Meet Kate Lentz, Neighborhood Champion

Kate Lentz: "We're committed to buying local and supporting Rhode Island independent bookstores. They are essential members of our community."

Kate Lentz is the director of the Rhode Island Center for the Book, a statewide organization devoted to promoting personal and community enrichment by celebrating the art and heritage of reading, writing, making, and sharing books.

Kate and her team are true Neighborhood Champions, working everyday to spotlight all of Rhode Island’s unique independent bookstores. She reports, “We’re committed to buying local and supporting Rhode Island independent bookstores. They are essential members of our community!”

Check out Kate’s video with Amy Van Keuren, bookseller and store manager of Charter Books in Newport. As Amy notes, “Bookstores can curate their collection to their community, so we can give you personalized recommendations the way an algorithm will never be able to.” A Neighborhood Champion herself, Amy gives a shout-out to Closet Revival in Newport and Different Drummer in Wickford.

Meet Maria DeCarvalho, Neighborhood Champion

Neighborhood Champion Maria DeCarvalho

Maria DeCarvalho shared three wonderful local family businesses.

La Arepa owner Nohemi Rodriguez and her son Bernardo Garcia
  • La Arepa, 582 Smithfield Avenue, Pawtucket 

Nohemi Rodriguez grew up in Valencia, Venezuela and she and her son Bernardo Garcia bring traditions of both beauty and deliciousness to their wonderful restaurant, La Arepa, located in the Fairlawn neighborhood of Pawtucket.  

Arepas are sweet corn cakes filled with meat, cheese, beans and vegetables that Nohemi and Bernardo began selling out of a food truck in 2000.  They are delicious, and their biggest seller is the Papellon Arepa, available with chicken or shredded beef. The restaurant now occupies a Pawtucket store front elegantly decorated to evoke Nohemi’s home town. You can’t help but notice how cheerful and well-kept it is — a perfect place for lunch or dinner, or to throw a party!

Bernardo says running your own business requires patience but he loves it — and he and his Mom appreciate how cozy Rhode Island is, and how many small business there are here.  His personal favorite: Cured Collection, located at Providence Place Mall, where he goes for streetwear.

Italian Corner owners Massimo and Paola Dellolio
  • Italian Corner, 10 Boyd Avenue, East Providence

Massimo and Paola Dellolio make legendary Italian sandwiches but it doesn’t stop there.  You can also visit the Italian Corner for homemade Italian soups, pastas and sauces, cured meats and cheeses and every ingredient an antipasto might require.  If you’re lucky, you can find yourself at Massimo’s table on a Saturday night, when their restaurant serves his cooking.  

When you visit the deli counter, Paola greets you with, “Senora?” and it’s just a little bit like being in Italy. She and Massimo dedicate themselves to preserving the best of the small Italian towns they came from, and they offer advice and encouragement as well as general yumminess.

You can also find everything you need for any pasta, polenta or risotto you want to cook up. 

What do Paola and Massimo love?  Being close to the water, as they were in their home towns.  They love helping their customers learn about and appreciate authentic Italian cooking and watching them bite into their famous sandwiches.  And when they hang up their aprons and go out to dinner themselves, they head towards Chomp in Warren and Nacho Mama in Bristol.

Reliable Gold owners Sarah Abeles and Rena
  • Reliable Gold, Wayland Square, Providence

At Reliable Gold jewelers in Wayland Square you can find both one-of-a-kind, heirloom-quality treasures from the past and fun, fresh new looks created by the young jewelers Sarah Abeles and her Mom Rena have discovered. Rena and Sarah work with their team to make sure their beautiful Wayland Square shop has something for every occasion.  Because they’ve carefully chosen each item in their store, and because they give each customer individual time and attention, they can help them find exactly the right piece for the person and the moment. 

Sarah and Rena treasure both the history of this family-owned business founded in 1934 and the opportunity it gives them to embody their family values of trust and respect in their relationships with vendors, customers and each other.  They love the sense of community and continuity that doing business here in Rhode Island for so long has given them — and Sarah says the breathtaking architecture, active arts community, wonderful restaurants and beaches don’t hurt either!

