SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — A lifelong Rhode Islander is using Halloween as an opportunity to commemorate businesses that are gone, but not forgotten.

The tombstones at 71 Dean Avenue bear the names of businesses that now live in loving memory.

“It definitely brings back a lot of memories for everyone,” Joshua Patenaude explained. “These places mean something to everyone, mean something different to everyone.”

He said the most common reaction he gets is, “Aww, Benny’s!”

Patenaude made the tombstones out of Styrofoam, carving out the designs with a hot knife.

“I tried to stay as close to the accurate logo, because it’s what everyone remembers,” he said.

Patenaude said making each tombstone took about three to four hours.

A gravestone reads "Toys R Us, 1948-2018." Hands are reaching out of the dirt in front of the headstone.
(Leah Crowley/WPRI-TV)

“It is a lot of time, but what’s nice is I can reuse them every year,” he said. “It’s a nice easy decoration I can pull out of storage, pop-up and everyone can kind of enjoy it.”

Benny’s was the first headstone to go up in 2021. Patenaude decided to just keep adding tombstones, which commemorate more recent losses like Christmas Tree Shops.

He even has hands coming out of the ground in front of the headstone for Toys ‘R’ Us, since the business is “coming back from the dead.”

It’s a tradition Patenaude plans to continue.

“I don’t know if everyone looked forward to them before, but hopefully they look forward to them in the future,” he said.