In the midst of global uncertainty, Ten Thousand Villages is working to make a difference.
The nonprofit retailer offers handcrafted, ethically sourced goods made by artisans all over the world, and now they’ve expanded into San Pedro. Originally hailing from Redondo Beach, Ten Thousand Villages has set up shop at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles, making its offerings of sustainable, fair trade products available to San Pedro shoppers. Customers can explore merchandise ranging from charming kitchen decor and quaint jewelry to adorable children’s toys and more, all while supporting a movement that puts “people and planet first.”
The store is volunteer-run, and most of the volunteers are previous customers who enjoy the product. The store is constantly recruiting. Store manager Michelle Dever-Ryan believes customers are drawn to the store’s core values and mission. “The whole purpose behind the store is that we are selling products made by people who wouldn’t have an opportunity to get their things to market in the U.S. if it wasn’t for Ten Thousand Villages,” Dever-Ryan says. “Also, because we’re fair trade, they know [the merchants] are paid a fair, sustainable living wage and have great working conditions.”
The store’s founder Tom Hoffarth became interested in fair trade products in 2012. Shortly after, Hoffarth and his wife launched the physical store in Redondo Beach. Originally, the two experimented with the store for the parishioners at American Martyrs in Manhattan Beach, but after seeing the love for the products, they decided to expand.
“The crafted items felt like they were from a museum store,” says Hoffarth. “They were just so creative and resourceful and used all earth-friendly products, and I mean, they were pieces of art in a lot of ways.”
The Hoffarths and a few of their friends began to search for donors and eventually found a landlord that understood the mission of the store. Ten Thousand Villages settled in Riviera Village in Redondo Beach and opened its doors in the summer of 2014.
“The key part of this fair trade is that the person who made this gets a fair and living wage,” says Hoffarth. “In the negotiation for how this product is made, we talk to them about what you need as far as supplies and materials and labor.”
The difference that lies within fair trade as opposed to conventional transactions is the conversation between the maker of the product and the company buying it. All over the world, whether it be Burkina Faso or Peru, Ten Thousand Villages is helping artists earn a sustainable living wage.
“A company often goes into these countries and says, ‘We will pay you X amount of dollars to make this, take it or leave it,’” explains Hoffarth. “Often the person making it says, ‘Well I need the business, so we need to do this.’”
After a long career in retail, Dever-Ryan enjoys continuing to learn about fair trade. She’s been working for Ten Thousand Villages for a year now and has fallen in love with her position. “I’ve been in retail [for] 20 years, so a lot of this is entirely different for me, but it is impacting lives,” shares Dever-Ryan. “[In] most of our artisan groups, the workers are women, so [for] some of them, it’s keeping them out of sex trafficking. [For] others, it’s just giving them the opportunity to support their families, because they might not have a man in their life to do so, and they’re coming from cultures [where] that’s what the expectation is.”
Dever-Ryan’s favorite products are those made from repurposed saris. The products include patterned bags, colorful baby blankets, and unique cushions.
Both Hoffarth and Dever-Ryan are passionate about helping those in need get the sustainable wages they deserve in order to create products that can be sold in the United States. “What can we do to help people around the world stay in their countries, keep their children safe, get their children educated, and stay out of human trafficking?” asks Hoffarth. “Ten Thousand Villages feels like the perfect model we can all get our arms around and explain and support.”
Those looking to get a head start on holiday shopping can find Ten Thousand Villages at Crafted on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m.–6 p.m. with COVID-19 safety protocols in effect. spt
For more info, visit tenthousandvillages.com.