2018-08-01 / Shorts

Global Goods

Ten Thousand Villages finds a new home in State College.
Will Desautelle

Baskets handwoven in Bangladesh, Nepalese singing bowls, brightly patterned scarves from India, pendant necklaces with Peruvian stones: These are some of the beautiful treasures of the world, and soon you won’t have to be a globetrotter to find them.

After launching fundraising efforts in early 2017, a local group is opening a Ten Thousand Villages store in State College. The new store, which sells fair-trade goods handmade by artisans in developing countries, is expected to open in September at 1341 S. Atherton St. between One Main Financial and Lychee Resto.

Joel Weidner, chair of the Ten Thousand Villages of Central Pennsylvania board, had been connected with Ten Thousand Villages long before the company thought of adding a store location in the area. A member of the Penn State University Mennonite Church, Weidner became familiar with Ten Thousand Villages through their annual sale at the church for the past 20 years.

Founded in 1946, Ten Thousand Villages’ mission is to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to developed nations through long-term, fair-trading relationships. The nonprofit works with artisans in more than 30 countries in Asia, Central America and Africa. When Weidner retired from Penn State in 2016, he embarked on a mission to open a Ten Thousand Villages store in State College.

“I thought it would be a good retirement project,” Weidner says. “In early 2016 we had Ten Thousand Villages meet with a group of supporters to look at the area and talk to us about what it would take.

They told us that this looks like something that could work and that we had a good core group for us to start working on it.”

Local volunteers are also a crucial part of Ten Thousand Villages’ business. These volunteers will help with the day-to-day operations of the store but also serve as evangelists, spreading the word about the store’s mission.

Photos courtesy Ten Thousand Villages of Central PennsylvaniaPhotos courtesy Ten Thousand Villages of Central Pennsylvania“We’re a retail store, but we’re really a nonprofit store and our mission is to create sustainable development around the world, so it’s important to explain to people what we’re about, and volunteers will have a role with that,” Weidner says.

One of the goals for the new store will be to market to a wider range of customers. Weidner explains that the primary demographic for the business in the past has been women between the ages of 30 and 55.

“Ten Thousand Villages is now doing plenty of customer demographics research and marketing analysis with the goal of expanding that demographic, especially to younger people starting at around age 20,” Weidner says. “We know that we’re going to be in a college town with lots of 18- to 22-year-olds, so we’re going to work to reach out to that demographic.”

Above all, Weidner hopes that the new store will help to broaden people’s perspectives by noticing that all of the products are handmade by artisans working to better their lives for themselves and their families.

“These are products that are also not going to be readily found in State College, so we’re hoping that people realize there is a whole world out there that is somewhat different from us, but at the very heart, they are the same.” •SCM

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