Unique Finds offers greeting cards made in the Yunnan Province in China, a burnt orange lion mask from Puerto Rico, olive wood nativity ornaments from Bethlehem, and wall art by Burmese refuges in Thailand.
By JOYCE SMITH
The Kansas City Star
But the top seller is popular in many cultures chocolate bars. But these are fair trade bars from Latin America.
Longtime area pastor Robert Southard, who retired about four years ago, owns the shop at 7140 W. 80th St. in downtown Overland Park. Southard had long picked up unique handmade items when traveling abroad on youth mission trips. He appreciated the craftwork and wanted to help provide a living for the artists who were mostly in third world countries.
He worked as a middle man, selling the pieces at Christian conventions and passing on the funds to the artists. Now hell see how well the products will do with the public.
Unique Finds is just down the street from a similar shop, Ten Thousand Villages, a nationwide chain. That proximity is not too much of a coincidence. Southards daughter ran two Ten Thousand Villages shops in Baltimore and helped him find more overseas contacts and fine-tune his business plan.
He also is taking works by area artists on consignment, but they must donate 10 percent of their sales to a charity.
I hope this area becomes a fair trade district, Southard said. I want to support economic justice.
Southwards favorite item? The scarves and jewelry from northeast India where women cant vote, own property or drive.
Valentines Day is one of the biggest gift-giving occasions of the year, and consumers will be shelling out slightly more this year than in 2012.
On average, consumers will spend $130.97 on candy, cards, gifts and other items, up from $126.03 in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. Total spending is expected to reach $18.6 billion.
KC Fudge, a Crown Center Shop doing business as Chips Chocolate Factory, will get a Valentine from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
SBA officials visited the Crown Center Shop Friday morning for a video shoot that is to appear on the SBAs section on YouTube.com on Valentines Day.
KC Fudge owner Mike Herman recently received a trademark for Kansas City Fudge and copyright for the name Chips Chocolate Factory and the logo. He also had got an SBA loan in 2008, and the video will show him discussing the process.