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One Fair World (formerly known as Ten Thousand Villages) began 2000 as a dream by a group of resourceful people who had no retail experience but were excited by the idea of bringing a fair-trade store to Salem.

The richness and beauty of international, handcrafted items drew us to the project, but mostly the idea that a business could be operated to help others brought this group of people together.

When we learned that Self Help Crafts, a small store that had operated in Dallas for 15 years, was closing, the idea began germinating that opening a similar fair-trade store in Salem might be possible. After many fundraising efforts, we were ready to open a Ten Thousand Villages seasonal store in the Reed Opera House, which would test the waters about how Salem would receive such a venture.

We were set to open in mid-September 2001. Then the 9/11 tragedy occurred. We wondered whether there would be a backlash of anti-foreign feeling that would sink our store before it even got started. To our gratification, we experienced a wonderfully warm reception from the Salem community.

Many times we heard from customers the belief that people in developing, disadvantaged countries needed opportunities to have employment, fair income and hope as a balance to the anger and despair that seemed to be reflected in the attack made on the United States.

In June 2002, we moved to our permanent and current location at 474 Court St. NE. Being in a historic building in a constantly revitalizing downtown Salem has been a big asset for us. Actively participating in the downtown business community and in the broader Salem-area community has been key to our success.

Although our store is committed to the mission of alleviating poverty in developing countries, the way we accomplish that is by being a viable business.

The balance between business objectives and mission goals is a stimulating and challenging one. We are not profit-driven (we are a nonprofit), but we still have to pay our bills in order to be a marketplace for the artisans and food producers who need to sell their products so they can feed, clothe and educate their families. We are guided by ethical business practices as well as using best sales practices to survive in the competitive retail environment.

Creating a welcoming experience is key to retaining customers. In a recent customer survey, Melissa described her store experience: "Peaceful, enlightened and motivated by the artists around the world. I am reminded of the poverty but moved by their perseverance."

Pat said: "I love this store and I've bought myself and others many unique gifts here. I feel so great buying from other countries in need."

And customer Karen said: "In a few short minutes I can shop my way through three continents! Exhilarating! Enjoyable!"

Our volunteers, who are essential to our success, bring dedication, creativity and skill to a variety of tasks. Volunteer Allison O'Grady said, "I enjoy the opportunity to learn about artisans and see their amazing work; I feel like I am making a difference."

In Salem, there are people with many stories who have lived, worked and traveled throughout the world. We are not a provincial backwater but a lively meeting place of people with intriguing tales and broad interests - we meet them every day coming through the doors of our store. Further, we are a community of people who care about those in need throughout the world.

"Many little people in many small places undertaking modest actions can transform the world" - African proverb.


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