They love supporting other women-owned businesses, especially their neighbors on Wayland Square, like CORE Fitness and Bloom Back Flowers.

July is Independents Month!

Celebrate your independents! Image from AMIBA

From July 1 to July 31, Independents Month celebrates independent, locally-owned businesses and the community values they embody:

  • Their spirit of entrepreneurship, individuality, uniqueness, and character.
  • How they give back to our community with their time, talents, goods, and services.
  • How they fulfill community needs that make us healthier and wealthier.

Why independents?

Every $1 we spend has consequences. When we choose to buy from locally-owned businesses, our money does more good for our local community.

Independents Month is a good time to learn about what’s available locally, consider the consequences of your choices, and shift some of your spending.

Meet our Neighborhood Champions

Local people know their communities the best, and they know who and what make it special. For Independents Month, Neighborhood Champions (list updated throughout the month) are spotlighting local businesses they love in their places.

Are you a Neighborhood Champion?

It’s super easy to participate. Just tell us about a few businesses that make your community great. Get your suggestions in ASAP.

Meet Sandra Enos, Neighborhood Champion

Neighborhood Champion Sandra Enos: "Wakefield is really blessed to have so many exceptional businesses in such a small space."

Sandra Enos, a recently retired sociology professor, has her own small business. Giving Beyond The Box curates gift boxes that feature local enterprises, BIPOC- and woman-owned businesses, Providence-based artists, and local farmers.

Sandra’s local champions are located in downtown Wakefield, Rhode Island. They are all within about 500 feet of each other. Sandra said, “Wakefield is really blessed to have so many exceptional businesses in such a small space.” Each of these businesses brings energy, vitality and community to the downtown area.

  • Brickley’s has been voted one of the best places for ice cream in the state. Sandra knows someone who has licked his way through all of their flavors over the course of one summer. (This is the kind of goal we can get behind. 🍦)
  • South County Bread Company is the newest arrival with a collection of wonderful breads, baguettes, croissants and sweets along with new inventions all the time.
  • The Contemporary Theater features theatrical productions, as well as a a vibrant improv community. They recently hosted the Ocean State Improv Festival which brought performers from New York, California, Minnesota, and elsewhere. They also offer classes for children and adults.
  • Duck Press features an eclectic menu and a small cafe atmosphere. It is a great place for a special dinner. Sandra says she has never ordered the same thing twice because their new dishes are always so tempting.

Thank you, Sandra, for being a Neighborhood Champion! Rhode Island, get out there and explore Wakefield.

Are you a Neighborhood Champion?

"Yes, we are open {heart} local" sign

Every $1 we spend has consequences. When we choose to buy from locally-owned businesses, our money does more good for our local community. Here’s six good reasons to buy local.

From July 1 to July 31, Independents Month celebrates independent, locally-owned businesses and entrepreneurship. For Independents Month, Local Return is recruiting Neighborhood Champions to help us spotlight local businesses. Why? Because you know your community the best, and you know who and what make it special.  

Our goal is to inform and inspire members of the public to learn about what’s available locally, consider the consequences of their choices, and shift some of their spending. We want to include a mix of business-to-consumer goods and business-to-business innovations.  

The Assignment

  1. Pick a community that you love. Hint: It could be a place (like Peace Dale, Riverside, or Pascoag) or a group of people (Black-owned businesses). 
  1. Tell us about 3-5 businesses that make your community great. Which businesses do you LOVE? Which businesses make your place vibrant and whole? The criteria: They must be independent (no franchises, please) and locally-owned (by someone who lives in or very close to Rhode Island). Photos are great!
  1. Bonus points: Record a short video (0:30 to 2 minutes) with one or more of the business owners. Be as creative as you’d like, but here are a few suggested questions to ask: 
  • Introduce us to (BUSINESS). 
  • What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur? 
  • What do you love about (PLACE)?
  • What’s your favorite local business? 

How to Participate 

Send your responses to

During July, we hope you’ll share your contributions directly on social media tagging @LocalReturnRI on Twitter or Instagram. 

The fine print: By submitting, you acknowledge that you give Local Return permission to share your contributions publicly.