Editor’s Note: A few years back, we had a fantastic AmeriCorps VISTA working for us named Clare Rauch. She was the guru of our communications and published the newsletter each month.
Once we got our new website rolling, we invited Clare to write a few guest articles for us. This is the first of that batch. Clare currently works as a librarian at SUNY Upstate Medical University and lives in the Hawley-Green neighborhood.
Think global, act local. Nowhere in Syracuse is that sentiment more fully embodied than at Around the World Gifts & Imports located in the Hawley-Green neighborhood, on Green Street next to Haironoia. Upon entering the store customers are greeted by the smiling faces of either Kevin Dabit, the owner, or his employee Chris.
Kevin exuberantly explains the background for all of the different items in the store, from matryoshka dolls (Russian nesting dolls) to hand woven silk scarves, to a hand carved chess set from Indonesia, to, of course, fair trade chocolates with almost every continent represented by the sweet confections. “Each item is unique,” Kevin emphasizes throughout our conversation, so the very differences in the type of item and the countries of origin are actually what tie them all together. They’re similar in the fact that they are each one of kind and handmade. “Once something is sold, it’s gone. I won’t get another one.” Even when Kevin and his wife travel to each of the countries and speak with the artisans, the items the artisans have created are different each time. Having a personal relationship with the creators of the store’s merchandise allows Kevin to ensure the quality of the items he’s selling, but also ensures that the artisans are getting fair prices for their work. Of course, by dealing directly with the crafters he also guarantees a fair price for his customers by cutting out any third parties, who would add to the retail price of the goods.
Kevin’s pride in the uniqueness and variety of the products he sells fits right into the eclectic atmosphere of the Hawley-Green district. You would think his store always held a space among the historic structures painted in vivacious colors. Kevin’s business began in the Galleries downtown though, where he was the very first retailer in the area to sell fair trade goods. At the time, he dealt only in fair trade chocolate from almost anywhere in the world, but since 2004 his business has changed locations from the Galleries to Shoppingtown Mall to the Carousel and finally to its current location on Green Street. With each location change, the merchandise and business itself have also undergone changes and growth.
Anyone who walks through the door is sure to find something truly wonderful for a loved one’s birthday or special occasion, including individually handcrafted leather bound journals. The journals are designed by a Syracuse artist and then handmade in India by a small family with whom the artist has a direct relationship. If something more for decoration is desired there are innumerable beautiful pieces of artwork from cultures far and wide adorning the walls and living among the shelves.
The store itself is an experience that should not be missed, but especially right now while Kevin is putting the current stock on sale to make way for new summer merchandise. Buying local doesn’t mean you have to ignore merchandise “made in…” Taiwan, Indonesia, India, Russia, etc. Sometimes it just means finding a newly located store housing beautiful and unique pieces from artists and crafters you know received a fair price for the stellar work they put in. By purchasing from Around the World, you can also delight in knowing you are giving (or keeping) a one of a kind item, and by shopping now you can do so at 25-50% off the regular prices.