Local Return releases 2023 Policy Paper

Chart showing disparities among Rhode Island neighborhoods

COVID impacted everyone, but the people and places that were hit hardest were those without a “cushion.” Communities that lack a wealth of reserves in their regular lives had no breathing room to deal with crisis, illness, loss of work, or isolation. The pandemic forced us to see the disparate outcomes and burdens that persist across our neighborhoods. It’s clear: We cannot move forward from COVID using the same economic and community development strategies that we relied on in the past, which only helped create those vulnerabilities. This is Rhode Island’s moment to move toward a stronger future, to build deep and wide community resilience. By focusing on wealth, ownership, and investment, we can help Rhode Island’s economy and communities find strong, sustainable footing.

The purpose of this policy paper is to introduce several potential strategies of community
wealth-building. Our intent is to shift the boundaries of what’s considered possible in our state. We have intentionally included a diversity of ideas that could be implemented at multiple levels of government and with different degrees of investment. For each idea we discuss in the following pages, we describe how it promotes community wealth, another instance of implementation, and how it might work in Rhode Island.

We hope you will engage with these ideas, improve upon them, and help make them reality.

Shop independent and local this holiday season

It’s hard to be believe, but the holidays are once again upon us. As you’re finalizing your celebrating and gift-giving plans, why not make a pledge to support independent, local businesses whenever possible?

We can’t forget that every dollar we spend has impact. When we buy from locally-owned, independent businesses, our money does more good for our local community. There are a lot of good reasons to buy local. Here are six of our favorites: 

  1. Money: When we shop local, money stays in our local economy longer and does more good. For every $100 you spend at a locally-owned business, an average of $68 stays in the local community. Compare that to just $43 for a big box store. 
  2. Jobs: Local businesses = local jobs. Small businesses are the state’s largest employer. They hire our neighbors, family members, and friends.
  3. Charm: Local businesses shape the character of our communities. They make our places unique and interesting. 
  4. Climate: Buying local is good for the environment. It means less resources and energy were used to transport goods. 
  5. Community: Local businesses are more inclined to give back to the local community — think Little League teams, raffle donations, and charitable giving — because they are part of the local community. They donate almost 2.5x more per employee than national chains. 
  6. Trust: It feels good to do business with someone you know. 

With every purchase you make, you can strengthen the Rhode Island economy. That’s a lot of power; wield it wisely!

If you’re looking to show some support beyond your wallet, here are a few ways:

  • Friday, November 25 is Plaid Friday. That’s right; we’re taking back Black Friday. Wear plaid to support your locally-owned, independent businesses. Share a pic of yourself on social media using #plaidFriday and #ShopIndieLocal with a few words about why you shop local.
  • Saturday, November 26 is Small Business Saturday. Remind everyone you know!
  • Tuesday, November 29 is Giving Tuesday. It’s a great time to make a few year-end charitable donations to your favorite nonprofit organizations.

Looking for some good options on how/where to spend locally this holiday season? We’re compiling a list of the local markets. (If your community is hosting a market that we’ve missed, please email jessica@localreturn.org to let us know.)

Shop Indie Art

Shop Indie Art

October is Shop Indie Art Month. Local artists make our local places special. They help us reflect, observe, capture, provoke, mourn, and celebrate. They’re also a major economic force. By supporting local artists, you’re contributing to the local economy and the community.

Related: Why buy local? 
Related: 10 Reasons to Support the Arts from the Americans for the Arts Action Fund

Rhode Island, this is your time to shine! Who has more creative talent than us? Plus, in Rhode Island, you can buy original and limited edition art tax-free. Share on social media using #ShopIndieArt and one of our graphics.

If you’re looking to support local talent, here are just a few places to look. (Let us know who we missed!)



Venues for Performing Artists

Artisan Markets



#ShopIndieArt graphics

It’s Local Social time again

Local Social is November 2 at Apponaug Brewing in Warwick

Interested in local economies and investing? Come on out to our next Local Social at Apponaug Brewing on Wednesday, November 2, at 5:30 p.m. You’ll meet some fun people, drink local beer, and enjoy sparking conversation on the banks of the beautiful Pawtuxet River.

Apponaug Brewing is located at 334 Knight Street in Warwick. Email jessica@localreturn.org for more information. See you then!

