she plans to run the shop herself for at least the next year, she knows that eventually, she’ll be hiring.

“I know that when the train gets going, I’m going to need some people,” she said. “I’m definitely excited.”

Bono is still working on a plan to meet the new and costly safety requirements that were recently passed by the federal government, a regulatory change that set him roughly a year behind his initially anticipated 2018 launch date. He’s brought on a team of high-level consultants, including Jonathan Kline, former chief consultant for Amtrak.

“We’re going to run a train if it kills me,” he said.


This will be a major major draw for our city. Enabling others to come to the heart of Woonsocket will slowly and surely revamp Main St and the city as a whole.

Mayor, you don't have to share any credit with this people on the city council either. This was clearly your baby/project from the get go. Good job!

Not sure who shares the credit, but Congrats for getting this done. Hopefully this is but one of many steps to move the City forward. This could attract young professional people back to the City.
Now the City needs a supermarket: Mayor, City Council, what can you do?

It seems so long ago when Mayor Leo Fontaine first announced that Train service would be coming to Woonsocket. Looking forward to seeing it completed!

So glad to see that wonderful building being used once again.
Good luck to you.