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Retail with Rhythm
Virginia Lawrence | Caminito del Rocio

from left: Alpaca lion on Kenyan bongo drum, Susan Joslin (sales associate), Elizabeth Paganelli (owner), Deanne Vay (store manager).   Photos Virginia Lawrence.
Click on images to enlarge.

In the market for a bongo drum from Kenya? You can purchase one at Fair Trade Décor in Del Mar. Or if you prefer, drop in on one of their free bongo lesson sessions offered a couple of times a month. Participants have included aspiring bongoists of all ages – from 4 to 90.

Motivated by a “passion for both decorative arts and human rights,” owners Elizabeth and Jude Paganelli opened Free Trade Décor in Del Mar in 2013. Elizabeth (a former Special Ed teacher) and Jude (a bio-medical engineer) select all their merchandise following the guidelines of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF). The FTF’s mission involves creating opportunities for artisans and farmers who live in poverty around the world to improve the quality of their lives, build their businesses, and improve their communities. Fair Trade Décor’s shelves are stocked with eco-friendly handcrafted products from 45 developing countries. Each product is accompanied by a story card showing a thumbnail map of the country of origin and portraying the artisan at work.

Owners Jude and Elizabeth Paganelli.
Pins on the world map behind them mark the sources of their imports.

In spite of the emphasis on the origin of each product, Elizabeth has chosen to arrange the merchandise not by country, but rather by aesthetics and color. Thus, a display table may have stoneware from Vietnam; ceramics from Turkey; mosaic glasses and stainless cutlery from India; teak napkin holders from Thailand; felted flowers from Nepal; and a flower vase made from recycled cotton wine bags which themselves were made from recycled tree-free fabric! The artisanal merchandise includes pillows, children’s clothing and toys, jewelry, greeting cards, women’s scarves, spices and jams, bicycle chain wine racks, wind chimes made from capiz shells or “jingle oysters” which grow on the sea floor in Java, wall decorations from Haiti made from recycled oil drums, a partially collapsed tequila bottle hand blown in Mexico - the way it probably would look anyway after two or three shots. The color, the quality, the quirkiness - everything captivates instantly.

Deanne Vay arranging Phoenician Glass from the West Bank.

In addition to its retail function, in order to “bring the San Diego community together,” Fair Trade Décor organizes free weekly events. Elizabeth hosts a book club for which anyone can sign up. Local bands play. Artisans demonstrate their crafts. One of their most popular events has been PechaKucha (chit-chat in Japanese) where participants gather to share their art and their passions. And don’t forget the bongo jams!

Fair Trade Décor is located on Camino Del Mar between 14th and 15th Streets (next to Bully’s). Opens at 10am daily. Closes at 6pm Sunday through Wednesday; closes at 9pm Thursday through Saturday.
(858) 461-1263.
For upcoming events go to: www.fairtradedecor.com/events/



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