Meet Kritika and Kiera, our Learning Fellows

This summer, Local Return is thrilled to have on our team two Learning Fellows through the Swearer Center at Brown University. Kiera Walsh and Kritika Shrivastava are working with us to mine research and data around community wealth, investment ecosystems, and economic self-reliance. They’re enthusiastic and diligent scholars, passionate about our future. Please welcome Kritika and Kiera!  

Meet the East Providence Planning Department, Neighborhood Champions

Neighborhood Champion East Providence Planning Department

Please enjoy this contribution from the East Providence Planning Department, true Neighborhood Champions!

Our Planning Department put together a list of what we think makes for a perfect day in East Providence. We wanted to share our small-town Townie favorites alongside some of the new and exciting additions to East Providence—because we love them all. We hope folks get to know and love EP—there’s a lot to love!

We start with what we think is one of the best-kept-secret breakfast nooks in the East Bay: the Broadway Diner. Go–and get the Eggs Benedict with the Red Bliss home fries and a side of fresh fruit. The bagel sandwiches are also amazing. This place is a Townie favorite—good food and people with zero pretense.

After breakfast, take a walk down Broadway and visit Jackie on Broadway—a boutique with an eclectic collection of vintage and curated modern clothing. Jackie studied jewelry and metalworking at RISD and her artistic flair shows in every detail of her beautiful shop. 

For lunch, head over to Riverside and one of our favorite new eateries: Taconeando and order the tacos—we think they’re some of the best tacos you’ll find in the state. Come back for the tortas, though! Enjoy your tacos with some of their incredible house-made, perfectly sweetened Jamaica drink.  

After you are good and full, you’ll need to walk off those tacos a bit. Cross the street and head over to Willett Pond. Willett Pond is currently being restored into a healthier habitat with a pair of beautiful aerating water fountains that light-up at night.  Sit under the new cherry tree saplings and watch the osprey catch their lunch and then take a stroll on the walking trail that surrounds the pond. Look for the beautiful Swamp Marigolds on your walk.  

When dinner time rolls around, head over to Skeff’s — a great new pub that just opened in central East Providence. The owners are Townies come home and we love having them here in EP. Have a Guinness, enjoy some live music, and order the steak and cheese eggrolls and maybe some of the chicken wings in Guinness sauce. (You’re welcome.) Try to go on a Friday so that you can play music bingo!  

If you’ve managed to save any room, head over to Sacred Cow and have a maple creemee—yes, a real maple creemee south of Vermont. Get a pup cup for your four-legged friends, too! Try to time it so that you catch one of those amazing East Providence sunsets while you enjoy your maple creemee–and that will be the perfect capstone to your day in EP.  

Meet Carmen Diaz-Jusino and Luis Jusino, Neighborhood Champions

Neighborhood Champions Carmen Diaz-Jusino & Luis Jusino

Carmen and Luis share with us some of their favorite local businesses along Hartford Avenue in Providence.

Guatelinda Restaurant storefront

First up on Carmen and Luis’s list is GuateLinda Restaurant-Cevicheria, a Latino-owned restaurant, at 553 Hartford Avenue.

“Este restaurante es uno de mis preferidos, porque nos ofrece auténtica cocina Guatemalteca, recetas clásicas y exquisitas que nos permiten conocer de la gastronomía de este precioso país. Sus dueños son locales y parte de la comunidad que sirven manteniendo alrededor de 60 años de tradición familiar. En Guatelinda podemos elegir entre una variedad de platos guatemaltecos clásicos preparados al momento.”

Much to choose from at La Gran Via Meat Market

Next is another Latino-owned business, La Gran Via Meat Market, located at 421 Hartford Avenue.

“Esta tienda es una delicia para las familias de esta comunidad, porque nos ofrece la oportunidad de encontrar los alimentos y productos étnicos que consumimos y que nos permiten mantenernos conectados a nuestras diversas gastronomías. Sus dueños son unos hermanos dominicanos que se complacen en servir la comunidad en la que viven.”

Buono's Bakery storefront

Luis and Carmen also recommend Buono’s Bakery at 559 Hartford Avenue.

“This family owned and operated bakery had been serving Rhode Island communities for more than 90 years. It was first the Monda Italian Bakery, and in 1989, with startup help from the Mondas, the Buono family took over. In just a short time using the old world methods and recipes handed down to them, Buonos Bakery established a great name for themselves. From then on, Buono’s has become known as “The Best Italian Bread in New England!” Buono’s Bakery is committed to the community it serves. For every dollar you spend at the bakery, they dedicate a portion to local charities and caring organizations.”

