Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Nonprofit retailer Ten Thousand Villages to relocate downtown

Rachel Spears/The Daily Northwestern
Ten Thousand Villages closed its doors after five years at their current location. The store will reopen by April 13 in Downtown Evanston.

Evanston resident Lois Hedman visited Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit fair trade chain retailer, on March 27 — the last day she would visit that location. She knew the store would be closed for two weeks as it relocates downtown. A regular customer, Hedman said she likes to buy her coffee there — but that day, she purchased an extra bag. 

Last month, Ten Thousand Villages closed its 915 Chicago Ave. location after operating there for five years. It has been in Evanston for about 27 years. The store will reopen by April 13 at 1509 Chicago Ave.

From chocolates to socks to gardening supplies, Ten Thousand Villages carries a diverse inventory of “one of a kind pieces,” according to Hannah Wymer, the retailer’s offsite and volunteer manager. As a fair trade business, the store exclusively carries products purchased from ethical sources and artisans around the world.

Wymer said the team hopes to take advantage of foot traffic in the new downtown Evanston location.

“We’ve always been in south Evanston, so it’s bittersweet to be moving,” she said. “But we are excited to be a part of that business district.”

Inventory is largely determined by customer feedback, Wymer added.

Wymer said that being a fair trade retailer includes trying to “upcycle and refurbish” materials that could otherwise end up in a landfill. For example, the shop displays bags, baskets and clothing made from recycled sari fabric. 

Hedman said she frequents the store mainly to purchase coffee, but she also visits when searching for gifts. 

“If I’m buying gifts, I try to think about this place first, because the fair trade nonprofit issue is very important to me,” she said. “I have one of everything, so it’s more for gifts at this point.”

While Hedman was “a little disappointed” to hear the store was relocating — the store’s new location would require her to travel farther — she hoped the move would expose more people to fair trade. 

“I think it’s a really great organization, and if the move makes more people see it, that would be fantastic,” Hedman said. 

Business and Finance Manager Cheryl Nester-Detweiler said she hopes the new storefront, with two double windows, will attract more customers, especially because of downtown foot traffic.

The new location will also be closer to Northwestern’s Evanston campus. While the store has already offered a student discount, the new location in the “Northwestern bubble” will hopefully draw students to the store and engage them with fair trade, Marketing and e-Commerce Manager Michaela Dix said.

Currently, the shop operates with an intergenerational team of around 40 volunteers, including some connected to the NU community, Wymer said. 

“We are hoping, as we move closer to the University, to have more of a connection to the University,” she said. 

Dix added that being next to the Hyatt House hotel will expand their business, especially during Family Weekend. She called the new location “a really nice fit” for the business.

One of the nonprofit’s goals for the move is to continue forging relationships with other organizations and retailers. 

The store already partners with Evanston Made. Together, they host art from a different Evanston artist each month and hold a reception celebrating their work.   

Its inventory also includes products from Chicago-based vendors like Mata Traders, a sustainable clothing line, alongside products from international retailers.

“Our goal is to be able to be open long-term and to be a good neighbor to the businesses in our neighborhood,” Wymer said. 

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated how long Ten Thousand Villages operated out of its previous location. The Daily regrets this error.

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