The Coral Gables Congregational Church’s Gift Shop
As part of his plan for Coral Gables, George E. Merrick envisioned an iconic church to serve as a meeting place in the heart of the city. That church – the Coral Gables Congregational Church – was completed in 1925, and went on to engage the community through service, worship, education, music and the arts. It is no wonder, then, that its former thrift shop turned into the Fair Trade Marketplace 13 years ago, aiming to help support indigenous artisans worldwide.
It was the vision of the church’s Reverend Laurie Hafner and volunteers Mary Eaton and Paula King to embrace the global fair trade efforts to tackle poverty. They created a boutique specializing in merchandise produced primarily by women in developing countries. Like all fair trade marketplaces, their sales help feed the artisans’ families, grow their villages, build schools, pull women out of human trafficking, etc.
I had been to the shop before, but never realized that these beautiful items came from artisans in over 43 countries, or that the profits go directly to the procurement of more merchandise. “The handcrafted gifts, jewelry and accessories are made with pride and skills developed through training programs. The materials used to produce the items are sustainable and eco-friendly – and no child labor is used,” Eaton says.
In our local independent fair trade shop, you can find items from India, Vietnam, Nepal, Philippines, Guatemala and other third world countries. Price ranges go from $5 to $250.
They even carry a line of sterling silver from Indonesia, along with clothing and jewelry – even a bicycle-shaped pizza cutter from vendor Ten Thousand Villagers.
Popular items include hand-beaded purses and tunics that are made in India, ranging in price from $28 to $48. There are also baskets made with raffia from Palestine, pot warmers from Nepal, and handmade masks and soap stone hearts from Kenya. In jewelry, they have a new line from Haiti. Eaton, who serves as the current volunteer director of the Fair Trade Marketplace, says that most of their selection is purchased in the fair trade sections of national merchandise shows. “Up until the pandemic, I would attend trade shows up in Atlanta and New York and I would also go to Las Vegas of all places,” she says. “Our pastor is a huge supporter.”
There is no consensus as to when the fair trade movement began. Most credit American businesswoman Edna Ruth Byler, who, after World War II, began selling crafts to friends and neighbors that were made by a woman’s sewing group run by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Puerto Rico. The enterprise was then adopted by the MCC as the Overseas Needlework and Crafts Project. Regardless of origin, the fair trade mission remains the same: To tackle poverty through trade, not aid, and to ensure dignity and fair wages across the world.
Coral Gables Congregational Church – Fair Trade Marketplace
3010 De Soto Blvd. (corner of Catalonia Avenue and Columbus Boulevard)
Open Thurs. – Sat., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.