A Roger Ludlowe Middle School trip to Senegal was the inspiration for a new store in Fairfield -- 5 Oceans Fair Trade in the Brick Walk Promenade.
On that trip, the store's proprietor, Christine Schwartz, saw so many beautiful handmade items she wished she could buy at home, she eventually opened a store to sell those kinds of goods.
"I realized then that there are people, many of them women, around the world who make beautiful products," she said.
Those items were also usually handmade by women in impoverished circumstances who could use markets for their goods. Now Schwartz sells items from all over the world that have been made by small companies and sold by wholesalers following fair trade practices.
Fair trade practices include paying a fair wage to workers, and being sure that they are produced by workers in a healthy environment in comfortable working conditions, she said.
Schwartz only sells products that are certified fair trade from fair trade wholesalers, and the array of products she has are from small artisans around the globe.
Her shop sells chocolate from Ghana and soaps from a U.S. fair trade business in New Hampshire. She sells jewelry from the Dominican Republic and Africa and India, and her best seller has been a wooden wreath from the Philippines, which now has customers on a waiting list.
Schwartz was raising her three children in Fairfield when she first got the idea of opening the shop, and it took about a year to research and set up the store, she said.
5 Oceans Fair Trade opened on Black Friday, and Schwartz has been pleased with the business she has gotten at the store, located at the back of the Brick Walk Promenade.
She feels good about the products she sells because the businesses she buys from -- including many nonprofit wholesalers -- help provide better living conditions and education for the families of the women producing the goods. And the prices she can sell them for are reasonable, Schwartz said.
Many of the items she has in the store also come with individual stories about the women who made them, and she looks forward to reading about her suppliers.
It's also an adventure to check the new stock each time it arrives from many parts of the world.
"I'm always so interested to see what's in the boxes," she said.
5 Oceans Fair Trade, 1215 Post Road, is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m.; Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 203-955-1787. Read Full Article