Best of Rhode Island 2020

While the pandemic changed life as we knew it, we’ve still got a lot to celebrate. Check out this list of do-good Rhode Islanders with whom we are lucky to share this place we call home, plus the results of our annual readers’ poll.

Photography courtesy of Frog and Toad/Rupert Whiteley Photography.

Frog and Toad

At this local gift store, creative ideas fit to a T.
Mr. Rogers said, in times of struggle, “look for the helpers.” In Rhode Island, you’ll see them in red T-shirts and masks, sipping from red beer cans or using hand sanitizer with red labels emblazoned with “Knock It Off.” Asher Schofield, co-owner (along with wife, Erin) of Frog and Toad on Hope Street in Providence, helms this charitable line. While the tongue-in-cheek gift shop shuttered for the quarantine, Schofield never stopped working. From aiding laid-off staff to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Frog and Toad is at the forefront of the helpers in 2020. Here’s how it all began.

Rhode Island Monthly: Where did you get the T-shirt idea?
Asher Schofield: During one of Governor Raimondo’s initial COVID-19 press conferences, she sternly admonished anyone who was not socially distancing to “knock it off” and “shut it down.” It was a wild and exciting moment because you don’t often see an elected official strike that tone. And almost in real time, a friend messaged me saying Frog and Toad should put the sayings on T-shirts and partner with the Rhode Island Foundation to donate proceeds. I reached out to Maret Bondorew, a recently laid-off employee and the artist behind cards and accessories in our Frog and Toad press line. She was down to do a design for the shirt and to have a charitable component; we decided to donate 20 percent of sales to the Rhode Island Foundation’s COVID-19 response fund. The shirt was ready for the public to view about five days later.

RIM: You also partnered with other businesses. What did they add?
A.S.: Proclamation Ale did beer labels; White Electric and New Harvest Coffee, a coffee blend; Palms Sauces, a barbecue sauce; Industrious Spirit Company, a hand sanitizer; Bywater restaurant, a take-home cocktail. Frog and Toad didn’t make a profit — all I asked was that the businesses commit 20 percent of their sales to the COVID response fund. We’ve raised about $64,000 between all of the different releases.

RIM: And that’s not all.
A.S.: For the Knock It Off project, we also made masks and scrubs [proceeds go to frontline workers at Lifespan], and Maret created the Quarantine Alphabet poster comprising what we’ll remember from this time; 30 percent of the poster sales go to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Plus it serves as a poignant time capsule.
—Kaitlyn Murray