Friday, August 31, 2012

Flip Flops or Sandals


Only In Rhode Island.com



As we head into Labor Day weekend, I am realizing that Fall is upon us, and Winter will be here about 5 minutes after that. Every single year I try to figure out some ingenious way to convert my flip flops into shoes that I can wear all winter, even in the snow. So far, I've got nothing.

 

These are my actual shoes on my actual feet



I have more than 30 pair of Douglas Paquette Flip Flops and I wear them all day every day until I absolutely can't bear the weather and I unhappily put on real shoes. My love affair with this fabulous footwear started 6 years ago, when we began carrying them in our stores. The company was based in Providence for many years and originally made hair ornaments. They then expanded into jewelry, then belts and accessories, a bunch of other stuff, and now premium ribbon sandals, or flip flops in my midwestern parlance. They are now located in a much larger warehouse in North Kingstown, RI and they design, create, and sell Pet Accessories too. (which we also love and we also sell - and yes, you can match your dog's collar to your shoes!)

 

My actual dogs in their actual collars




Unlike many things in my life, I don't just love these sandals because they're cute - I love them because my feet love them!! Each Spring, every member of my staff receives a brand new pair of the sandals of her choice and we all agree that there's nothing like putting your feet into a new pair of flip flops. It's heavenly! And because they're designed with firm arch support I can wear them for 12 hours at a time and not even realize I've been on my feet. Retail is pretty grueling when it comes to your feet so I wouldn't wear them if they didn't deliver.

And perhaps my other favorite thing about them (after the cuteness of the ribbon styles) is that you can throw them in the washing machine and they come out looking brand new! I do this every Spring and some of my flops are 6 years old, but you can't tell!!

So, I'm still trying to figure out how I can get through the New England Winter with flip flops on my feet. If you come up with a way to do this, and you create this product of yours in Rhode Island......we just might be able to  help each other out.............




This is the story of the Douglas Paquette Company in their own words..

"Douglas Paquette Accessories was started in 1976 as a hair ornament company. As with most small business owners starting up in the 2nd floor apartment, with the dining room as the stockroom and the kitchen as executive office, times were simple. During the day the owner would visit local stores in his red Volkswagen Karmann Ghia and then returned to his high-tech facility to process and ship the orders. This mega order processing center consisted of his mother Louise who expedited the hair ornament orders for packaging and then left them upstairs, on the 3rd floor landing, for Lorraine.  Lorraine was a hoot; she was a nurse at the local hospital who suffered from insomnia.  The insomnia was a double edge sword, not necessarily good for Lorraine but the orders were packaged perfectly and left on the 2nd floor landing for next day shipping. (Lorraine liked making money while watching Johnny Carson)  Mom then would take out the old black Underwood typewriter, create an invoice, pack the box and wait for UPS to show.  Louise would leave for home around 3PM to make dinner for her beloved husband Arthur. 
Well as with most stories of small businesses there are lots of things that you just don’t see coming. Who would ever think that a U.S. Olympian would change the course of business?  Dorothy Hamill won her 1st Gold Medal at the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck. We were all very proud of America’s sweetheart but did she have to cut all the hair off!!!  Needless to say sales in hair goods dropped by 90% in the course of 6 months (we still cringe when Ice Capades come to town) 
The company had to change gears in a hurry, thank goodness that the U.S. jewelry industry was 10 miles away.  Douglas Paquette Accessories branched out into jewelry manufacturing to build a core business and then continued with an array of products such as, belts, belt buckles, ladies and men’s neckwear, door knockers, cabinet hardware, pet products and footwear. 
2012 will be the 37th year in business for Douglas Paquette Accessories and there are just a few thoughts about its longevity.  Make a great quality product at a fair price, honor your customers because they are the lifeblood of your business, and always keep your eye on the future and trends like Dorothy’s haircut."
Doug & Allyson Paquette



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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rhode Island Red

Only In Rhode Island.com



About 8 years ago, we received a product submission from two ladies that had just developed a new hot sauce. They named their product "Rhode Island Red". Now, as you may know, the RI Red is a rooster that also happens to be the State bird of Rhode Island. You may not know that I am a  pushover for a decent pun, and this one being Only In Rhode Island in nature, was too good to pass up.

