In the face of rising e-commerce, many of us still prefer local brick and mortar retail, especially when the products for sale are ethically produced and benefit women artisans who are under- or unemployed and lack other opportunities for income. Ten Thousand Villages Atlanta located on St. Charles Avenue in Virginia-Highland sells only fair trade items from the U.S. and around the world, each with its own story to tell.
“We have a multisensory experience in our store. We have beautiful textiles that can be felt. We have music. We have the scent of incense, soap, coffee and chocolate. You are transported to another place, where you can see the faces of the artisans and you can feel their products,” said manager Juliet White.
For holiday gift giving, check out their annual bag sale Saturday, Nov. 11. Everything you can fit in their shopping bag is 25 percent off.
“It’s really when we’ll have the most in stock, so it’s a great time to shop. We have a lot of stocking stuffers, hostess gifts, office gifts, small things under $10 and $20 that are unique to Atlanta,” White said.
This holiday season, Ten Thousand Villages Atlanta will carry more lines than ever. It will still feature old favorites like Creedmoor Candles, made by adults with developmental disabilities in North Carolina. You’ll also find food mixes from the Women’s Bean Project that helps chronically unemployed women in Denver – convicted felons, recovering addicts, domestic violence victims – rebuild their lives through work. Maybe you’ll pick up a felted ornament from Nepal or a religious gift for Christmas, Diwali or Hanukah.
Friends Karen Gross and Marg Lambert opened the store (originally as Window to the World, later teaming up with Ten Thousand Villages national network) on the principal of fair trade, ethical production, and helping women across the globe.
“Two wives and mothers wanted to help wives and mothers. They looked at the challenges women were facing and they thought we can do this – we have to do this. So they fundraised for three years and finally got enough seed money to open the store here in 1993 as a nonprofit,” White said.
It’s a nonprofit social enterprise that partners with independent small-scale artisan groups, co-ops and workshops. They pay mutually agreed upon prices to the artisans, ensure that artisans have safe and healthy places to work, and emphasize sustainable environmental practices in the materials and making of products.
Volunteers, who work an average of four to eight hours a month as a sales associate, unpacking orders, etc., are also critical to this effort.
“It takes 30 to 40 volunteers. We currently have 18. We need more always,” White urged.
Today, the store boasts products from more than 130 artisan groups in some 38 countries.
“In addition to Ten Thousand Villages products we have 28 other fair trade vendors, which has allowed us to expand into food and beverage products, clothing, children’s items, music books, and more,” White said.
With the tremendous growth in fair trade, White chooses from about 40 fair trade producer catalogues, always considering what her customers want.
“If they want more sterling silver earrings, I will find more sterling silver earrings,” White said.
Ten Thousand Villages is located at 1056 St. Charles Ave. and they also have a booth at the Kudzu Antique Market in Decatur, daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit tenthousandvillages.com/atlanta or facebook.com/AtlantaVillages.