Although a sign in the window said would not be reopening until Monday, some shoppers begged Ellen Cummings for a chance to peruse the products as she was working on setting up the store on Sunday. So the first sale under new ownership happened before the shop had even officially opened its doors.
“We thought that was a good omen,” said Cummings.
Cummings, who shopped at the business since its opening, decided to purchase it after former owners Marcie Boyer and David Lewis decided to close the shop in June. Boyer said they made the decision in order to spend more time with their families. Cummings said she considers the store more of a mission than a business.
“To me what’s really important is to get the message out about fair trade,” said Cummings.
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Boyer said she was happy with the sale because of her interaction with Cummings over the years. She said Cummings' daughter once volunteered at the store, and she considers that Cummings has the same dedication to fair trade as she and Lewis did.
"It's not always easy selling a business. There's a lot of discussions that have to be had," said Boyer. "But we were really excited."
Flavours of Life is the only fair trade store in southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island. Products in the store come from artisans in several countries and include a number of recycled or “upcycled” products, such as handbags and wallets made from discarded tires.
Under fair trade principles, the North American Fair Trade Federation visits businesses to ensure that they comply with a number of standards. These include safe working conditions, a fair wage for artisans, no child labor, equal opportunities for men and women, sustainable practices, and public accountability.
Although this is Cummings’ first experience in running a retail store, she said Boyer helped her with the transition. Boyer said she covered all aspects of running the store, including finances and customers' favorite products.
"It's a lot of things that you don't really think about until you have to explain it to someone else," said Boyer.
Over the summer, the building’s landlord renovated the space and Cummings purchased new stock. Cummings bought a number of new products from the New York International Gift Fair and has ordered a variety of multicultural children’s books.
“It’s been going great,” said Cummings. “We’ve had a lot of visitors. Some people knew it was opening day. Some people just came in off the street.”
Cummings is also changing the store’s hours to keep the shop open in the evening three days a week. The store will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Boyer and Lewis , selling products from 25 countries. They sold products from a tent at festivals before moving into a 600-square-foot store. They moved into the current space at 86 Bank Street, with 1,250 square feet of space, after outgrowing their old store.