While many shoppers this holiday season focus on purchasing local products, Barbara Senn reminds that fair trade items make desirable, socially-conscious gifts, too.
"Buying fair trade is hand-in-hand with buying local," says Senn, the manager of Four Corners of the World Fair Trade Store, 5401 W. Vliet St.
Four Corners is a fair trade gift shop featuring an array of items from 35 developing countries including Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nepal, Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan and more.
"Especially now, with the messed-up economy, supporting small businesses is really important," says Senn. "The big box stores will be fine, but it’s the little guys that are at risk."
The volunteer Board of Directors of the Southeastern Wisconsin Initiative owns Four Corners, and Senn has served as the manager for a year.
"I never knew I could have a job that I actually liked," says Senn.
Fair trade, in simplest terms, ensures workers are paid fair wages and have humane working conditions. Plus, fair trade agreements allow workers to stay in their villages, instead of being forced to move to larger cities, or the U.S., to try to earn money.
All the items for sale at Four Corners are guaranteed to be fair trade. The Fair Trade Federation thoroughly investigates each group that applies for fair trade status, and the process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.
"In my opinion, the longer it takes, the better," says Senn. "The longer it takes, the more seriously we know they’re taking it."
Four Corners is well arranged and filled with colorful merchandise and lots of natural light. The medium-sized shop features handcrafted jewelry, hand-knit hats and mittens, bags and purses, a large selection of musical instruments, ornaments and holiday decorations, chocolate, coffee, candles, clothing, hair accessories and more.
The prices are reasonable, with most items $20 or under.
"The knit hats and mittens are my favorites for fun, affordable gifts," says Senn.
Four Corners has been in its current space for over a year. Prior to the Vliet Street location, the business was on North Avenue.
A second objective of Four Corners is to provide education to the public regarding fair trade and sustainable policies. Many of the items for sale are made from recycled materials.
"The store is a concrete and positive step toward transforming an otherwise unjust and unsustainable economic order," says Senn.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.