Civic Leadership

How three words turned into a movement

Governor Gina Raimondo's impromptu exclamation - "Knock it Off! - during a March 23 briefing as she pleaded with Rhode Islanders to stay home during the pandemic hit a nerve.

"It was a maternal voice, and it was serious business, but also kind of funny,” says Asher Schofield about his reaction to the Governor’s mandate. Within minutes, he received a Twitter DM from a friend, Stephanie Mandeville: “This is great — you have to put it on a t-shirt.” She encouraged him to partner with the Rhode Island Foundation, and donate proceeds to our COVID-19 Response Fund.

Asher and Erin Schofield and family
Photo: Rupert Whiteley

Asher and Erin Schofield, who live in Warren with their children, own the Frog and Toad gift shops on Hope and Westminster streets in Providence. “For 19 years, we have been on the same block on Hope St. — it’s a novelty store where you buy frivolous things.” On March 16, the couple found themselves heartbroken when they had to close their two stores and lay off their 10 employees.

But as soon as the t-shirt was announced via social media, Asher started receiving hundreds of pre-orders. He called Maret Bondorew, a graphic artist who had been laid off with the rest of the staff, and asked her to design a shirt around those three little words.

The shirt and its charitable purpose rapidly exploded, morphing into a Knock It Off IPA from Proclamation Ale Company; the Knock It Off Stay at Home Brew from White Electric Coffee; a Knock It Off hand sanitizer from The Industrious Spirit Company; Knock It Off BBQ sauce with Stay at Home honey from Palm’s Mojo Sauce, as well as Knock It Off facemasks. And of course, a Knock It Off wooden spoon – just like Grandma wielded to ensure that you knocked it off.

“It simply grew into more collaborations, more people lending a hand,” says Asher. “A small community broadened. We saw what the Rhode Island Foundation was doing, and we wanted to do what little we could.”

To date, Rhode Islanders have bought more than 9,500 t-shirts, Asher shared, resulting in $43,000 for the response fund. “It's not me, it's Rhode Islanders,” he said. “People have been looking for something to feel good about. They've been looking for a way to help out and we just provided a way to do it.”

“It’s like the COVID-19 mutual aid groups. It’s that sense of belonging and identity and the idea that we’re all in this together that makes Rhode Island really special.”