EMPTY STORE FOR FULL HOUSE? A FAIR TRADE

12-broadThe vacant storefront at 12 Broad will spotlight products that reflect fair-trade principles this weekend. (Click to enlarge)

By TOM CHESEK

It’s probably been several generations since there was such a thing as a house in the heart of downtown Red Bank (the time they moved that old house from the hospital to the Charter School doesn’t count).

You’d probably need to go even farther back to find a house that left the door open to strolling passersby,   a place that invited tourist and townie alike in for a bit of refreshment, some neighborly conversation and a detailed look at a way of life.

Beginning Friday — and for just three days, here in the officially designated Fair Trade Month of October — streetside strollers will have the opportunity to visit the Fair Trade Show House, a storefront space which, while it technically won’t be putting down roots for more than a weekend, aims to send out a message that “consumers can have the best of both worlds; they can live in high style and promote environmental and social justice at the same time.”

fairtraderedbankFair Trade Red Bank Committee members Janie Schildge, Amber Graves, Rebecca Roberts, Ellen D’Amore, Samantha Eittreim, and Dalaiah Kusner (with Shannon Littlehale absent on picture day) are your hosts for a Fair Trade Show House event, going on Friday through Sunday at 12 Broad Street. (Photo courtesy of Janie Schildge)

Located at 12 Broad Street (most recently home to the Nazmiyal rug store), the show house is the work of Fair Trade Red Bank, a volunteer group of local merchants and activists who sought to design a “model and inspirational fair trade home” — an environment that says “a beautiful and unique style should not sacrifice environmental and social responsibility,” in accordance with the tenets of the nationwide nonprofit Fair Trade USA.

It should come as no surprise that the folks at Ten Thousand Villages in Red Bank have been intimately involved with this project. After all, it was they who lobbied to have Red Bank declared the 15th Fair Trade Town in the United States. While the show house project has been assembled independent of the national fair-trade retailer, the Fair Trade Red Bank committee includes such current or former Villagers as Samantha Eittreim, Dalaiah Kusner, Shannon Littlehale — and Amber Graves, now on the staff of The Atrium at Navesink Harbor.

Also sharing executive responsibilities on the democratically organized committee are Rebecca Roberts of the borough’s environmental commission, Janie Schildge (known as the coordinator of the annual Red Bank area CROP Walks), and Ellen D’Amore — proprietor of soapmarket on Monmouth Street, and a neighbor merchant who Sam Eittreim praises as “the first of the existing businesses in town to add fair-trade products to the mix.”

In the committee’s words, “As Fair Trade products are becoming increasingly available, we at Fair Trade Red Bank thought it was about time to really show people what this means in a practical, home setting.

“We want to help remove some of the stigma that is often associated with Fair Trade and show people that just because something is Fair Trade does not mean that it is ‘ethnic’ or won’t fit into someone’s established home decor.”

For the three-day showcase of “inspirational design, fair-trade consciousness and eco-friendly guest speakers,” the displays of new décor and household items will be augmented by examples of “recycled and re-purposed” home items, donated by such friendly neighborhood businesses as Red Ginger Home and British Cottage Antiques. Graves, who worked with the owners of 12 Broad to facilitate the org’s free use of the (currently vacant) space, also arranged for the Atrium to contribute a bathroom set-up inside the show house.

“We’re all really excited to have this event at such a beautiful space in town,” says Eittreim. “The owners have been really great, and equally enthusiastic about it.”

A number of local and national food purveyors will also be contributing to the event, with spotlighted specialty items offered for sale including organic treats from the Cinnamon Snail, a limited-supply dollop of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream on Saturday afternoon, and what we’ve been told is a very limited quantity of much sought-after chocolates by Equal Exchange (“including some flavors we don’t usually have at Ten Thousand Villages!”).

An opening night gala will be held (and wine plus cheese will be served) from 3 to 9p on Friday, and guest speakers throughout the weekend include Kathleen Gasienica from the local chapter of the American Littoral Society. Show house hours and other details can be seen right here, with updates appearing on the organization’s Facebook page.