Shop with a Global Mission

. October 1, 2019.
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Bluffton shop features fair trade items

Just a short drive to Bluffton, Ohio provides shopping destinations that offer unique products and an opportunity to engage in ethically-conscious purchasing. Ten Thousand Villages, located on Main Street in Bluffton, was the first fair trade store in the United States. Since opening the original Bluffton store 70 years ago, the brand has opened stores across the country, offering shoppers the chance to find great gifts and décor while supporting the work of artisans from around the world.

It all began in Bluffton, in a fair way

Ten Thousand Villages began in the 1940s with Edna Ruth Byler. On a trip to Puerto Rico, she fell in love with the handicrafts she saw women selling and wondered how she could support their work and introduce mainland U.S. consumers to their products. She began buying up crafts and reselling them out of the trunk of her car. From there, and in conjunction with the Mennonite Central Committee, Ten Thousand Villages was born and the first store opened in Bluffton.

Since then, Ten Thousand Villages has grown. The organization now works with over 2,500 artisans in 35 countries around the world and is a member of the Fair Trade Federation. According to Peggy Brown, a manager at the Bluffton location, “Upon commissioning, the artisans are automatically given 50 percent of what they’re going to make up front, so they’re not sitting and waiting for the items in the shop to sell. The 50 percent enables them to go out and immediately start working (creating their handcrafts and artisan pieces) instead of raising funds. Then when they complete the items, they get the other 50 percent. Before the items ever hit the U.S., the artisans are already paid.”

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Visits to support the cause

Brown, like other employees who work at Ten Thousand Villages, has also gotten the opportunity to travel to different countries and meet some of the artisans. “I just got the opportunity in April to go to India. We got to visit four of our artisan groups. To be able to go there and see the artisans that make the items that are here in the Bluffton shop was amazing.”

Ten Thousand Villages sells a variety of handmade items, including jewelry, home décor, baskets, scarves, wall hangings, and more. Near the holiday season, the shop also gets a variety of unique Christmas ornaments.

Ten Thousand Villages, 115 South Main St., Bluffton,
419-348-7233,

www.tenthousandvillages.com/bluffton