RI Commerce: wieners out, beer in

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What’s more Rhode Island than wieners and coffee milk? Well, what about Del’s and Kenyon Corn Meal clam cakes? All four have been staples at the Rhode Island pavilion at the Big E on the Eastern States Exposition grounds that open Sept. 15 in West Springfield, Mass.

But Rhode Island Commerce Corporation that leases space in the Rhode Island hall thinks beer would do more for Rhode Island and, in the end, attract people to the Ocean State. That’s what Peter Xiarhos says he was told when Commerce refused to renew his lease for the 17-day exposition expected to draw more than one million people.

Matt Sheaff, spokesman for Commerce said Tuesday that “the team re-evaluates” vendors at the Rhode Island fair building annually and the decision was made that the Isle Craft Brewers Guild would occupy the space Xiarhos has operated from.

Xiarhos has been running Sam’s New York System at Wilde’s Corners across from Thayer Arena on Sandy Lane since his father, Sam, turned it over to him and his brother, George, in 1998. Sam’s has been a part of Warwick for almost 50 years.

Xiarhos said he recently received a certified letter from Commerce that his lease wasn’t being renewed. After five years of working the exposition he would be out. He estimated he has invested at least $10,000 in the space including a hot water heater, sinks, ice machine and other appliances. Those improvements stay in the building, a replica of the Old State House in Newport that is locked up at the end of the exposition and remains closed until the following year. For the privilege of selling wieners and coffee milk and showcasing two Rhode Island favorites, Xiarhos pays $4,000 in rent.

Sheaff said that Commerce went with the brewers guild because they represent a number of Rhode Island breweries. He said 12 brewers would be represented at the Rhode Island building, which he said had 1.2 million visitors last year.

“We had to make a tough decision,” Sheaff said. He said Commerce is looking at “how we are going to hit a new audience.” He defined that group as millennials, adding that there is mounting interest in local breweries and they are an attraction that would bring people to Rhode Island.

Do people come to Rhode Island for wieners and coffee milk because they sampled them at the Big E?

Xiarhos can’t say for certain. From his perspective wieners and coffee milk help make the state different. He said he’s watched people bite into a wiener and say, ‘I’ve never tasted anything like this.’ He’s also had Rhode Islanders stop in at the Big E to discover his wieners, some even from Warwick, and then become regular customers.

Xiarhos wonders how beer could be a better fit. He said there is a craft beer outlet across from the Rhode Island building. He suggests if Commerce is set on showcasing Rhode Island beer, there’s room for a beer tent on the grounds.

“They could accommodate both of us,” he said. “Beer and wieners go together.”

Xiarhos has reached out to Commerce and the governor’s office. He has also talked with his attorney to see what can be done. He said he got an immediate return call from the governor’s office, who told him they would be check into the matter. He visited Commerce in person and was informed he would have to make an appointment, but that didn’t happen.

“Rhode Island Commerce is ducking me,” he said. He speculates they expect him to shut up and leave.

Xiarhos, who works the Big E with one other worker, said the event is “definitely worth it.” He doesn’t want to lose the business or what he’s invested into it.

“I do quite well there. All those years of building it up and then to have it taken away,” he said.

Other vendors in the Rhode Island building are Tucker Seafood of North Kingstown, Lady Ann Candies of Warwick, National Gold and Diamond of Warwick, Bad Dog Tools of Bristol, My Little Town, The Magic Sceptre and Cabral Embroidery. The Association of RI Authors and Ocean State Artisans are also represented, with a variety of local authors and artisans showcasing their talents throughout the 17-day fair. The Rhode Island State Police provide safety information.

Comments

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richardcorrente

Not sure how proud I am to admit this but I consider myself an expert on hot wieners since I have dined on them for over sixty years, and I have to admit that Sams' are the best I have ever had.

To not have them at the "Big-E" is like not having the Haven Brothers truck at the Providence City Hall. It just doesn't make sense.

Hey, Big-E promoters...if you want the best crowd, you need the best hot wieners! You need to get Sam's New York System!

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, May 25
cinq1971

I lived in Warwick for 20 years, always ate at Sam's. I moved to West Greenwich, and to this day I will drive roughly 25 miles from my house to get weiners at Sam's. Beer is everywhere, weiners are not, keep Sam's at that location, many many many people around RI know of Sam's, barely anyone knows of some fly by night beer maker.

Thursday, May 25
RISchadenfreude

Why on Earth isn't there room for beer and wieners? Why do you think NY Systems are so busy from midnight to 3AM? They go together like peanut butter & jelly.

When I return to RI, there are several places on the "to do" list: NY System, Haven Brothers, Del's and Aunt Carrie's.

Although the new Isle Brewer's Guild will surely benefit from the exposure, the last thing Rhode Islanders (and New Englanders in general) need is encouragement to drink.

Friday, May 26
racin8de

Is this story a joke? It's the same old politics in Rhode Island, it's who you know. How ridiculous of the state to think travelers would come to RI for a beer, if they want beer they can go to a bar or package store there's one on just about every corner in the state.I've been a customer of Sams for over 30 years, my grandparents and parents went there to dine.It's a tradition, besides grabbing a bite of food is more of a family attraction certainly than a beer keg...I hope the commerce rethink their decision at best work to have both venues at the event .

Friday, May 26
HerbTokerman

The craft beer scene is huge now.

There are local craft breweries where people are driving 1-2 hours from other states then waiting in line 1-2 hours for beer and they sell out of what they have available every week.

Sorry but no one's going to travel to RI to buy a hot dog if they weren't planning on coming here already for another reason.

Monday, May 29
meangene

Haven't seen anyone lining up at a RI Brewery to wait in line for 1 - 2 hours to get beer.

Tuesday, May 30
HerbTokerman

Go to tilted barn brewery in exeter on any given saturday afternoon.

People line up an hour before they open and they sell out within an hour or two every week.

Tuesday, May 30
Kammy

It is a shame both couldn't be in the show. He has invested his own money to make it better and now someone else will profit off that investment.

Wednesday, May 31
meangene

I'll have to go and check out Tilted Barn. The Beer Advocate gives it a 4.15 / 5 which is not too bad. That aside, this does stink of politics. I would be upset if I was just passed over for no real good reason to participate in the business that I had help build.I agree that beer and wieners are a good combination.

Friday, June 2