So, the ladies presented us with sample and I swear to you that I ate that hot sauce every day for a week - I could not stop once I started.....it has the perfect warm glow that enhances the food you put it on, it doesn't overpower the food and leave your mouth feeling like a raging inferno!
 
RI Red Hot Sauce
RI Red Hot Sauce

Only In Rhode Island was the first store to take a chance on this new product and offer it in our stores. Since then, they've made a great success of their business and have added two more products. We love their products, we love their energy, and we love their story!

Read for yourself how a couple of girls from Rhode Island created the next great sauce company!!



Since a chef started the company, our story is naturally told through a recipe!

Recipe for Sauce on the Side
Yields one fantastic business committed to bringing creative, all natural sauces to the masses!

Ingredients:
1 super-talented, creative chef (Linda Kane) working at Johnson & Wales University
1 delicious, addictive, all natural hot sauce recipe
1 co-worker (Aimee Fontaine), willing to do the day-to-day organizational work

Method of preparation:
Bring chef, coworker and hot sauce recipe together at a restaurant table and let simmer for 2-3 hours. For best results, add wine and grilled pizza.

Result:
A Rhode Island-based company that produces all natural sauces using fresh ingredients to offer creative and flavorful alternatives to the ordinary condiment.

To maximize results, add 1 creative guy with sales and marketing experience (Eddy Ricci Jr.)!

What’s In A Name?
So, the company actually had a name before it was even a company and the hot sauce even had its name before it was actually a hot sauce.

“Sauce on the Side” is a restaurant phrase attached to a “special” order when a guest has requested their sauce to be served on the side instead of on top of the food item. “SOS” is kitchen slang for the phrase. Appropriate, we thought, for our business since we cater to special needs of sauce lovers everywhere, and because our sauces will “rescue” you in times of trouble! S.O.S. says it all!

As for the hot sauce, the Rhode Island Red is the official state bird (Vincent is the name of the rooster on our label).  But really, can you think of a more awesome name for a hot sauce from Rhode Island!

The cowboy on the Cowboy Ketchup bottle’s name is Jake - just a name we thought fit! 

Our Motto
Go ahead…play with your food!










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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Black Pearl Clam Chowder


 

Only In Rhode Island.com



One of the questions we are most often asked in our stores is "Is this chowder really from the Black Pearl?" To tell you the truth, I would love to just once be able to say in a loud whisper, "No, it's fake........black market....contraband..... but mum's the word, it's just between us....." I imagine the look on that person's face would be priceless!!


But of course, our Black Pearl clam chowder is "really from the Black Pearl". There aren't a lot of secrets in Rhode Island (not for long, anyway), so I'm quite sure that if we were selling a faux version of their chowder for the past 7 years, the Black Pearl might have figured it out by now. The truth is that we get the chowder directly from them, and the t-shirts and hats too. It's difficult to keep the Black Pearl products in stock, so we're lucky that they're located just down the street!

The Black Pearl Clam Chowder, 15oz can
Black Pearl Clam Chowder
Black Pearl T-Shirt
Black Pearl T-shirt


We also have people ask why the Black Pearl lets us sell their products. The obvious answer is that we sell a ton, but there's a funny story behind it too. Seven years ago, I was in Las Vegas for a retailers conference. I was eating in a restaurant and overheard two women at the next table talking (I hate that I come off as an eavesdropper in this tale, but it's the sad truth). Anyway, they were discussing their upcoming vacation plans and one woman said she and her husband were going to Mexico and that her friend and her husband should join them. The second woman said, "Oh you know we have to go to Newport every year. Bob just has to get chowder at the Black Pearl."

