Features

Merchants offer trinkets from Peru to Providence

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mom and pop shop

Large animal figures made out of Mexican steel oil barrels welcome visitors to the Frog and Toad store. In the main window hangs a sign on a steel rooster adorned with a black boa that says “Please Direct All Complaints to the Giant Rooster.” The door to the shop is always propped open facing the street, beckoning customers to discover eccentric and unpredictable knick knacks.

Asher Schofield opened the shop with his wife, Erin, in March 2001. They met while students at Providence College. He was a graphic designer, and she was a reporter. But they realized after a while that they “had been disillusioned” by the paths that their lives had taken and quit their jobs to set up shop “on a shoe string.”

Customers need to carve out a substantial amount of time to fully rifle through the wide array of products that Schofield offers at his shop. He describes the concept behind his shop what you would get if  “a person with attention deficit disorder is buying things.”  

Gnome lamps, laptop sleeves and a book about “the wrong way to teach the ABC’s” are among the store’s more commercial offerings, but what really make the shop such a unique adventure are the items created by local artists and those from different parts of the world.

On a side wall of the shop is a section dedicated to Latin American products. As an album by the Pawtucket band Built to Spill plays, the intricacies of a piece of Peruvian woodwork create an extremely detailed three-dimensional image of a bakery with bright oranges and yellows. 

Within the glass counter are many ornate handcrafted jewelry pieces created by local artists. Schofield explains with pride that he knows the origin and creator of each. 

Schofield seems to have a deep love for his surrounding community. As president of the Hope Street Merchants Association, Schofield not only concerns himself with his shop but with every store down the lane. He is enthusiastic about the upkeep of the neighborhood, stepping out onto the street to point out the new bumper guards that the city is installing. 

One of Schofield’s most vivid memories comes in the aftermath of 9/11. When the community heard about the terrorist attack, the shop was packed with people coming together in search of comfort. 

“It was therapeutic in a way, neighbor helping neighbor,” he said.

Schofield is also eager to help out other small businesses. One of Frog and Toad’s most popular shirts reads, “Don’t Mess With Rhode Island Either” with a picture of the miniature state of Rhode Island superimposed on the monstrous state of Texas. A local artist designed the shirt.

The other shirts and postcards that the shop holds all come with quirky and pithy sayings about each of the cities in Rhode Island like “You can go to Hell, I’m going to Pawtucket” and “Cranston 4 Life.” 

The one that says “Foster Glocester” is the favorite of Lisa Bolt, a customer from Maryland. She explained that one has to be from Rhode Island, or have lived here long enough, to understand the meaning of the shirts. The Foster Glocester shirt, which shows a big snow plow among lots of snow, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to school closures due to heavy snowfall many decades ago. “It was always the (Foster Glocester) schools that were shut down and never us,” she said. 

 

Jewels of the world 

Dan Goldman strolls down the street to pick up his lunch on his own schedule. With two buttons undone on his shirt, he gives the air of a relaxed man of refined taste. Goldman, along with his older brother John, are the owners of the Green River Silver Company. 

The company is a “direct importer of sterling jewelry,” cutting out the middleman and making these glistening pieces affordable, Dan said. The store contains highly polished glass enclosures that carry the stories of jewelry from around the world. 

The jewelry is organized by location of origin. John notes as he walks through his shop the different sections that come from Bali, Bangkok and Israel. John purchases all of the handcrafted jewelry from local designers while traveling around the world. 

The company was started 14 years ago when John was attending nearly 90 craft shows per year purchasing jewelry and selling it as a side job. Dan Goldman, on the other hand, was wearing a suit and tie as a loan officer and selling life insurance. But the two brothers mulled it over, and Dan quit his job to become the manager of the store while his brother John continues to travel around the world on the hunt for precious jewelry to bring to Hope Street.

The store opened in April 1999 and has since expanded to two locations in Bristol and Wickford, Rhode Island. Goldman said he loves the community of Hope Street, and the idea of small businesses opposed to large corporations.

“I love the idea that my brother and I can talk about issues about the store over a beer (as) opposed to waiting for decisions to come down from a large corporation,” Dan said. 

 

The European touch

Entering the spunky shop of Kreatelier, customers are greeted by myriad colors and patterns and the smell of sweet perfume. The owners, Pernilla Frazier and Line Daems, appear to wear their vibrant fabrics, with Frazier donning a lively yellow sundress

The store has been in business for four years and specializes in “everything fabric,” Daems said. They carry their own line of fabrics, in what Daems describes as a “clean, European style.” 

The European style is a function of the owners’ origins – Frazier hails from Sweden, and Daems is from Belgium. They speak with great enthusiasm about their fabrics, their speech laced with traces of their European background. The store also offers sewing classes, a way to teach young generations a skill that should be taught, Daems said. 

“The possibilities are endless with what you can make with fabrics,” Daems said.

In evidence of this fact, the store carries many products made of fabrics from local designers, such as pillows, children’s aprons, lunch boxes and even an EpiPen organizer. The patterns can be described as stylistically geometric – the shapes are crisp and clean but they’re infused with vibrant colors, polka dots and s
tripes. Floral patterns cover headbands and purses. 

The fabric designs come from various sources of imagination. Daems said that some of the designs were created by herself and Frazier, while others were created by local artists.

In the corner of a store is a workbench that is covered with a grid used for measuring and cutting. The shelf next to it is piled high with fabric samples and sewing materials. Alexis Cormier worked diligently on cutting a custom pillow set to size, rolling a fabric cutter along the neat lines of the work table. Cormier’s interest in fabrics grew out of rag dolls that she created. After being hired at Kreatelier, she began teaching sewing classes, doing what she loves.

“It’s the best job in the world,” Cormier said as she placed the loud patterned fabric on a stack ready for stitching.

 

Extra virginities 

Olive del Mundo opened three and a half months ago and is the newest store on Hope Street, specializing in olive oils and vinaigrettes. The ambiance is Italian, with sonatas playing in the background and vines painted on the walls. Large silver, stainless steel canisters hold the products that owners Salvadore and Jennifer Fuccillo pride themselves on. 

At the moment, the store carries oils and vinaigrettes from the southern hemisphere because they receive their shipments based on what olives are being harvested in a particular season. The next few months will see more products from the northern hemisphere, California and the Mediterranean, Fuccillo said. 

The concept of the store, he said, is one that is “really taking off,” even on a larger, national level. After visiting Salvador’s family in Italy and reading Tom Mueller’s “Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil,” the Fuccillos realized they wanted to open the shop to introduce this trend to the Providence area. 

Salvador lists the flavor of each oil with ease and fluency as a large crowd enters the store on a weekday morning. The holy blanca is “mild, and not so fruity” while another oil is “rich and buttery, but still mild.”

One of the more bizarre and unique flavors is a dark chocolate balsamic vinaigrette which is labeled as a “guilt-free” treat to drizzle on ice cream or salad. While the store is highly specialized compared to others such as the Frog and Toad, customers do find uses for the products that they carry.

“What are you going to do with (the oils)?” an older customer asked her companion. “Cook, of course!” she responded.

 

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