Made By Hand keeps trade fair in South Bethany
Dr. Kimberly Grimes has pretty much seen (and done) it all.
After earning an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University in North Carolina and a doctorate from the University of Arizona, and, currently, taking on the role of an anthropology professor at the University of Delaware, Grimes has accomplished things that many wish they could.
She has published two books and has traveled the world with her studies, visiting every inhabited continent, so far, except Asia. Her love for worldwide exploration and fascination with different cultures and societies led to the development of Made By Hand International Cooperative, a business in South Bethany that she and her husband, Marco, began 12 years ago.
Their fair-trade store in the York Beach shopping center has not only offered magnificent commodities from craftsmen from around the world, but has given countless shoppers a glimpse into the realm of fair trade — an international social movement designed to promote standards for labor, environmentalism and social policy.
Inside Made By Hand, customers will find themselves among quite a collection of merchandise, none of which is made in a warehouse or on an assembly line. In fact, virtually all of the products sold were made… well, you know — by hand.
Metal wall hangings fashioned from large steel drums from a craftsman in the Philippines, impressive onyx décor from the streets of Pakistan and woven rugs — simple, yet stunning — from a middle-aged couple in Mexico City, Mexico, one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
Jewelry, carefully and painstakingly crafted to exquisite perfection; ceramic bowls made from pressed bamboo reeds, delicately created thousand miles from lower Delaware; and striking mobiles dangling from the ceiling, hailing from nations around the world.
Dresses and afghans from the mountainous environment of India and Nepal, or shorts and skirts from the warmer tropics of Indonesia, Bolivia and Guatemala — the talent of people all over the world, from 38 countries, comes together in one place.
And while Made By Hand provides goods that are unique, they are much more than another craft store making a buck. In fact, they are quite the opposite.
Under fair-trade standards, artisans and small farmers are paid directly, or nearly so, for their crafts, clothing, jewelry, produce and other products they create. Sales at fair trade stores like Made By Hand support the families and communities from which these crafts came, building schools and health clinics, and establishing other services, such as disaster relief.
Drawn in by the artisans and workers who put so much time, effort and passion into their work, the couple knew that a fair trade store was what they wanted to do. By acknowledging the work that these people throughout the world accomplish, they could approach the business world from an entirely different angle than many have done in the past.
“A lot of business has gone this route of trying to pay the lease and make the most profit,” she said. “Someone will buy something for a dollar and turn around and resell it for $20, and most of the time, the income stays in the hands of just a few people.”
This “top-down” method of business is what Kimberly and Marco Grimes’ international cooperative is trying to prevent.
“Some people think we’re anti-globalization,” she said, “but we really aren’t. It’s all about the values of the business.” Much of the notion of fair trade is based on a social scale rather than a financial or authoritarian one, she said.
“Business should have ethics,” she continued. “We should treat people with dignity and respect, and people should be paid fairly. It’s not charity. We aren’t giving them something extra. It’s just a different value, where everyone is treated fairly for their work. Fair trade brings all that together, and says, ‘Why not?’” By giving others a hope, she said, greater things can happen. “With no hope, there are no choices. People are forced to turn to the negative.”
Grimes admitted that she and her husband, a Latin American folk musician, first came across fair trade unintentionally. He was looking for some traditional, but professional-quality instruments (many of which are now also sold in their store) when they stumbled upon a fair-trade shop in Easton, Md.
“At the time,” she said, “we didn’t know what fair trade was. Then, in the store, we saw signs that talked about the money going back to the people who made the goods, how it supported people, and helped fight poverty.” Coincidentally, with her work in anthropology, Kimberly Grimes specialized in poverty alleviation and international development.
Skeptical at first about whether these workers were, in fact, benefiting from the fair-trade sales, Grimes and her husband traveled through Latin America to meet the fair traders first hand.
“We saw a difference immediately in these towns that worked with fair traders,” she said. “Kids were going to school. People were well-nourished, and most importantly, people were actively working. They had that hope and they knew that they had opportunity for themselves and their children.”
When it comes to working in a fair trade environment, the idea of competition is practically nonexistent.
“We’ve found that when we work cooperatively together,” she said, “everybody’s business benefits. If someone wanted to start another fair trade business in the area, I would do everything to help them get started. I think it would be fabulous.”
With limited space at Made By Hand and millions of artisans worldwide, one more fair trade store is never a bad idea in her eyes. “We can’t even begin to carry the amount of goods that people produce,” she said.
In addition to her two books, “Crossing Borders: Changing Social Identities in Southern Mexico” and “Artisans and Cooperatives: Developing Alternative Trade for the Global Economy,” Grimes also contributes her words to Fair Trade Resource Network. In a booklet, “A Guide for Retailers: Creating a Successful Fair Trade Business,” Grimes provides some of the keys to getting started on one’s own business, including networking, financing and even integrating educational materials.
The couple has also endeavored to spread the word on fair-trade practices, organizing an event at York Beach Mall each year for the past several years for World Fair Trade Day, which is held the second Saturday of each May — most recently on May 12.
Made By Hand International Cooperative is located in the York Beach Mall on Route 1 in South Bethany. They are open Wednesday through Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., through the month of May (closed Monday, May 28, and Tuesday, May 29).
The store will be open seven days a week from June through September, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Call (302) 539-6335 for more information.