So there I was, two thousand miles from home and the people next to me are talking about the Black Pearl!! Because I'm not just an eavesdropper, I'm also quite pushy, I jumped into the conversation. I thought the universe must be sending me some kind of sign and twenty minutes later I was convinced that I must bring the Black Pearl clam chowder to the world!! So I came home from Vegas, called the restaurant, and abracadabra......here we are. 

The third question people ask us about the Black Pearl clam chowder is whether it's as good as the restaurant's. We tell them the truth......."There is no way the Black Pearl would put their name on it if it wasn't. It's their recipe and it's excellent." I believe the secret to making it is to let it simmer, just like when you make it from scratch. That way the flavors get a chance to meld together and, I swear to you, you will not be able to tell you're not sitting on the wharf in downtown Newport, with the wind in your hair and 30 people waiting to take your table.



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Monday, August 27, 2012

No Experience Needed

Only In Rhode Island.com



Okay, so the other day I talked about how my favorite thing is spending the Summer in downtown Newport, and the wonderful people that give us a chance to recognize how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful place.

Now, I'm talking about my least favorite thing................saying Goodbye to employees. It happens every single year, and I hate it every single year. Our "Summer Girls" go back to school, or our year-round girls move on to new adventures, babies, career moves, or other life changes. 

Only In Rhode Island's very first employee worked with us for 7 years (until she went off to law school). Others have been with us 6 years, five years....you get the idea - we become rather attached. We've always been incredibly lucky to find those individuals that "fit". One of our favorites was with us for only 2 years because her husband was in the Navy and was re-assigned. We knew this would be the case when she started, but that didn't make it any easier to say goodbye. 

Those who have moved on stop by the store from time-to-time, stay connected through facebook, and send Christmas cards, but it's obviously not the same as working side by side for years at a time. Still, we get incredibly excited when one of our former team reaches an important goal or milestone, or achieves fantastic success. For instance, I was driving over the Newport Bridge some months back and heard Roz Raskin & The Ricecakes playing on the radio. Roz is an Only In Rhode Island girl from way back and I was so proud of her I cried. When she wins her first Grammy, I fear I might explode.

Similarly, one of our girls just left this past weekend for Wellesley, the alma mater of Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright. There is no doubt in my mind that her accomplishments will eventually eclipse both of those amazing women.


Created by The Mad Hatter Bakery

The above photo is our end-of-Summer cake, celebrating another fun, successful Summer and to show our appreciation to the great staff that worked so hard.




Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer In Newport

Only In Rhode Island.com


It's the last weekend before Labor Day and I can already feel the change in the air. School starts for some next week, and the rest the week after. It seems we wait all winter for summer to come, then it's over in the blink of an eye. Fall has always been my favorite season of the year, but retail in Newport is never more fun than in the summertime.

The days are so much longer, and more relaxed even though we're much, much busier than in winter. We have doors at both ends of our store in Newport, and in the summer both are open and we get a fantastic cross breeze. Nearly everyone we see in the store is happy because they're either  on vacation or they're locals spending the day enjoying the city. And the best part is that the locals have become people we look forward to seeing, and the visitors LOVE to tell us how wonderful Newport is and how lucky we are to live here!

My absolute favorite part about working in downtown Newport is that every year we get the opportunity to meet so many people that are seeing this place for the first time.  When you listen to their enthusiasm for the Cliff Walk and the restaurants and beaches and their awe of the history and the mansions and the sheer beauty of our town, you can't help but feel grateful. Obviously, there's more to it when you live here - like politics and taxes, and  infrastructure, and blah, blah, blah.......but at the end of the day, we get to live here......................






This picture was taken yesterday evening at the Officer's Club in Newport (with a cell phone). Just a random day, having drinks and dinner.......No airline ticket needed to be purchased, no rental car, no hotel booked, no planning, no travel, nothing. We live here everyday. And I love that thousands of people come from all over the world every year just to remind me of that fact. 







Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yacht Club Soda

Only In Rhode Island.com

So, yes obviously, we are all about being local. Most people are catching on that "Local" is a good thing, but not everyone could explain to you why. We can definitely tell you why - probably more than you want to know, in fact, haha! 

Rather than go into the specifics of economic infrastructure and the financial mechanics of local economies (somebody's showing off that fancy college education.....), we'll explain it this way - Not In My Back Yard......

We've all heard that phrase used and it's typically in a situation where people or companies are willing to accept negative policies or results as long as it doesn't happen "In my back yard".......meaning, it does not directly affect them personally.

When you live in a community, and work in that community, and raise your family and operate a business in that community, it's all your back yard. So, you give a lot of thought to every business decision you make and the impact it will have on the community that is your home. You want the best for your family, for your business and, by extension, your community. 

Yacht Club Soda is a perfect example of that. Founded in 1915, (old, even by Rhode Island standards) Yacht Club is still a family-owned business and is the Official Soda of Rhode Island. The company (meaning the family) is careful to make business decisions that create a positive and long-lasting effect on their local community and the New England community as a whole. During a time when mega-soda brands are cutting costs by using chemical ingredients, Yacht Club maintains the highest standards for its products while doing everything they can to reduce their environmental impact. Yacht Club Soda is a company that deserves it's excellent reputation, and we are proud to carry their products in our stores.




Yacht Club is a family owned and operated local manufacturer that believes in having minimal impact on the environment. Only returnable glass bottles are used, they can be returned for a credit. All bottles returned are sterilized then reused. (Reuse is the best form of recycling) Every bottle returned saves enough energy to power a standard light bulb for 100 hours. Last year alone with the Think Green Save the Bottles campaign, Yacht Club reused over 5000 cases (120,000+ Bottles) keeping them out of our local landfill.


Yacht Club Bottling Works opened in 1915 with the goal of bringing a premium quality beverage to Rhode Island. A lot has changed over the last 95 years, but Yacht Club, The Official Soda and Water Company of Rhode Island, is still dedicated to providing premium quality beverages to Rhode Island and surrounding areas.







Yacht Club only uses glass bottles for carbonated soft drinks. Glass, because it keeps the contents fresh and pure unlike any other container. Every drink produced begins with natural artesian water, from an artesian well drilled through the bedrock 180ft below the building, in 1923. The water is natural mineral water and has exceptional characteristics for carbonation. Its natural temperature is 45 degrees, which allows carbonation without the use of cooling towers that can be bad for the environment. Also the water naturally accepts 5.5 volumes of carbonation without alteration. This means NO SALT ADDED for carbonation.

All syrups are made onsite with only extra fine granular pure cane sugar mixed with natural artesian water. Never High Fructose Corn Syrup! Pure cane sugar is triple the cost of HFCS but well worth it. Pure Cane Sugar is unmatched in quality and taste. When the syrup is fully mixed, the finest extracts, and flavorings are added to make a truly unique drink. Yacht Club also has a large selection of sugar free options including diet soda and naturally flavored sparkling water. You will notice when you drink a Yacht Club Soda that it is clean, smooth and genuinely refreshing.








Monday, August 20, 2012

Mission: Small Business

Only In Rhode Island.com




As some of you may remember, Only In Rhode Island participated in the Mission: Small Business grant award program earlier this year. Businesses all over the country submitted applications and also had to receive at least 250 votes on Facebook to qualify by the deadline of June 30th. Thousands of companies entered for the chance to win a grant of $250,000. Thanks to our amazing facebook friends, we got the votes we needed (if you were one of them - thank you, you rock!!). The results will be announced September 15, 2012, so please keep your fingers crossed!!!



