Guest Blogger: Jennifer Heyns on Warrenton’s Emerging Latitudes

When people shop locally, they know they are helping to support their community and the shop owners who live there. At Warrenton’s Latitudes Fair Trade, shoppers know they are supporting not only a local business, but also artisans from developing countries around the world.

Latitudes buys handcrafted items from overseas either directly or through a wholesale distributer, ensuring that much of the profit reaches the hands of the original creator. Each item it sells is unique, with deep cultural ties to its country of origin. It not only sells jewelry, scarves, and bags, but also practical household items such as baskets, vases, and table linens.

Latitudes owner Lee Owsley is proud to support artists in less-fortunate countries. Her business allows both buyers and sellers to feel good, she says, because “instead of improving their lives and the lives of their children via handouts or illegal means, these producers are able to live with the self-respect of knowing they are engaged in an honest and fulfilling enterprise.” She believes each item sold represents an artist digging himself out of poverty with dignity.

Latitudes ties the community of Warrenton with communities from around the world—economically and culturally. In Warrenton, it represents the community’s own entrepreneurial spirit. Owsley is a fulltime teacher, who started her business with a temporary store set up for the holiday season. She partnered with a full-time artist in sharing the space. “It really helped me to feel that I wasn’t alone in this,” said Owsley, who advises anyone hesitant about opening a shop to find others who can help with costs, labor and courage.

For more information about the store and the artisans it helps to support, please visit their Web site at www.latitudesfairtrade.com.

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