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Mary Embry
IU Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, August 24, 2009

Fair trade store with branches in Indy opening in Bloomington’s downtown square

IU lecturer, student volunteers join Fair Trade Bloomington group to launch new nonprofit

Aug. 24, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington lecturer Mary Embry will help oversee the opening of a new, not-for-profit fair trade store, Global Gifts, in collaboration with the Indianapolis-based Global Gifts stores and Fair Trade Bloomington.

The store is expected to open Aug. 25 at 122 N. Walnut St. with grand opening celebrations scheduled for Sept. 11-12 from10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The grand opening will include in-store activities, free fair trade coffee and chocolate samples, live music and a ten percent discount on all merchandise.

Embry, a lecturer in IU's Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design and faculty liaison to the campus chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), said she has been intrigued by the concept of fair trade since the early '90s, when she heard it discussed during conversations related to the North American Free Trade Act. For years, she drove to Indianapolis to volunteer for Global Gifts, the fair trade store nearest Bloomington.

store photo

Photo by Aaron Bernstein

Global Gifts

Print-Quality Photo

"My dream was always to open a globally oriented store," Embry said. After successfully increasing the presence of SIFE and that group's projects -- including annual fair trade holiday sales in Bloomington -- Embry, with some assistance from SIFE student volunteers, began working with Fair Trade Bloomington and Global Gifts on fund-raising and other details necessary to open the store.

"The fair trade project started as just raising awareness about fair trade products other than coffee and chocolate," Embry said, adding that she has personally experienced Global Gifts stores as "more than retail stores."

"They're special places with extraordinary, culturally descriptive products that also create a community of supporters and volunteers connected by global social justice and environmental concerns," Embry said. "It's very exciting to me to have this resource in Bloomington."

Sam Carpenter, the general manager of Global Gifts -- with stores currently located in Indianapolis at 86th and Ditch, and downtown on Massachusetts Avenue -- said the first Global Gifts store was founded 21 years ago by volunteers with the Mennonite church, though Global Gifts has since become a separate organization.

"We're purchasing mostly handcrafted items made by folks in developing or Third World countries -- most often they're people who don't have another outlet to sell their items," said Carpenter, adding that some fair trade artisans have physical disabilities or live in isolated areas.

store photo

Photo by Aaron Bernstein

Global Gifts manager Dave Debikey, right,works with volunteers Aug. 24 to prepare for the store opening Aug. 25.

Print-Quality Photo

"We purchase from these groups to make sure they're paid a fair price based on their local economy," Carpenter said. "They also receive business development assistance on what sort of product is going to be popular in Western markets, and they're paid 50 percent in advance when orders place so they have money for materials and supplies. That's what fair trade is about -- as well as not exploiting children or workers, and environmental sustainability in how things are produced."

The Global Gifts mission statement is to:

  • provide vital, fair income and employment for people of limited opportunity;
  • market ethically produced and ethically obtained handmade products;
  • educate the public about the cultures and traditions associated with the items sold; and
  • help consumers spend their shopping dollars in ways that benefit impoverished people around the world.

Dave Debikey, store manager for the Bloomington Global Gifts, said that while he is a paid staff member and the store will have two part-time, paid employees, the shop will otherwise be entirely staffed by volunteers. "I'm hoping we will find the opportunity to work with all age groups," he said. "Part of being in Bloomington is the diversity of different backgrounds and cultures, but also different age groups. We'd like to see a lot of that diversity here in the store, too."

Volunteers helped physically build the store, which once housed Natural Elements, adding electrical wiring, painting and even constructing the sales counter.

In addition to selling items including greeting cards, bags, scarves, platters, vases, toys and wall hangings, the store will offer events to explain the fair trade philosophy. In October, an artisan from Kenya will visit the Bloomington Global Gifts to demonstrate her artistic techniques and discuss how she has benefitted from fair trade practices.

Embry said having Global Gifts in Bloomington will provide year-round access to both beautiful products and producers' stories from 35 different countries.

"It will offer the opportunity to introduce many more to the creativity and uniqueness of fair trade products -- and give our loyal shoppers year-round access to the gifts that so many fall in love with during our holiday sales," said Embry.

Embry said Global Gifts came to fruition in part through the constant interest from IU students over the past four years, and that IU student volunteers will likely contribute many hours to running the store. "The store ups the ante in the types of service-learning projects students can be involved in, ranging from simple volunteering to exploring the 'nuts and bolts' of social entrepreneurship," she said.

Global Gifts will regularly be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information about Global Gifts, see To arrange an interview with Mary Embry, please contact Jennifer Piurek, 812-856-4886,