I happened to re-read our application the other day and thought I would share some of what we included. This particular section asked us to describe in 500 words or less what types of challenges our business faces and how we deal with them. This is our answer:




In ou"In our ten years in business we have faced incredible challenges that would not be believable had we not experienced them first-hand. Each of these challenges has strengthened our business in its own way. Our overall approach is to face every challenge head-on and figure out what to do with it. For instance, we faced the economic downturn in 2008, by responding swiftly and effectively based on how our customers were reacting. We focused on value, simplicity, and consumability, which translates into selling a lot of clam chowder and soap for two years! As a result, our sales never fell below previous levels and we were able to maintain growth in sales overall.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face as we expand is with quality control and consistency. We frequently take a chance on new or inexperienced suppliers, who may not have an understanding of the demands that go along with consistently increasing production volume. We make every effort to provide guidance and clear communication, as well as potential resources to assist with their growth and development. In some cases, particularly with artists and artisans, they may never have sold to a retail store before and may not even understand how such a relationship works. We don't believe that a lack of marketing or business savvy should prohibit a talented artisan from reaching consumers that can appreciate his work. As a place to start, we currently offer "Potential Vendor Guidelines" on our website to simplify the process of submitting their work/products for consideration in our stores.

As we expand, the need to source from inexperienced vendors will increase. To address this, we are currently writing a book on how to market and sell locally made products. We believe this will be beneficial on many levels, as the producer will not only be better prepared to approach and sell to our company, but may also improve his chances of selling to other businesses. This will allow him to gain valuable knowledge and experience that will benefit our business should we eventually establish a business relationship. Of course, we believe this will also expand awareness and demand for locally-made products, which is our long-term goal."  
So, So with all that being said, we are always looking for fantastic new Rhode Island products and work very hard to respond to all the product submissions we receive. The ingenuity in this State never ceases to amaze me as there seems to be an endless stream of creativity in developing new products. If you are an artist, artisan, or independent business in Rhode Island (or you know someone who is - which you totally do, because this is Rhode Island), please visit our Potential Vendor Guidelines page for information on working with us. 

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rocky Point







OnlyInRhodeIsland.com







Lincoln Park's Comet roller coaster was demolished Friday. It was built in 1947 for $80,000. The park’s 42 acres of land is expected to become a residential area.   We posted this on our facebook page yesterday and received hundreds of comments, all of them sad, and most of them including at least one fond memory of the Comet or Lincoln Park.



The Comet in its heyday


The park closed in 1987, after a fatality on the Comet. It was never re-opened and has stood abandoned ever since.

This made me think, of course, of Rocky Point which, as any Rhode Islander old enough to know will tell you - was really the happiest place on Earth!

In the 10 years we've been in business, we have had sooooo many customers ask about Rocky Point merchandise (products we sell and products that don't exist) and when they ask, they usually share a story about what Rocky Point Park meant to them.  

Recent aerial of Rocky Point


Rocky Point Lithograph








Rocky Point was first used for Sunday School outings in 1840, eventually growing into a popular resort. Various attractions were added over time, including a bowling alley, an early version of the Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and a hotel.

In 1883, the hotel and most of the other buildings were destroyed by fire. But by the turn of the century, the site had been developed as an amusement park. The park was devastated by the hurricane '38 and remained closed until 1948. When it re-opened it became the favorite Summer destination for people up and down the East Coast. People had first dates there, got engaged there, and took their grandchildren there to tell them about how it was when they were young.  


"You Must Be This Tall" Rocky Point Movie DVD  



Rocky Point Park is one of those Rhode Island things that you have to be a Rhode Islander to understand. Rocky Point is the source of shared memories,  both real and mythical, that make Rhode Island a community. There is a connection between Rhode Islanders that a wrecking ball can't change. 






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Friday, August 17, 2012

Narragansett Brewery


 Only In Rhode Island.com

As I've mentioned from time to time, we sometimes develop "favorites" among the products we sell, usually due to the unique story of the product or because we just love the people behind the product. With Narragansett Brewery, it's both.







