Fair Trade Winds Adds International Significance to Local Shopping Experience

New store in Stony Brook Village is part of a growing consciousness of quality of life in developing nations.

Fair Trade Winds in the Stony Brook Village Center has only been open for a few weeks, but co-owner Susan Conard is excited about the response she is already getting from the community.

"They seem to be excited that we're there," she said. "They seem to think there was a need in the community."

At her store, Conard stocks certified fair trade products like coffee, chocolate, soaps, candles, jewelry, glassware and pottery, handbags, scarves, art, and more. It all comes from artisans and growers in developing nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who are paid a fair price for their wares, and who form co-ops which sell directly to merchants like Conard to cut out the so-called middle man. That's the underlying concept of fair trade, according to Ed Quinn, a local expert on fair trade.

"It really raises the standard of living for the farmers, but it also raises the standard of living for the community in which it's located," said Quinn, who will be giving a talk today at 7:30 p.m. at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library entitled "Fair Trade: Turning Profits into Premiums."

Fair trade practices not only support the producers, Quinn said, but they also support community development, as the co-ops make sure part of the profits go towards community projects like building bridges and schools and ensuring access to clean water. Part of the fair trade concept, he added, is that child labor and forced labor are not permitted, which allows children in developing countries to attend school rather than work.

In 2009, the number of fair trade stores in the U.S. increased by ten percent to 813, according to the annual almanac published by TransFair USA, an 11-year-old organization supporting fair trade.

"It's a lot more available, but still it's a very small percentage of total international trade market," Quinn said.

He called the opening of Fair Trade Winds in Stony Brook a positive move.

"That community is helping another community," he said.

The store is bright and inviting. When you browse through Fair Trade Winds, you'll often notice cards and labels on the products that tell the stories of the people who created them.

Conard, who has worked as a mortgage underwriter at a Melville firm for the past 19 years, opened the store because she felt the need to "do something different." Opening the store amid the nation's current shaky economic climate was risky, she said, but she was encouraged by the success of the two Fair Trade Winds stores owned by her brother and partner Paul Culler. One is located in Bar Harbor, Maine, the other in Fairfax, Va.

"Although it is risky, I feel the time has come to have a marketplace for this type of thing," Conard said. "Timing may seem a little odd, but for me personally it was time to do something."

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