A Fair Trade Store in New Ulm? Why Not Here?

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey Board Chair Jeanie Hinsman (left) and Treasurer Vicki Sieve (right) stand in front of the fair-trade market’s sign that customers will see upon entering Nadel Kunst’s store front.

NEW ULM — A new shop is hoping to use shopping to facilitate being a responsible global citizen in New Ulm.

Fair-trade market New Ulm’s Own is opening at 212 N. Minnesota St. Friday, May 12, the day before World Fair Trade Day. The shop will sell fair-trade products from around the world to raise money for local charities.

“We really expected to open in June but when we saw that was World Fair Trade Day and the theme was opening doors we just thought ‘we’ve got to scurry and get this done and be open for that day,'” Board Chair Jeanie Hinsman said.

On World Fair Trade Day, the shop will serve refreshments, draw names for gifts and distribute coupons.

The market will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays at first. It plans on staying open until 8 p.m. during the Cruise-in events held by the Chamber of Commerce.

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey Board Member Barbara Olson sorts scarves in New Ulm’s Own as they begin to stock the shop in preparation for opening.

For 2017, funds raised will be donated to the NUMAS House. After that, the market will consider changing its beneficiaries, depending on the needs of local organization.

“Our overriding mission is to support marginalized women, globally and locally,” Hinsman said. “We are doing that globally because 85 percent of fair-trade merchandise is made by women who are the support of their family.”

The shop will also contain an art gallery with art for sale to display works by artists from New Ulm or within 20 miles of it. Art depicting New Ulm symbols such as the Hermann Monument can also be displayed.

Hinsman decided to open the market after spending years shopping in fair-trade stores and asking “Why can’t New Ulm have one of these?”

“One shop that I frequent is in Cedar Falls, Iowa and the last time I was there was February 2016 and the very same words came out of my mouth, ‘Why can’t New Ulm have one of these?'” Hinsman said. “It was like a lightbulb just went on, maybe I was the person who was supposed to do it.”

New Ulm's Own logo.

She did, by rounding up some like-minded people. After almost a year of preparation, the women decided to perform a test run for the products.

They began selling products in churches around the Christmas season. A successful run meant they were confident enough to secure a location behind Nadel Kunst.

What is fair trade?

Fair trade is a reorganization of the supply chain of international trade to achieve more equal, transparent and sustainable trade for the benefit of marginalized producers and workers, according to the World Fair Trade Organization’s (WFTO) website.

WTFO lists 10 principles that must be followed in an organization’s daily practice. The principles are: creating opportunities for disadvantaged producers, transparency and accountability, fair trade practices, fair payment, no child or forced labor, no discrimination, good working conditions, building capacity for small producers, promoting fair trade and respecting the environment.

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey Local artists are able to display and sell some of their work in New Ulm’s Own. Pictured are Curtis Lanis’s painting and John Olson’s photography.

New Ulm’s Own and shops like it get their products from suppliers dedicated to fair trade, such as Ten Thousand Villages or Serrv (Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation).

“Fair trade works with artisans in developing nations and it sets up a way for them to have a sustainable income,” Hinsman said. “Handcrafted products are the second-largest economic source for people around the world, next to agriculture.”

Many suppliers started as religious groups. Serrv was started by members of the Church of the Brethren to assist German refugees after World War II.

Fair trade watchdogs like WTFO work to register shops and guarantee they are following fair trade principles.

WTFO’s system includes five components to guarantee compliance. Among them are an admission procedure, self assessment, peer visits and a system for the public to report non-compliance, according to its website.

“Buying at fair trade is shopping for good, because you are not just purchasing a product because you want it but you know you are contributing to somebody else’s welfare in a way that you are not when it is multinational corporations that are exploiting their workers,” Hinsman said.

New Ulm’s Own is non-profit, currently applying for a 501c3 non-profit license. During May, the shop will not be taking on new volunteers.

Anyone interested in volunteering can stop by, but the shop will wait until June to work out kinks before bringing more people on board.

For more information call New Ulm’s Own at (507) 354-3450. To learn more about fair trade in general visit wtfo.com.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.