A conversation with Providence-based Granny Squibb, sponsor of the 2019 Newport Folk Festival

Local Company to Provide Iced Tea for the Festival

Granny Squibb Iced Tea

Want to support a growing local business while enjoying the sounds of the Newport Folk Festival? Well, the newest sponsor of the Festival has deep Rhode Island roots. Granny Squibb was founded in 2009 by RI native Robin Squibb, who used her grandmother’s original recipe to bottle organic iced tea.

The company increased production, marketing and distribution in 2018 when Kelley McShane and Nick Carr joined the team. We interviewed co-owner McShane and CEO Jamie Schapiro last week as they prepared for the Festival. McShane explained how they got involved with NFF.

“Our whole team, we’re all big supporters of the music scene in Rhode Island and this year Jamie created our business plan to really focus on Rhode Island. The Newport Folk Festival is the biggest music event in the state, and it was important for us to be there.”

Needless to say, they’re excited to be a part of the Festival.

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“We’re such a small brand at this point so we reached out to the Festival and asked if we could give out free samples at the water taxi line. We talked to Jay Sweet and Billy Glassner and they got to know the brand. Our values were very much in line – we believe in giving back, being a part of the community and having fun, so it was a natural fit,” explained McShane.

RI Born and Brewed

Schapiro added, “We’re going to focus on Rhode Island and just do everything we can to become the leading beverage in the state. We don’t see this as just a three-day event; we’ve been talking to people in the Newport and Aquidneck Island letting them know that we are the official iced tea of the Newport Folk Festival. We started that back in May and we’ll continue in August and September, so we look at this as a five-month program to help the brand.

“We’re looking at a long-term partnership (with the Festival). We look at this Festival as not only one of the top festivals in the country, but the cornerstone of the Rhode Island market. We’re absolutely thrilled to be a part of it. It’s the first of many,” Schapiro noted.

Schapiro believes Granny Squibb stands out in the marketplace due to its “nostalgic, authentic story and the taste of the product. Our product is completely organic – there are only four ingredients, super clean and super simple. It’s an organic iced tea that tastes really good.”

“The exact flavor profile … that recipe started with Sally Squibbs in Saunderstown in 1930. She was very forward thinking, most people were sipping hot tea, she wanted it cold. She shared it with all her neighbors, the whole community. Fast forward to when Robin Squibb decided to bottle that iced tea. It was an iced tea that a lot of Rhode Islanders loved. Moving forward, its all about maintaining that same standard.”

At the Festival

“At the Festival we’ll have a mobile retail unit, kind of like a food truck, which will be selling our iced tea in cans but we’re also going to be doing a tasting of all six of our flavors. Also, we’re part of their beverage program so all the other vendors at the festival will be offering our teas. We’re also donating to all of the artists and all of the volunteers,” explained McShane.

The Festival has long partnered with corporate sponsors who embrace a social justice component in their mission, notably Ben and Jerry’s, Keen and Late July.

In addition to NFF, Granny Squibb is committed to numerous statewide charities. “A portion of our proceeds from our cranberry flavor goes back to Save the Bay; we’re also involved with Gloria Gemma, Sail Newport,” and others, noted McShane.

In fact, McShane herself will miss a few hours of the festival Saturday to complete an equally important task. She’ll be swimming in the “Save the Bay Swim” from Newport to Jamestown, alongside competitive swimmer and RI native Elizabeth Beisel.

“Last year she came in 1st, I came in about 350th,” joked McShane.

You can find Granny Squibbs teas at Dave’s Marketplace, area Whole Foods, and numerous restaurants in RI including 18 around Newport. For more information, click here.

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