Monday, June 8, 2009
Meet the Neighbors: Frog and Toad
This is a first in a series of blog postings about our wonderful neighbors on Hope Street. We suggest you allow some extra time when you come to see us to drop in our fabulous neighborhood shops and restaurants.
Meet Frog and Toad, the brainchild of married couple Erin and Asher. The name comes from the beloved series of children's books; long before they opened their store, Erin identified with the practical Toad, while Asher is the free-spirited Frog. It's hard to define exactly what Frog and Toad (the shop) is, though perhaps "gift shop" come closest. It's an Aladdin's cave of unusual and inspiring objects from around the world, as well as from our own back yard. (Local artists and craftspeople are well represented.)
We sat down with Asher in his "office" --otherwise known as Seven Stars Bakery, another Hope Street treasure and valued neighbor-- to talk about the 3/50 Project and the economics of shopping locally.
The 3/50 Project, of which Fresh Purls, Frog and Toad and Seven Stars Bakery are supporters, is an effort to make people aware of the very real impact on the local economy when consumers choose to shop at their local, independent businesses. "What struck me" Asher says "are the statistics on the percentage of money spent that is returned to the community." For every $100 you spend at an independent, brick-and-mortar store, $68 is retained locally (for example, in salaries and taxes). If you spend that same $100 at a big-box chain store, only $43 remains (the rest goes to things like corporate overhead and warehouse operations elsewhere). If you buy online (non-local), the number is effectively $0.
It goes beyond a single store. Retail areas like Hope Street constitute a kind of living economic organism. Asher related how his barber (in Warren, RI) was affected when a big box store opened nearby. The big box store doesn't sell haircuts, but it syphoned customers away from the main shopping street, causing foot traffic to fall. Voilà, fewer customers stopping in for haircuts.
Finally, Asher points out that local stores reflect and support the vitality of the local culture. "Chain stores and fast food restaurants make Seekonk, Rhode Island indistinguishable from Surprise, Arizona. The strength of this country is its amazing diversity and how we tolerate enormous differences and yet all work together."
Recognizing these concerns, the 3/50 Project encourages consumers to visit three brick-and-mortar businesses that they treasure and rely on, and commit to spending $50 a month with local businesses. Read their website and see if what they're advocating makes sense to you.
Meanwhile, Asher names some of his favorite Providence shopping areas (in addition to Hope Street, of course!). He recommends a trip over to Broadway on the West Side, with a stop in at Rocket to Mars, the new bicycle store Dash, and for a little refreshment, Julian's and E&O Tap on Knight Street. On the East Side, Wickenden Street is always worth checking out. Particular favorites are the Curatorium (your blogista agrees! Great shop!) and the Blue Elephant Cafe.
Tell us in the comments about your favorite local businesses. Do you agree with Project 3/50's aim to encourage consumers to shop with local independents? Why or why not?