Imagine shopping someplace where it’s easy to social distance, where what you see is what you get, where you are helping not only the local economy but also a family – directly, and it’s all built on trust. Take to the open road to discover modest carts, stands, and even tented tables with fresh-picked, homespun offerings using the honor system model. This means that goods are presented with posted prices and generally there is a cash box or covered canister nearby for the original self-serve transaction. Often found along rural routes, these humble cottage industries are mostly run as side-hustles – meaning they’re not consistently stocked – so happening upon one filled and ready is a worthy prize in its own.
In West Kingston, Pasquale’s honor system farmstand blossomed during the pandemic to offer essentials to neighbors in a safe, outdoor space and has since become a tucked-away hub for locals. Along the woodsy stretch of Usquepaugh Road, watch for the quaint lean-to shed with large rustic letters. While the outside is lush with plant starters and farm-fresh produce, owners Frank, Mark, and Lauren Pasquale have outfitted the inside to display wares from area makers, from woodworking pieces by a high school crafter to all-natural soaps from Wakefield’s Watson Wax.
Julie Beebe, who owns Yes! Gallery in Wickford Village with husband Palmer, explains that bottles of their own Beebe’s Bees, raw local honey, had been a best seller for years. When the storefront was ordered to close due to COVID-19 in spring, Julie experimented with adding a cash box to the sidewalk display. “People are so honest in our little village, and it worked beautifully!” says Julie, who notes that the honey sold at the stand paid for their family’s groceries the entire time the shop was closed. The popular honey stand continues today even though the store reopened to the public four months ago. Says Julie, “It’s easy for our local honey fans to get their fix on the go!”
Gail Greenwood runs Brownell Bouquets, an “occasional self-service flower stand” along Brownell Road in Little Compton, out of a charming shed built by her partner Chil Mott. Both busy artists and acclaimed musicians, Greenwood jokes that it’s a backbreaking hobby that unfortunately pays like a hobby. “Growing is hard work but so rewarding to see the joy flowers bring.” This year they’ve added a friend’s local honey, her nephew’s giant pumpkins, and bags of secret-recipe popcorn. “My customers are so lovely – often leaving me nice notes in the jars they return. Every now and then you get someone who forgets to pay,” says Gail. “I take it as a compliment if that something is popcorn!”
Providence’s East Side is not quite where you’d expect a flower stand, but around where Hope Street meets Doyle Avenue is where you’ll find a tall row of zinnias and Annie Phillips’ mixed arrangements at the ready in upcycled beer cans in a modified cart. “When I first started, people told me I was crazy for trusting people, but I feel like if you put trust out there it comes back to you,” says Phillips, a graduate of URI’s Master Gardener program. “I love living in Providence and love that my garden provides so much pleasure for all.”
Here is a list of recently spotted locations. If we missed your favorite, please email Elyse@ProvidenceOnline.com