Within Old Town Square there lies a small retail outlet called 10,000 Villages which stands out from all other retailers in the United States.
Based out on Pennsylvania, 10,000 villages is a far reaching non-profit organization that has over 350 store locations in the United States alone, and a division in Canada that operates separately but towards the same goal and similar interests.
Only two of those stores are located in Colorado but continue to expand and encompass more clientele.
The location in Fort Collins has been opened for 16 years and is a “contract store,” meaning that it was built upon community demand and impulse whereas their company stores are decided by their main office.
Assistant manager Stacy Koeckeritz describes the retailer as an, “organization created by women to support women.” Although, that is Koeckeritz’s personal description she later adds that the retailer is not exclusively run by women even though that is its highest demographic to hire.
10,000 Villages acts as a medium between producers and sellers as well as a retailer and wholesaler where they sell to over 300 other retailers in the United States alone, including a store in Boulder, Momentum.
The main premise behind 10,000 villages is to get local hand-crafted products from the developing countries to the same market as the mass produced markets like those that come from China.
With the groups that Villages partners with are based in over 30 countries that range from Asia, Latin America, Africa, Middle East and East Asia. The created partnerships are typically a lifetime involvement or last for a number of years to provide a constant stream of employment for those creating the products.
These countries that Villages are partnered with do not have an export or tourist market and must rely on Villages to provide the help to further develop their communities and expand their operations.
“Here at 10,000 Villages we are more about empowerment than hand-outs. These communities typically have all the necessities they need but need this empowerment to develop a stronger community with a well-established education. Along with providing a fair trade and fair wage.” Koeckeritz said.
With multiple artist groups per country, 10,000 Villages efficiently and effectively help those communities by paying 50% up front to cover their costs for production and develop relationships with those communities. These artists are not single artists but rather co-op workshops and family run workshops that total to over 500 groups they have relationships with.
“We can see their business grow and hire more workers,” Koeckeritz said.
1,500 products decorate the store front and attract both new and repeat shoppers that vary in age and gender. According to Koeckeritz, repeat shoopers tend to by 2nd hand and seek equity behind the product and how it was made, doing so creates a transparency between the producer and the product.
“Our repeat shoppers don’t consume as a way of life but rather as a conscientious consumer.”
Merchandise at 10,000 villages is comprised of products that are environmentally conscientious and recycled from what would have been waste such as cut-metal from Haiti that is made from oil drums. Merchandise is sold from what is most popular and features new products every month with some exceptions of one-time things.
“I believe passionately in this business and what it does. We can indulge people’s desire into products that they are aware of that do not put the producers into slavery or causing them health issues or environment issues,” Koeckeritz said.
10,000 Villages has tabled at the Enslaved event at CSU in the beginning of March along with an informational table at the TEDx event around the same time.
Villages seeks to inform anyone who stops by about their business, mission and their products and on May 14th International Fair Trade Day, they seek to host a Festival with local music and giveaways to promote their image.
With a handful of foreign volunteers and hiring new volunteers with monthly orientations, 10,000 Villages seeks to spread their message and involve anyone who is interested and wishes to break down barriers.
Koeckeritz’s personal thoughts of Villages are as followed, “I love this job because it is a non-threatening environment to gather and share information. Nothing feels forced onto you.”
Established in 1946 by Edna Ruth Byler, 10,000 Villages rapidly expanded and flourished outside of Byler’s basement to the Mennonite Central Committee and keeping true to Byler’s passion to improve the lives of the people who live in poverty in these developing countries. Byler, who then, purchased products from those people, then sold them back home to neighbors.
Before 1996; 10,000 Villages went by the name Self Help Crafts and has continued to build relationships with the communities they purchase from and help aid in their development and community.
Collegian A&C Reporter Connor DeBlieck can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @CDeBlieck1995