Narragansett Brewing Company was founded in 1890, when a brick brewing house was built in Cranston. In December 1890, the first beer was produced. The following year, the company officially incorporated.
Narragansett Brewing Company: A History
History of Narragansett Brewery



The grounds of the Narragansett Brewing Company included a barn, a stable, a blacksmith, seventy-five horses, forty-five wagons, gas-powered trucks, electric trucks, twenty-five refrigerated train cars and its own ice plant.
In 1914, when the company built the most modern bottling plant in the region, it became official: Narragansett Brewing Company was the largest lager beer brewery in New England. They became the official beer of the Red Sox and they brewed beer for numerous other regional brands.
Narragansett Brewing was sold in 1965, for $17 million to Falstaff. That company was taken over by a new owner in 1975, and the corporate headquarters moved to San Francisco. The Cranston brewery officially closed in 1981, and the building was demolished in 1998. 

Narragansett Beer Pint Glass
'Gansett Pint Glass



Then in 2005, the Narragansett brand was bought by a team of local Rhode Island investors, led my Mark Hellendrung (one of the original founders of Nantucket Nectars - yes, he's a juice guy). Their plan was to resurrect the brand and once again operate a brewery in Rhode Island.

Well, Narragansett Brewery we named one of Inc. magazine's 5,000 fastest growing companies in America, coming in at 1,526 this year. They also announced this week that Narragansett Lager will be available outside the Northeast for the first time ever! They've expanded distribution into Wisconsin, which is serious beer-drinking territory! 

It's exciting that the company is doing so well and I love that they chose to bring the old 'gansett back to life. They are a great team of people who truly believe in the cause and I think we owe it to them to drink our part, as often as possible.

They should be building that new brewery anytime now, and when they do all Rhode Islanders can happily say "Hi Neighbor!"









Thursday, August 16, 2012

Politics

 Only In Rhode Island.com

When I first moved to Newport in 1997,(yes, a different millennium) I arrived knowing not a soul, with absolutely no idea what I would do here. My move here was based on a 1 day visit that completely captivated me, starting with the view from the Newport Bridge (to this day, my favorite journey anywhere is coming home over that bridge). I thought, "My God, the people here are so lucky!" I wanted to be lucky too, so I moved here.

I spent my first year here asking every local I met whether they appreciated and understood what an extraordinary place this is. Most said they did, but without enough passion or conviction to really convince me (maybe they thought I was just some overeager transplant and that eventually I'd calm down - it hasn't happened yet).

In the course of learning about my new home-state and the character, history, and culture that make it unique, I noticed that people would very often describe things such as potholes or political corruption, while shaking their heads and saying "Only In Rhode Island............" Coming from Chicago myself, I found this hilarious! The potholes in Chicago could host some Caribbean islands (or perhaps Rhode Island), and as for political corruption, I have just two words....................Alfonse Capone. 

It was the huge spirit of Rhode Islanders that I loved, that could make them believe their potholes were bigger than anyone else's and their politician's more corrupt. So when I decided to start a business celebrating all things Rhode Island, I called it.........what else???? Only In Rhode Island!!!

In the 10 years since then, I have come to learn that political corruption in our tiny state is no joke, and it breaks my heart. In comparison, I believe that in Chicago you can pay to get things done - In Rhode Island, you pay to keep things from being done. As a result, smart, talented, ambitious, capable, GOOD people are leaving the Ocean State in droves because the over-regulation, excessive taxation, and inhospitable business climate leave them no choice. (Those assertions are not my opinion - they are the reasons Forbes, Inc., and Money Magazines have all ranked this incredibly beautiful place the least-friendly to Business in the entire country, year after year.)

So, it is in the huge spirit of Rhode Island that I wait and hope for our elected officials (aka politicians) to do something BIG, something DRAMATIC, something DIFFERENT, to create a progressive and collaborative plan for change that can allow Rhode Island to be the enormous State that it deserves to be.

Please Hurry.