April 23, 2001

Local Business Reopens in Time for Earth Day

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Ten Thousand Villages, on the Ithaca Commons, celebrated the re-opening of their store on Saturday, after closing at the end of December for re-organizing.

The store specializes in selling fairly traded handcrafts from around the world. It is staffed mostly by volunteers, and it works to ensure that a greater percentage of the retail price of a given product is returned to the producers, according to the Ten Thousand Villages missions statement.

Fran Spadafora-Manzella, a Ten Thousand Villages board member, pointed out that Earth Day seemed like a good time to celebrate the reopening of the store, promoting the fact that all artisans and producers use environmental resources sustainable.

The idea originally began nearly 20 years ago in Ithaca with the help of Ten Thousand Villages board member Dick Adams.

“St. Paul’s Methodist Church housed our shop for approximately six years as a small seasonal operation,” said Adams.

He concluded that members of the Ten Thousand Villages board finally decided to open a permanent store last October.

“It was a seasonal store last year for the months of November and December on the Commons,” Adams said.

The local board decided to rent the store on the commons and did very well, according to Pat Lallas, store manager.

“We then had enough resources from being open during the holidays to know that it would be successful,” she added.

Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit, self-supporting alternative trading organization, marketing products from handicraft and agricultural organizations based in low-income countries.

The goal is to provide consumers around the world with products that have been fairly purchased, according to a Ten Thousand Villages press release.

From toys to jewelry, gifts to decor and organic coffees, the Ithaca store is part of a network chain of more than 200 stores located around the country and Canada that bear the Ten Thousand Villages name.

“The original idea was first started by Mennonites in Pennsylvania,” said Spadafora-Manzella.

The store network is unique because it sets a fair price with a guaranteed minimum. It bypasses middlemen and returns a greater percentage to disadvantaged farmers and artisans, according to Spadafora-Manzella.

“The product sales pay [artisans] an appropriate amount of money for the work they do,” Lallas explained.

As the store literature highlights, the focus is on purchasing recycled, re-usable and refreshing products.

“In this manner the impact on the environment is minimal at best,” commented Spadafora-Manzella. She added that the stores’ organic coffee is a good example of a product that fits this description.

“We receive products from Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Vietnam, just to name a few,” Lallas remarked.

Ten Thousand Villages is part of fair trade organizations around the country that work with small businesses and democratically run cooperatives to provide food, education and living wages.

“It helps to know that we are helping artisans by selling their authentic handcrafts here in Ithaca,” said Signe Pike, a store volunteer.

Those interested in volunteering can contact the store at (607) 256-0616 or through the internet at the company web site: tenthousandvillages.com.

Archived article by Chris Westgate