Calling them "import goods" doesn't really convey the right meaning. These aren't just any goods. Not only does One Fair World offer things that are always beautiful and often quite practical, everything in the shop is from certified fair-trade suppliers. This means that the gorgeous things -- carvings, instruments, kitchen and serving furnishings, jewelry, art work, fabrics, you name it -- that you buy at One Fair World don't come with the hidden price tag of exploitation and suffering that dangle from so many other imported goods.
Instead, things you buy at One Fair World help better the lives of people all along the supply chain, because that entire chain is formed to establish a just relationship between the artisans who create the goods (often by recycling and cleverly reusing "waste" material generated in industrialized countries) and the eventual buyers.
Formerly affiliated with the chain of fair-trade shops known as "Ten Thousand Villages," the directors of the Salem store found that the TTV mandatory-purchase component (the percentage of goods that had to be sourced from TTV) were too confining, so they bravely decided to strike out on their own as One Fair World on April 1, 2009 (no fooling though!).
To lure you to visit their shop, they're bringing a talented musical duo, the Severin Sisters, to perform outside the store on June 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. (part of the June "First Wednesday" events in Downtown Salem) and then a Grand Opening as One Fair World on July 1 (also in conjunction with Downtown's "First Wednesday" evening events). Both of these are great excuses to visit them again, or for the first time if you never have.
LOVESalem HQ is equipped with several radiantly lovely things from One Fair World and they never fail to provide a feeling of satisfaction and well-being that the cheap stuff from China can never offer. One Fair World is also the local source for some of our favorite music discoveries, the Putamayo world music CDs. These form a great soundtrack for life here in Salem.
May 10, 2009
Shop balances business and global mission
Creating a welcoming experience helps artisan store keep customers
One Fair World (formerly known as Ten Thousand Villages) began eight years ago as a dream by a group of resourceful people who had no retail experience but were excited by the idea of bringing a fair-trade store to Salem.
The richness and beauty of international, handcrafted items drew us to the project, but mostly the idea that a business could be operated to help others brought this group of people together.
When we learned that Self Help Crafts, a small store that had operated in Dallas for 15 years, was closing, the idea began germinating that opening a similar fair-trade store in Salem might be possible. After many fundraising efforts, we were ready to open a Ten Thousand Villages seasonal store in the Reed Opera House, which would test the waters about how Salem would receive such a venture.
We were set to open in mid-September 2001. Then the 9/11 tragedy occurred. We wondered whether there would be a backlash of anti-foreign feeling that would sink our store before it even got started. To our gratification, we experienced a wonderfully warm reception from the Salem community.
Many times we heard from customers the belief that people in developing, disadvantaged countries needed opportunities to have employment, fair income and hope as a balance to the anger and despair that seemed to be reflected in the attack made on the United States.
In June 2002, we moved to our permanent and current location at 474 Court St. NE. Being in a historic building in a constantly revitalizing downtown Salem has been a big asset for us. Actively participating in the downtown business community and in the broader Salem-area community has been key to our success.
Although our store is committed to the mission of alleviating poverty in developing countries, the way we accomplish that is by being a viable business.
The balance between business objectives and mission goals is a stimulating and challenging one. We are not profit-driven (we are a nonprofit), but we still have to pay our bills in order to be a marketplace for the artisans who need to sell their products so they can feed, clothe and educate their families. We are guided by ethical business practices as well as using best sales practices to survive in the competitive retail environment.
Creating a welcoming experience is key to retaining customers. In a recent customer survey, Melissa described her store experience: "Peaceful, enlightened and motivated by the artists around the world. I am reminded of the poverty but moved by their perseverance."
Pat said: "I love this store and I've bought myself and others many unique gifts here. I feel so great buying from other countries in need."
And customer Karen said: "In a few short minutes I can shop my way through three continents! Exhilarating! Enjoyable!"
Our volunteers, who are essential to our success, bring dedication, creativity and skill to a variety of tasks. Volunteer Allison O'Grady said, "I enjoy the opportunity to learn about artisans and see their amazing work; I feel like I am making a difference."
In Salem, there are people with many stories who have lived, worked and traveled throughout the world. We are not a provincial backwater but a lively meeting place of people with intriguing tales and broad interests — we meet them every day coming through the doors of our store. Further, we are a community of people who care about those in need throughout the world.
"Many little people in many small places undertaking modest actions can transform the world" — African proverb.
Ellen Chambers is a founding mother of One Fair World, formerly known as Ten Thousand Villages. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Upcoming Events at One Fair World
June 3 (Part of the 1st Wednesday Festivities)
Come hear The Severin Sisters outside our store! 5-8pm
(Also enter our drawing for $20 Gift Certificates.)
July 1 -- Grand opening with our new name: One Fair World
(Another 1st Wednesday event. Prize Drawings, Live Music, Cake, Coffee & More!)