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BUSINESS BEAT: Global Village Store offers international buying experience for 25 years

Victoria shop sells ethnic specialties, gives small-scale producers a hand up
Global Village Store board chair Mavis DeGirolamo

In the funky fashion section of Old Town, near Lower Johnson Street, lies a retailer with a difference.

Global Village Store, on the Pandora Avenue edge of Market Square, is filled with colourful, hand-made clothing and toys, coffees and teas from all over the world.

But that’s not its most unique characteristic.

More eyebrow-raising is the fact this operation, run by a non-profit society and staffed with volunteers, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in Victoria in August. That’s no small feat, considering how many retail shops have come and gone in that time.

Since a group of local women – all international travellers – resolved in the late 1980s to test their belief that people would buy ethnic products to give impoverished residents of developing countries a hand up, the concept has worked.

“The fact we are fair trade and all volunteers speaks volumes about the support we’ve got,” says Mavis DeGirolamo, who chairs the society’s board and is one of about 30 part-time volunteer clerks in the store.

Reflecting on the longevity of the shop, now housed in its third and largest location, she says, “It shows people around Victoria support the concept of fair trade, and that they are a very aware shopping group.”

The store has generated more than $2.4 million in sales over its lifetime, with more than $1.5 million of that paid out to producers and $242,460 given as grants to projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Only co-ordinator Susan Albion is a paid staffer, a fact which, after paying overhead leaves more money for the craftspeople and growers.

Society board member and store clerk Kitty Moses volunteered with CUSO (formerly Canadian University Service Overseas) in Nigeria alongside society co-founder Susan Gage in the pre-Global Village days.

Now involved in the society about 10 years, Moses says the store has developed a regular clientele.

“We have regulars who come in to get coffee and tea and some people come in to buy their Christmas gifts here every year,” she says.

“It’s nice to think that, as well as having interesting goods, you’re helping these small producers have another outlet for their crafts.”

The store, at 527 Pandora Ave., is hosting a 25th birthday party Aug. 10 from noon to 3 p.m. For more information about its producers or its fair trade criteria, visit Global Village Store on Facebook or call 250-380-1530.

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Transform Travel, a new tour company based in Victoria, is marketing separate VIP shopping and nightlife experiences for the B.C. Day long weekend. The first is a nightlife crawl that offers admission and special treatment at a series of local nightspots or customized to individuals’ or groups’ own preferences. The other tour hits five local boutiques for a shopping experience, with style experts on hand to enhance the buying process. For more details, visit

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