Fair trade store leaves lasting legacy
Story & Photo by Peter Fleck
Pictured at the cash register, the manager of Red Deer’s Ten Thousand Villages location was still able to smile as the store wound down its operations in January.
In just over 10 years, the fair trade retailer serving Central Alberta has generated sales in excess of $2.5 million.
Tina Bale is able to celebrate that this money has helped sustain thousands of families around the globe.
Operated by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Ten Thousand Villages has a network of about 30 stores across Canada. It is committed to selling merchandise from developing countries in such a way that workers derive a fair, stable income.
The organization’s website reports that it currently carries products from more than 20,000 artisans in 27 countries. That includes a wide range of handcrafted items from trinkets to oriental rugs and dishes to musical instruments. Food products like coffee and chocolate are also available.
But Bale says the recent economic downturn in the province combined with a dwindling retail market led the local board to permanently close operations as of January 27. The Ten Thousand Villages outlet in Lethbridge closed just a month earlier.
In Alberta, shoppers will still have access to two stores in Calgary and one in Edmonton in addition to the opportunity to buy online. Fortunately for coffee customers, Bale arranged for the Pure outlet situated next door to begin carrying the Level Ground Trading brand which is also available at Fisher’s Pharmasave in Lacombe.
Beginning as a volunteer, Bale has managed the store for just over four years. She says that she’ll greatly miss both the customers and contingent of 40 volunteers.
Frequenting the store during the final weeks with reduced pricing was loyal customer, Courtney Doerksen. Having shopped there since opening day, his mother, Doris, was responsible for bringing the store to town, and his father, Victor, served as board president.
To have it close, Doerksen says, “It’s like you’re going to be missing a friend.”
Not alone in his grieving, Bale shares, “We’ve had customers cry over the closure of the store.”