BURRILLVILLE – After one year of working on the front lines of the pandemic, Jennifer Hopgood says she knew she had to do something to combat the stress and sadness she was feeling from her daily life.
A family nurse practitioner, Hopgood was spending half her week at an outdoor COVID clinic, with the other half in telemedicine.
“It was an insanely scary and stressful time, and I spent more time than I’d like to remember delivering bad news to families, on three way calls as they said goodbye to their loved ones, and calling very sick patients all hours, nights and weekends to make sure they were ok,” she said.
Both Hopgood and her husband lost their last grandparent during those months, without being able to gather for a final holiday.
It was a dark time for the family, but ultimately, an experience that led to inspiration.
“I needed to be the reason people cried happy tears instead of delivering sadness,” Hopgood said.
The Burrillville resident launched a new business endeavor that she says, “saved my soul a bit,” and now, she says she’s bringing tears of joy instead to those who use her services.
Hopgood recently launched Blanket & Basket, a business that provides all the ingredients to create unique and memorable experiences with luxury picnics, from the setup of beautiful, intimate spaces, to music, food and drinks. Customers pick an occasion and a location, get permits if needed, and Hopgood does the rest.
It began, she says, as a way to help people stay connected at time where safety was the main concern.
“I have always loved party planning, but meeting in driveways and sitting in trunks across parking lots was just not doing the trick,” Hopgood said.
With a background in infectious disease, the healthcare worker says she knew that outdoor transmission was going to be rare.
Her first event was a combination birthday party for herself and two friends.
“After being together through Zoom, etc., I made a no electronics rule and included a Polaroid camera so we could still capture and keep memories but spend quality unplugged time together,” she said. “People loved it and I decided to offer it to friends and family.”
“Quite honestly, I needed it.”
Hopgood officially went into business in September, and has been hard at work since, creating, ” super magical happy celebrations,” from engagements to girls days, date nights, birthdays, anniversaries and holiday family get togethers.
“The goal is to create beautiful memories and support personal connections in an unplugged, focused way that is also pandemic friendly,” notes a write up on her services on the business’s webpage.
Picnics generally run for two hours, with the planner arriving in advance to set up. Popular spots include parks, living rooms, beaches, lake homes and backyards, and Hopgood says she can make suggestion for those who don’t have a location in mind.
All picnics include comfortable pillows and cozy blankets – sanitized after each event – nestled around a personalized and beautifully styled table scape, complete with high end linens, place settings, decor and cutlery, if needed. Each event also comes with color-coordinated nonalcoholic beverages for all guests, a fresh flower arrangement, candles, use of an instant camera with a film strip of ten photos to take home for memories, a Bluetooth speaker and a non electronic game, as well as a thank you gift.
Hopgood will return to clean up and dismantle the party, leaving the area just as she found it.
Since her launch, the entrepreneur has collaborated with other local businesses to make each experience even more unique and memorable. Hopgood hired a local woodworker create custom one-of-a-kind picnic table boards, and found local charcuterie companies and bakeries to offer tasty picnic treats.
The business owner took a horse and carriage ride at Burrillville-based Liberty Farms for her son’s birthday last year, and realized that business would make a perfect partner for her services. Now, rides with the farm’s Clydesdale & Percheron draft horses come with optional add on of a luxury picnic.
“I try my best to support other small, local, female when possible, Rhode Island businesses, like Wrights farm for cookies and milk, local vendors for decor and personalization,” she said.
A busy mother of two young boys, Hopgood still works in healthcare full time. But now, she’s notes she’s also in the business of bringing people together.
“That is quite addictive,” she said. “I have had so much fun building this company.”
To learn more or book your picnic visit https://www.blanketandbasketri.com/.