Local Fair Trade boutique celebrates one year, reopens for the holidays
Trade As One, an online Fair Trade sales company based in Santa Cruz, first opened their boutique store on the Westside on “Black Friday” last year. Now, a year later, the boutique store has reopened its doors for the holidays, extending their business hours until the end of the year.
Nathan George, the founder and CEO of Trade As One. started the business with his wife, Catherine George, when the couple moved from England to Santa Cruz five years ago. They’d hoped to tap into the surge of success and growth that Fair Trade was experiencing in Europe at the time. George, who spent 18 years in the software industry prior to opening Trade as One, confesses that it’s “not a surprise that Santa Cruz embraces Fair Trade.”
“It’s such fertile ground, people here are well-educated, understand international issues, and support issues of social justice,” says George. “I think if we were trying to start what we were starting at the time in other places in the country it may not have been as well received.”
Trade as One is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, which, according to the mission statement on its website, is a “trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to fair trade … sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty.” George echoes many of the same beliefs as the Fair Trade Federation, especially when the topics of poverty and charity arise.
“We’re a business, but we’re a business that exists to make the world a better place,” says George. ”People love the fact that this isn’t just a nonprofit charity model, this is a way of using sustainable business practices to change the world for good. Charity does not fix poverty. The only thing that anybody knows that fixes poverty, long-term, is job creation; it’s enterprise. And I believe in enterprise and I believe businesses are the only way to lift people out of poverty.”
Santa Cruz is home to another, equally popular economic trend: buying locally. The movement to support local businesses over all others gained momentum during the recession, and is a popular route for locals to take when it comes to holiday shopping. Peter Beckerman, co-chair of the Santa Cruz County Think Local First, says that the two—buying Fair Trade and buying local—are not mutually exclusive. He explains that buying Fair Trade registers on Think Local First’s “hierarchy” of products.
“There is a hierarchy in the Think Local world of purchasing goods and services locally,” Beckerman writes in an email to GT. “One, locally-owned business in my hometown where products are 100 percent produced here (very rare). Two, locally-owned business in my hometown where products are produced somewhere else. Three, locally-owned business in another town.”
Beckerman believes that this hierarchy gives consumers a chance to better understand where products are coming from.
“The emphasis is on locally-owned vs. online corporations,” he continues. “Fair Trade is usually a locally-owned concept, i.e. buying Fair Trade (from another region) from a locally-owned [business] here is a good option.”
Trade as One falls into this latter category of Beckerman’s: the company is a locally owned operation and their products, while not made in Santa Cruz, still support the “locally-owned” concept, just in another part of the world.
George, who has seen Fair Trade be dubbed a “left-wing, socialist, pot-smoking, hippie kind of thing,” says that in fact the Fair Trade system is full of “red-blooded capitalists.” Trade as One, though, unlike many capitalist ventures, does not see their competition as being with other Fair Trade sellers, or even with other businesses in the same town.
“The main competition is the way in which people go about not engaging,” says George. “[In not] asking, ‘For the product I’m about to buy, what does the chain of production, all the way back to the first person who made it, look like?’
It’s in the large consumer economy’s interest to keep that chain opaque because then it can do whatever it needs to do to maximize profit downstream, even at the expense of people and the environment, in order to get a product at a price that they think can beat their competition.”
The Trade as One store reopened officially on Friday, Nov. 25, or “Black Friday,” with an event titled “Fair Is the New Black.” The event featured post-consumer art that George finds particularly relevant to the Fair Trade cause.
“A lot of the products that we sell are post-consumer items, so we thought it would be really cool to have an art exhibition of local artists and their post-consumer works, to show that there is a connection between the materials that are used in the production of these items and the people who produce them,” says George. “The world considers many of the people that make the items we sell, the world considers to be refuse, they have been used and thrown away, so it’s about picking up those people, those things, and turning them into something of value and that’s what we love doing.”
Trade as One, 332 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, 429-1900, tradeasone.com.