Friendly greeting at Sienna & Co.

Lastly, Carmen and Luis suggests a visit to Sienna & Co. at 100 Midway Place, Suite 13, just down the road in Garden City.

“Sienna & Co. is a peaceful “skin-body-soul” studio offering a wide variety of results-driven facials, hair removal, tinting, massages, an infrared sauna, and reiki treatments. They say, “Radiating positive energy and good vibes is our priority!” A big shout out to a woman-owned and -operated space. Thank you, Sienna, Erin, Cheryl, Beka and Chrissy!”

Meet Josh and Adrienne Daly, Neighborhood Champions

Peace Dale Neighborhood Champions Adrienne and Josh Daly, on a bike trip to Green Line Apothecary for ice cream and shakes

Please enjoy this contribution from Neighborhood Champions Josh and Adrienne Daly, pictured above on a family bike trip to Green Line Apothecary for ice cream.

We love so many great businesses and organizations in our Peace Dale neighborhood, just a short walk from our home!

Jayd Bun: Awesome folks making the best, most creative authentic Chinese food around! Everything is amazingly delicious, but of course, the buns are a must!

Rock Spot Climbing: Located in the Pallisades Mill (right by Whalers Brewing, another awesome local business!) Rock Spot is such an awesome place for the whole family. Lots of birthday parties, camps, and drop-in opportunities to climb. Awesome, friendly staff.

FLATTS Smokehouse: A great neighborhood bar and restaurant. The meat eaters among our family love the pulled pork and brisket and the veg folks love the roasted Brussels salad! It’s also a favorite spot to meet up with a friend for a beer and see neighbors.

Jonnycake Center For Hope: They provide such valuable and vital services in our community and are based right here and know the particular needs of the community. They also did an amazing job renovating the old Peace Dale schoolhouse building into a beautiful and functional home for their services. 

Pump House Music Works: A local music venue that has reinvented itself several times and cemented its place in the community. (As its name suggests, its historic building and  location was once the pump house for the neighboring tri-pond area). They’ve created a really warm atmosphere and, as a musician, they have the best sound!

Meet Tuni Schartner, Neighborhood Champion

Wickford Village Neighborhood Champion Tuni Schartner

Please enjoy this contribution from Neighborhood Champion Tuni Schartner.

Wickford is a welcoming seaside village tucked in along Narragansett Bay in Southern Rhode Island with picturesque tree-lined streets filled with lovingly preserved historic houses and many unique owner-operated small businesses, with many owners also living in the village. The large harbor is an outdoor playground for many boaters, kayakers, paddle boarders, and even mermaids and witches! The merchant’s association, historic organization, and others work hard to bring fun family events all year long, such as Harbor Lights, the Horribles Parade, and Festival of Lights. Wickford is truly a village and my favorite place to live, play, eat and shop! Follow I Love Wickford Village on Facebook or Instagram to learn more.

Wickford Village recently won USA Today’s annual Reader’s Choice ‘Best Historic Small Town’!

We even have a Town Historian, Tim Cranston, that has written multiple books covering the history of Wickford.

Julie and Jack Kliever (who also live in the village) operate New Deal Horse & Carriage. They offer carriage rides from small intimate tours to larger group history tours — Eddie & Lenny are the best mascots!

Green Ink Boutique (background) has been in business for over 40 years and remains one of the many women owned/operated foundational businesses in town. 

There is so much ‘Local Love’ at JW Graham/YES! Gallery. Julie and Palmer Beebe are the heart of our village, and this family-owned business featuring so many amazing gifts by local artists is a MUST when shopping and visiting Wickford Village. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram!

Beauty and the Bath, purveyor of fine soaps and toiletries as well as many very fun gifts, has been making people happy in Wickford Village for over 35 years. Owner and Wickford resident Lori Lyons is a true community champion offering many locally-crafted products from soaps and lotions to honey. Her annual Pajama Party, the first week in December, kicks off our holiday season in town. She has been collecting pajamas for children in need for over 20 years, and this night is full of fun, food, and shopping while also focusing on the true meaning of the holidays and community.  From annual pictures with the Easter Bunny to just daily shopping, Beauty and the Bath is a beloved destination for so many. Shop online, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

PLEASE come visit Wickford Village soon. I didn’t mention food but we do have some great spots like Alma’s, Shayna’s Place, Wickford on the Water, Tavern by the Sea, and Gardner’s Seafood!  

Much love from Wickford Village,