By Kris Grant
Just in time for Christmas, Fair Trade Décor is opening at 828 Orange Ave., offering unique, eco-friendly, handmade goods from 45 countries. The store’s owners, Elizabeth and Jude Paganelli, are members of the Fair Trade Federation, a U.S.-based organization of retailers, wholesalers, nonprofits and artisan groups. Federation members strive to create positive change — socially, economically and environmentally — by working with artisans and small farmers in holistic partnerships built on trust.
The Paganellis moved to Coronado a year ago from Carmel Valley, after their children had graduated college and established careers. Elizabeth is a former special education teacher who was seeking, and found, a new venture in 2010.
Elizabeth and Jude, who heads a medical device development company in Solana Beach, became intrigued with the concept of offering products that could promote positive change in the world. The decision to start a fair trade business involved the entire family, with initial research by the couple, followed by help in launching the business from their two children and two nephews.
Elizabeth began by selling at farmers markets. Soon she needed a store to handle her rapidly expanding inventory and growing clientele and opened Fair Trade Décor in Del Mar in 2013; it was the first fair trade store in San Diego County.
Fair Trade Décor stocks home goods that are both practical and striking in their design. Unlike most merchandise stocked at big box retail stores, there is not the ubiquitous “Made in China” stamp on every item.
Instead, all products include handy ID tags that describe the item and its country of origin; the backside includes vital information on the country. “Education is a big part of our mission,” Elizabeth said. “Not only do we as merchants know who our vendors are, we share their stories with our customers.”
Prices are surprisingly moderate, which Elizabeth says promotes more commerce. “We really do want to impact as many lives as we can, to help raise people out of poverty,” she said. “Keeping prices low means we can place more orders with our vendors.”
The eclectic product mix includes whimsical clocks, wall art, bedspreads, blankets, baskets and pillows. You’ll find woven hampers from Senegal, jute baskets from Bangladesh, batik pillows from Ghana, and capiz shell wind chimes from Indonesia, along with distinctively different dinnerware, flatware, tablecloths and runners and drinkware. The store also carries an extensive array of jewelry and children’s items.
And with every purchase, customers take home the good feelings that come from helping to sustain an artisan, a family or maybe an entire community in a distant port.