Spotlight on fair trade boutiques in Cleveland

January 23rd, 2014

Imagine strolling down the streets of Cleveland, eyeing locally owned shops as you sip coffee from a neighborhood cafe. You walk into a small boutique, surrounded by silky, printed scarves, hand-knit sweaters and individually beaded necklaces. Handmade coasters and stone-carved bookends decorate the wall, and vibrant dishes line the shelves. As you glance at a tag on a box of tea, you spot a small label that advertises “fair trade.”

According to Emily Sattin, store manager of Revive Fair Trade Eco-Boutique, fair trade is a social movement that ensures equal opportunities for artisans around the globe.

“It is giving back to the community so everyone can have an equal opportunity,” Sattin said.

Revive, located on Lee Road, is one of many fair trade shops in Cleveland Heights. Owner Lisa Dunn established Revive after she worked in retail and became an advocate for human rights campaigns in Cleveland. Dunn desired a means to fuse her two passions: fashion and human rights. She offers her experience as both a retailer and human rights activist when she visits her suppliers in about 30 countries.

“She offers a lot of support and aid in redesigning more successful business models in order to help these groups build,” Sattin said.

The store features a variety of items, ranging from clothing and purses to greeting cards and olive oil. On Feb. 7, Revive is launching a new shoe line in their store during an RSVP-only event. On Feb. 8, the store will be officially unveiling the leather shoe collection to all customers.

Another popular fair trade boutique, Ten Thousand Villages, is located just a few minutes from campus on Cedar Road. Established by one of the founders of the fair trade movement, Edna Ruth Byler, Ten Thousand Villages is one of the oldest fair trade companies. Byler started the company in 1946 after meeting struggling artisans while on a mission trip in Puerto Rico.

“Starting out of the trunk of her car, Edna began selling handicrafts and soon with the help of the Mennonite Central Committee, began SELFHELP,” store manager Laura Potter said. “In 1996, SELFHELP became Ten Thousand Villages, a retail company that now has over 100 stores in the United States and Canada.”

While Revive and Ten Thousand Villages both sell fair trade merchandise, there is one main distinction between the two stores; Ten Thousand Villages is a nonprofit store while Revive is not. Potter explained that while most of Ten Thousand Villages’ funds are made through the store’s profits, they also receive government grants and donations.

“We are grouped in with local charities and are able to partner with them for fundraisers, charity events, et cetera,” Potter said.

Ten Thousand Villages uses these funds to import goods from 38 countries to the corporate office in Akron, Ohio. Then, the individual stores order goods from the headquarters so the items are tailored to their varying demographics.

Without support from the community, fair trade stores would struggle to exist. They also provide a source of education for the city of Cleveland. This relationship is maintained through events such as the Ohio Fair Trade Expo.

“Because of the interest and support in the Cleveland area we have been able to join John Carroll and other local fair traders to create the Ohio Fair Trade Expo, in which Ten Thousand Villages is part of the planning committee. It is invigorating to see crowds of both young and old turn out to this now yearly event,” said Potter.

Freshman Francesca Mastrangelo recently visited Ten Thousand Villages as she toured some of Cleveland’s most unique attractions.

“Coming from the boondocks in Laurel, Pennsylvania, there’s not a lot of stores like that around where I live,” Mastrangelo said.

“Fair trade speaks to the idea of worker’s rights, supporting the disadvantaged, all something we see in our own communities here in Cleveland as well,” Potter said. “We are also able to educate our friends, families and co-workers about world issues and create a more global way of thinking through a local way of supporting. It’s a win-win for everyone when it comes to fair trade.”