The Fair Trade Market, once a quaint building that served as the offices of the Old North United Methodist Church next door, is now a unique market where the soft hum of ethnic music entertains customers as they browse a cozy room filled with vibrant and handcrafted items produced in third-world countries.
Board members at Old North were inspired to open an Evansville market in January 2010 after learning of a similar market in Mount Vernon, Ind. Five months later, they were in business. According to board member and education coordinator Ann Ferguson, one of 16 volunteers who operate the store three days a week, the business is “an ethical way of supporting justice issues that the church cares about.”
Customers of Fair Trade receive “a double dose of thoughtful spending” — producers earn a profit when Fair Trade purchases their wares, and when Fair Trade sells the items in the market, the proceeds are donated to missions supported by the church.
Inside the shop, hand-woven market baskets from Ghana dot the floor, and metal art sculpted from recycled oil drums in Haiti adorn walls. Deep hues and patterns of purples, reds, and oranges make up an assortment of items — clutches, coin purses, belts, dog leashes, and aprons — and most are created from recycled saris (apparel worn by women throughout the global south). Other products include silver jewelry from Thailand, wooden puzzle boxes from India, pastel wind chimes from Bali, handmade finger puppets from Peru, and Sri Lankan stationery made from 50 percent recycled elephant dung. The shop also offers Equal Exchange organic coffee, tea, and chocolate.
Anne Wright, board chairman, stocks the store from independently certified fair trade companies such as Global Mommas, Imani Workshops, and Handmade Expressions.
“These items are not pity products,” says Ferguson. “They aren’t low quality items.” Most goods come from impoverished areas such as India, Kenya, and Guatemala; most are made in cooperative businesses that provide a fair wage and safe working conditions for their employees, while a small number are created for a fair wage by small village groups.
In May the shop will celebrate World Fair Trade Day with guest speakers, lunch, and various activities (last year’s event featured a style show). Spreading the word of the fair trade movement to the community is a major part of their mission. “Because we’re affiliated with a United Methodist church,” says Ferguson, “we believe this is our modern day application of some of the justice issues that are in the Bible.”
Fair Trade Market — 4201 Stringtown Road.
Hours: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday; 2-6 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. 812-423-2483.