Why Asher Schofield is RI’s Own Folk Hero

The legendary deeds and actions of this Providence shop owner

Posted

In a red brick building beneath a large red star on a street in Providence named for the state motto, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of ol’ Asher Schofield. With wife Erin, he’s been running the business named for characters in easy-reader children’s books for nearly 20 years. Who could guess that in addition to being the creative and humorous purveyor of such quirky goods as the “It Came From Johnston” print or Lil Dumpster Fire Figure (“Celebrate with some kawaii trash, just like your life!”) would be an altruistic soul with a heart of gold? In a period filled with panic, uncertainty, and civic unrest, Schofield brought a lot of joy with his quirky merch, megaphone, and pure good will.

The story begins in Brattleboro, Vermont where our bearded hero was born before the family relocated to the “Live Free or Die” state. “There wasn’t a lot to do in NH as a kid, so we would go into the woods and shoot each other with BB guns,” says the third place winner in a Cub Scouts’ pinewood derby, known for jumping from absurd heights into swimming holes and quarries. Lucky for Rhode Island, Schofield’s dad took a job at Providence College, which meant free tuition for the lad. He fell in love with the state and even harder for Erin, who had the big idea to open a store, which they named Frog & Toad. You see, the pair were fans of the Arnold Lobel book series as kids, both drawn to the stories of friendship, accepting the idiosyncrasies of others, and trying to find the bright side. “Plus, we were all about the characters’ fashion sense; nobody has been able to pull off the ‘blazer with no shirt on under it look’ better than those two!”

On March 16, 2020 their shop doors closed for the first time in 19 years, and Frog & Toad’s Instagram account began to read like a pandemic diary. Schofield used his feed to give shout-outs to everything from remote story hours to restaurants offering take-out to letter carrier Justin. Meanwhile, frustrated at Rhode Islanders for galavanting while coronavirus cases climbed, then-Governor Gina Raimondo scolded “knock it off!” during a March 22 televised press conference. Six days later, a T-shirt designed by F&T’s lead artist Maret Bondorew and produced by local screen-printer Parched, was unveiled for pre-order.

What happened next caught on faster than a dumpster fire behind KNEAD DOUGHNUTS. Ed Fitzpatrick wrote an article for the Boston Globe, and by that weekend, 2,000 shirts were sold. The New York Times picked up on the story, and orders came in from all over the world. Friend Stephanie DeSilva Mandeville helped connect them with Arriane Corrente from the Rhode Island Foundation for the shirt to benefit the just-announced COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Next came the deliveries during quarantine. With bundled goods in hand, Schofield would announce his arrival by proclaiming mandates from a bullhorn, often while perched in his 2009 Honda Fit. A welcome comedic break from the relentless news cycle, a video even went viral after being shared by comedian DL Hughley. Schofield’s favorite delivery was ordered by a mom in Coventry whose son was a huge fan of the videos. “Colby has autism and worked his ass off to graduate from Coventry High in 2020, only to be prevented from crossing the stage and getting his diploma in person. Being a Rhode Islander, I don’t typically make drives of that distance, so I packed an overnight bag, ordered two cheese pizzas from Colby’s favorite pizzeria, the Big Cheese in Cranston. I blasted the graduation march music from my car, peeled out on their lawn, shouted out some supportive words through my bullhorn, and threw one of the pizzas in a bush. Colby and his mom were in stitches and honestly, when all is said and done, it might have been my greatest achievement.”

When a villain smashed a window of business-neighbor Gourmet House Restaurant with a socket wrench, Schofield reacted quicker than Foster-Glocester schools being closed by a snow forecast. He set up a GoFundMe and used all F&T social media platforms to help spread the word, leading to media coverage and support for the restaurant owners. That effort raised over $8,000 from the community and after the repairs the remaining $7,775 was donated to Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), a social justice organization supporting Southeast Asian and LGBTQ+ youths.

In June of this year, the Schofields got all gussied up and headed to the Rhode Island State House where Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea presented them with the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award for outstanding civic leadership and philanthropic giving. Through shirts, hats, stickers, and more, F&T raised $90,000 for many local causes. “An award like that comes along once in a lifetime and Erin and I will always be grateful to Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea for honoring us in that way.”

This past summer F&T happily reopened its doors at 795 Hope Street with a fancy new red sign and the same spirit patrons have come to know and love. The shop is stocked with all things Rhody and irreverent. Perhaps the story of Asher Schofield is best summed up by a sticker for sale, which features a raccoon with the words, “It’s trash can, not trash cannot.” Schofield posted a photo to Instagram with a caption that simply reads:
Daily motivational.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here