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One stop, Ten Thousand Villages
New store at The Avenue offers handmade crafts spanning globe
10000 Villages 2 es
Store associate Melinda Delsin tries on a scarf while working at Ten Thousand Villages, a new store in The Avenue Forsyth. The not-for-profit business is associated with the Mennonite Church. The store works with 130 artisan groups in more than 37 different countries. - photo by Emily Saunders
The grand opening of Ten Thousand Villages is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 5 at 410 Peachtree Parkway in The Avenue Forsyth. Light refreshments will be served. Contact  (678) 455-8739 or go online at

Forsyth County residents no longer have to travel to Africa for a Kenyan ceramic bead necklace.

In fact, tens of thousands of unique crafts spanning the globe are available at Ten Thousand Villages in The Avenue Forsyth.

Through 130 artisan groups, the nonprofit, fair-trade business purchases items from more than 37 countries, from Bolivia to Sri Lanka.

Products are sold in more than 160 Ten Thousand Villages locations, including its newest at the outdoor mall off Ga. 400's Exit 13 in south Forsyth.

"We ourselves are growing very rapidly from what used to seem like a small little company," said Carla Cheuvront, store opening and events planner.

"Forsyth just seems to be growing at a very rapid rate ... and the market just seemed like a perfect fit for a company such as ours that's trying to grow and reach out to people."

The store, which opened Nov. 21, will have its grand opening Dec. 5.

Store manager Amy Cochran has been with the company less than a month, but said her job is very meaningful "with a mission and a purpose, and knowing what I'm doing is helping people that don't have the opportunities I have."

Cochran said she is also excited about the location of the store.

Since opening in May, the Avenue Forsyth has quickly become a popular shopping destination.

The center's appeal -- it features several restaurants, a 12-screen movie theater and well-known retail stores -- likely will increase traffic to Ten Thousand Villages, Cochran said.

"This was where I shopped before I was aware they were going to put a Ten Thousand Villages store here, so I know it's a pretty popular place," she said. "It will bring more of a mainstream shopper here and make them more aware of what we are and what we have."

"Once they see the product, and it's a very unique product-I'm in love with the jewelry and scarves myself-I think that we'll be very popular."

Products range from Ecuadorian body care kits and silk table runners from India to Ugandan raffia bowl baskets and Haitian cut metal statues.

There are also Dhaka weave tote bags from Nepal and a line of teas and coffees from small farmer co-ops from around the world.

Because the company is not for profit, each store relies on volunteers to stay at full staff. At the Avenue location, Cochran oversees one assistant manager and three part-time sales associates.

The staffing formula has worked since about 1946, when founder Edna Ruth Byler began selling Puerto Rican crafts from the trunk of her car.

Byler was a volunteer for the Mennonite Central Committee, a relief, development and peace agency of the North American Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches. The committee continues to operate the business, which has expanded to work with more than 130 artisan groups.

"We are fully committed to the artisans we work with," Cheuvront said. "Sustainability is an important thing for us. It allows them to count on us to build a future. We make a guarantee that we're in it for the long haul, and we build long-term relationships with them."

As a fair trade organization, Ten Thousand Villages is able to pay its artisans a living wage, while also giving their artwork American exposure.

All products are authentic. While the company doesn't interfere with crafts, Cheuvront said it does provide product assistance and information on U.S. trends.

"We might say American consumers are really into hot pink right now, and we might suggest that maybe the lovely little orange clay pots they're making, maybe they would come in a pinkish shade net year," Cheuvront said.

"We try to preserve a natural craft when possible, something that might be indigenous to whatever country or artisan group we're working with.

"The reason we exist is to provide jobs in the marketplace for our artisans, where they can sell the crafts they make."

The slumping economy likely will affect sales, though Cochran said it could also work to the store's advantage this Christmas season.

"You can't come in here and buy a [Nintendo] Wii, but that's a very pricey item," she said. "There's something for everybody here and I'm hoping people will be looking for a smaller, more intimate gift than the mainstream electronic type stuff.

"Our products are all handmade, so that adds a little something extra to what we offer."