Thursday, March 12, 2015

Plowshare Marketplace

Every time I go shopping with my mom in downtown Waukesha, we have to make a stop at Plowshare Marketplace. It is my mom's favorite shop and I love checking out the ever-changing inventory of Fair Trade goods. I asked the store manager, Sara if I could chat with her and get a bit more about the store. She happily obliged and I am excited to share the story with all of you. 

Sara has been the manager of Plowshare Marketplace since 2011 but the store is in its 26th year in Waukesha. It was the first Fair Trade shop in Wisconsin! It moved from the middle of downtown to it's current location in the Avalon Square building in 2008, allowing for more room and a reorganization of the store.

The store is divided by category - clothing, food, toys, jewelry, etc and has products from approximately 30 developing nations. My personal favorites are the scarves and clothing. I attended Plowshare Center's fashion show last fall and was able to see the fashion on local models and really had the chance to see how things looked off the hanger. I am a big fan and love the hooded sweatshirt I picked up at the sale.

So what is "fair trade" and what makes this store unique? I think Plowshare's website explains it best.

Sara shared with me that the artisans are given half of their payment in advance for the goods requested so they can purchase the materials. Unlike other artists that need to wait for the items to be sold and have to sell the products themselves, these artisans are paid upon completion of the goods and its up to stores like Plowshare and other Fair Trade organizations to then sell the goods. And of course these artisans are paid a fair wage for their goods to help them prosper.

I asked Sara her favorite part of working at Plowshare Marketplace and being an artist herself and a (fellow) Carroll Alumi with a Fine Arts degree, she loves the shopping. It's a great mix of art and culture. She knows the hard work that went into creating each and every piece in her store and it gives her pride to display them. These items are unique and one of a kind.

Sara hasn't had the opportunity to travel to the countries that Plowshare purchases from, but if she was given the opportunity to travel, Nepal and Ecuador top her list.

Sara has so much passion in sharing Plowshare Marketplace and the story with me. "We are a generation that can make an impact in the world and bring more social awareness." So powerful and so true. When I need to get a present for someone and wasn't given a specific idea, I usually head to Plowshare because I know I will find a one-of-a-kind gift that has a great message behind it. Not to mention, the A-List also named them one of the best gift shops in the Milwaukee area.

Plowshare offers a number of rewards clubs on their food products. They have coffee, tea and chocolate clubs, chocolate being the most popular of course. They are all plans that you buy a certain number of the product and then get your next one free. The rewards cards are kept on site in a file, so there is no need to remember to bring it with you. And the clubs have no expiration date! They also have a birthday club that offers you a discount. 

Plowshare Marketplace hopes to revamp its website in the next few months and unveil a new loyalty club for frequent shoppers. With the new website, they are hoping to start offering some items online for purchase. It would be limited, but Fair Trade shopping, so every new direction can only help right?

So next time you are in town, take a gander through the shop! They even have these beautiful baskets to use (or buy) when shopping through the store.

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