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Exploration Place store to begin selling handcrafted fair trade items

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, at 9:30 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, at 8:05 a.m.

The store inside Exploration Place in Wichita soon will begin selling handcrafted fair trade items along with toys, games and science-themed products.

“We just thought it would be a great addition” to retail in the region, said Christy Sim, manager of the Explore Store, which operates inside the museum at 300 N. McLean Blvd.

“The benefit is threefold,” she said. “You’re helping the local museum, you’re getting a great product, and you’re helping support sustainable living in other parts of the world.”

Fair trade organizations and retailers help people in developing countries earn income and improve their quality of life by establishing a sustainable market for their products.

Mead’s Corner in Wichita is a fair trade coffeehouse. Other area shops featuring fair trade products include the Ten Thousand Villages stores in Newton and Hutchinson.

Sim, who teaches ethics at Friends University, said she talks about fair trade practices with her students. She recently attended a conference for museum store managers and learned “lots of them are doing this,” she said.

“And I thought, ‘Well, for goodness’ sakes, I teach this and we can do it right here,” she said.

Beginning Sunday the store will close for minor renovations, and Sim will operate a small-scale “mobile store” just outside the main space. Explore Store will reopen Feb. 16 with the fair trade merchandise on its shelves.

Products include necklaces made of recycled-paper beads, crafted by women in Uganda, for $15.99. The store also will carry clutch purses made from foil candy wrappers ($19.99) or aluminum-can pull tabs ($39.99), a shoulder bag made with recycled seatbelts ($49.99) and a decorative gecko crafted from cans and other recycled materials ($7.99).

“We like to show and encourage recycling, so these products fit right in with that as well,” Sim said.

The store’s reopening next weekend will feature recycling demonstrations where visitors can craft their own paper beads, she added.

Explore Store is open noon-5 p.m. Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. Museum admission is not required to shop in the store; museum members get a 10 percent discount. For more information, call 316-660-0630, or visit http://www.exploration.org/store.html.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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