What does it take to move Ten Thousand Villages? A lot of volunteer effort and very little traffic.
That's what came together last Sunday morning along upper King Street when the non-profit, fair trade shop at 824 King St. moved to its new location one half block away at 915 King St. It now occupies the site of the former Nantucket Moon gift shop.
"This new store enables us to operate on one floor instead of splitting the merchandise on two floors," said Julie Becker, local board member of the Ten Thousand Villages organization, a job-creation program established to sell handmade merchandise from artisans in developing countries throughout the world.
"We think this new location will improve sales, since we have consistently gotten two-thirds of our sales from one-third of the store that is on the ground floor. It will also make life easier for our staff and volunteers," Becker said.
Those volunteers were busy packing crates and wheeling them up King Street Sunday morning. They were also painting, cleaning and assembling display shelves at the new location.
"Our soft opening at the new location will be Aug. 10. But, the official grand opening will be Saturday, September 10," Becker said.
THE NEW STORE offers not only the opportunity to display the merchandise all on one floor but it also has a rear entrance that opens onto an alley allowing delivery trucks easy access without interfering with King Street traffic. The inside has been redone with new lighting, freshly painted walls, and new display areas.
Initiated by the Mennonite Church to sell handmade merchandise created in third world nations, Ten Thousand Villages has more than 100 stores in its network. It is estimated that the Old Town Alexandria location is responsible for creating nearly 3,000 jobs since it opened in 1994.
"Usually we have about 200 products in the store at any one time produced by artisans in more than 30 countries," according to Danwe N'Dikwe, store manager. "The products arrive priced and we pay Ten Thousand Villages when we take delivery."
Headquartered in the Lancaster County, Pa. town of Akron
and New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada, Ten Thousand Villages goes into needy areas to teach various crafts through a consortium with individual countries. The artisans are paid a living wage, by the standards of each country, for their products, enabling them to become self-sufficient.
As one of the largest alternative trade organizations, Ten Thousand Villages pays one half the price of an order when it is placed and the balance when items are shipped to North America, according to its literature. "This procedure provides operating capital for the artisans to purchase raw materials and for craft groups to pay workers," Becker said.
WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION there are two types of stores, network and contract. Alexandria's store is a contract store. It purchases 90 percent of its merchandise from Ten Thousand Villages and the remainder from other alternative trade organizations. Network stores are operated exclusively by the Ten Thousand Villages organization.
"We are very reliant on volunteers," Becker said. "We are managed by a 10-member volunteer Board of Directors who also serve as store volunteers."