Asher Schofield is having a moment. After what seemed like mere minutes following Governor Gina Raimondo’s press conference speech reprimanding Rhode Islanders to “knock it off,” the Frog & Toad owner was busy turning that phrase into a t-shirt.
“She’s like an Italian mother scolding us, to just knock it off,” Asher says. “It was more than a plea. It was like a rallying cry.”
It’s Monday morning in late March, just two days after the Knock It Off t-shirt went on pre-sale.
It’s also the beginning of the second week of distance learning in Rhode Island. Asher and Erin Schofield are settling in their three daughters (ages 8, 12, and 14) in their makeshift classroom at their home in Warren.
“It’s remarkable how adaptive kids have been through this. They are dealing with this new reality better than most of us,” Asher says with a small laugh. A sigh follows. “It’s just too much to think about at times.”
We rewind back to Saturday afternoon, when the shirt was posted across Frog & Toad’s social pages. “The outpouring of support and love has been overwhelming. The response is beyond anything I ever imagined,” he says. By Sunday evening 450 shirts were purchased. By Tuesday afternoon, 2,500 shirts were purchased.
Frog & Toad, the fun Providence gift shop that seamlessly blends the irreverent with the relevant, has been a cornerstone of the buy local movement since it opened its first location on Hope Street in 2001. Their cult-favorite shops (a second location on the West End opened in 2018) feature a wide range of off-beat goods you never knew you needed, most of them designed and produced by their own Frog & Toad Press.
Founding members of the Hope Street Merchant Association, the Schofields really get community. Local makers, neighbors, non-profits, block party revelers, and fellow small business owners have all felt the impact of Frog & Toad’s commitment to the people of Rhode Island, or as Asher calls them, “our friends.”
Like most independent retailers, the Schofields had to lay off their entire staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are doing what we can to cover their healthcare costs,” Asher says. They’ve also set up a Staff Safety Net Fund for employees facing significant financial challenges (such as paying rent or buying food) through their Be Kind program. Sales from the $8 embroidered patch have been one of F&T’s long-standing charitable programs, and has benefitted non-profits including Youth Pride, Dorcas International, and the Flint Michigan Clean Water Fund. “We already had this charitable fund set up, and it just made sense to make it available to our staff. They are like family to us.”
“We always knew there would be a charitable component to the t-shirt.” Asher says. Having met the minimum ordering criteria within a few hours of the first pre-order post, F&T followed up with a post announcing that 20% of the $22 shirt would benefit the RI Foundation's COVID-19 Response Fund.
The Knock It Off tee, designed by F&T employee and lead artist Maret Bondorew and produced by local screen-printer Parched, graphically features the now-classic warning by Governor Gina Raimondo and an anchor in the sand. “This was our creative way to remind Rhode Islanders that to flatten the curve we need to stay in one place.”
“I have so much respect and love for the whole administration, and their leadership through this crisis. I’m thankful for the media, the healthcare providers, and the essential workers going out every day.”
With the first weekend’s orders packed and shipped, and a $10,000 check on its way to the Rhode Island Foundation, Asher remains amazed and humbled. “The feeling of togetherness and camaraderie that this silly shirt has provided… it just moves me.”
With their signature uncanny sense of humor and sense of place, and a mission to “sell stuff you don’t need but gotta have,” Frog & Toad has created the most essential non-essential COVID-19 keepsake.
Buy the Knock It Off T-Shirt