Sandwiched between the glittering Crystal Room and the Conservatory at The Little Traveler in Geneva is a new department.
Like the store's other departments, it sells beautiful things for the home and body: scarves, jewelry, soap, coffee, tea, fountains, baskets and more.
But a shopper can feel especially good about making a purchase in the Fair Trade Gallery, as the merchandise is made by people being fairly paid for their work, according to store owner Mike Simon and Gallery manager/buyer Annette Shamloo.
"The feeling is that this is retail with a soul," Shamloo said. "You are truly helping to change somebody's life."
The Little Traveler opened the Fair Trade Gallery two weeks ago at the suggestion of Simon's wife, Nancy. She likes to buy fair trade items, and told her husband it was hard to find such items at shops in Geneva.
The Gallery is in one of the former antiques rooms in the warren of three dozen departments at the 92-year-old store at 404 S. Third St.
This is not charity, Simon and Shamloo emphasize. The goal is to give artisans access they normally wouldn't have to the United States market. The companies that import the goods pledge the suppliers that are featured, such as Ten Thousand Villages and Fair Grounds, promise to work with the artisans to develop their businesses. Some of the price tags are signed by the workers.
The fair trade movement began about 60 years ago, according to the World Fair Trade Organization. It focuses mainly on selling goods produced in the Southern Hemisphere to buyers in the Northern Hemisphere. The Little Traveler gallery has about 800 items for sale; among the 40 or so countries of origin are Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nepal, Java and Ghana.
Suppliers, producers and sellers who are in the WFTO try to abide by 10 charter principles regarding pay, supporting economic practices that don't hurt small businesses, not using child or forced labor, paying men and women equally, working with producers to improve their business skills, encouraging safe working environments and more. Some of the lines The Little Traveler sells support health education, malaria prevention, secondary education, management education and computer literacy.
Asked to name a favorite item, Shamloo demurred, but Simon immediately picked up a market basket made in Ghana. The importer is a former Peace Corps volunteer to Ghana, and money from the sales has been used to install wells to supply clean drinking water, he said.
"It's soulful and awesome. I feel fortunate to be part of it," said Shamloo, who is looking forward to field trips to meet some of the artisans.