More than two months ago, building on the momentum of the revitalized Buy Local RI initiative previously managed by the Rhode Island Foundation, the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau (PWCVB) and Rhode Island Hospitality Association (RIHA) partnered with Frog & Toad to launch three exclusive Buy Local RI T-shirts. These community-driven organizations are excited to celebrate the campaign’s success in raising funds for the Rhode Island Hospitality Employee Relief Fund while also displaying support for local businesses, artists, and the hospitality industry at large. The Rhode Island Foundation has generously matched the $3,500 raised in T-shirt sales for a total donation of $7,000 to the relief fund.
The Rhode Island Foundation has managed the Buy Local RI brand since 2014 when former Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts handed off the campaign that her office launched in 2008. The Foundation loaned the brand to PWCVB and a coalition of local tourism organizations late last year for a marketing campaign to support local restaurants, attractions, hotels, and more across the state and provided funding to support an advertising campaign.
"PWCVB and its partners created a grassroots movement that expanded the brand and ignited interest across the state,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation. “From the ‘100 Ways to Buy Local’ website to ensuring access to messaging in Spanish and English and launching creative partnerships like that with Frog & Toad and the Hospitality Association, they encouraged Rhode Islanders to support local businesses and workers during the COVID-19 shut-down last year and continue to remind them as the state reopens.”
“We’re incredibly grateful for the Rhode Island Foundation’s generosity and support in allowing us to not only showcase their iconic Buy Local RI logo but to allow local artists the freedom to interpret the logo in new and exciting ways,” said Kristen Adamo, PWCVB president and CEO. “We made sure to keep everything about this project local, from the artists and printing to the neighbors, friends, and families supported through donations from sales.”
“While tourism and hospitality business continues to return to pre-pandemic levels, the additional funds from this campaign have helped ensure financial support remains available through the RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund,” said Dale Venturini, RIHA president and CEO. “Even though most business restrictions are behind us, the financial hardships incurred over the last 14 months are still with many of our industry workers. We hope this assistance can help lessen some of those burdens as they return to work.”
Some examples of employees using grant funds include covering the costs of groceries for children enrolled in distance learning, medical supplies and medications for family members, securing housing, funeral arrangements for family members lost to COVID-19, and basic living costs while out of work and exhausting other unemployment benefits.
All three T-shirts are still available for purchase, but quantities are limited and these designs won’t be reproduced again. The first T-shirt released features the original Buy Local RI brand design while the other two shirts showcase fun variations of the brand created by two local artists, Maret Bondorew and Michael Ezzell.
Shirts are $22 each and can only be purchased online at frogandtoadstore.com. Curbside pickup is available at Frog & Toad’s 795 Hope St. location and free nationwide shipping is available for orders over $50.
“This project has been awesome because it's shown how much Rhode Islanders care about each other,” said Frog & Toad co-owner Asher Schofield. “That's what shopping locally is. Supporting our local economy is supporting the friends and neighbors we have that run or are employed by locally-owned independent businesses. When you buy local, 68% of your money returns to the local economy via taxes, payroll and other expenditures versus just 48% when you shop at a national chain."
For more information about the RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund, please visit rihospitality.org/RIHEF-Employee-Relief-Fund.
For more information about 100 Ways to Buy Local RI, please visit BuyLocalRI.org.