GENEVA – Andie Burchett of Geneva piled up items she was buying at The Little Traveler – a cookbook featuring recipes from all over the world, a bracelet from Guatemala, a scarf from India.
Nothing unusual in shopping at the Traveler, 404 S. Third St., Geneva, but Burchett was buying items in the store’s new Fair Trade Gallery, a room that features collections from more than 40 countries.
But Burchett was new to the Fair Trade Gallery.
“I stumbled into it just now,” she said. “I am familiar with how the fair trade group works on the other end .... So I’m excited to see this developed here.”
The designation of fair trade means artisans are paid a fair price for their goods, providing them with a sustainable market for handcrafted products, said Fair Trade Gallery manager Annette Shamloo.
Little Traveler owner Mike Simon said every item in the Fair Trade Gallery comes with a printout detailing where it was made and how the local people there benefited.
Simon credited his wife, Nancy Sohn, with encouraging him to support fair trade.
“She has always enjoyed shopping fair trade stores,” Simon said. “She says when she gives gifts, she likes to do something that has meaning … As we saw this in more stores, she said, ‘Have you thought about doing this at the Traveler?’”
Simon said after some investigation, they saw there was a real opportunity here.
“It’s retail with a soul – you know you’re making a difference in people’s lives,” Simon said.
The Fair Trade Gallery is in one of the store’s 36 boutique rooms in what used to be antiques, Simon said.
Although the gallery has only been open two weeks, it’s in a room that is a central walk-through in the store and has gotten a lot of attention from shoppers, he said.
Shamloo and the sales assistant Jorie Senese will ask if a shopper knows what fair trade is, he said.
“More than half the people have no idea,” Simon said. “Once they understand what it is, they will stop and look at everything. They want to know. It’s a room where people want to find a reason to buy.”
For example, one of the items is a basket made in Ghana out of cloth scraps tightly woven and with a sturdy leather handle.
“Making the baskets is allowing their village … to have funds to drill wells and provide their community with fresh water,” Shamloo said. “These things are made by hand, with pride.”