Amidst the sorrowful news that Ten Thousand Villages Canada will be closing its company stores as well as operations in New Hamburg is the welcome news that Ten Thousand Villages Cobourg will remain OPEN.
“It is such a sad time,” said Barb Henderson, Chair of the Ten Thousand Villages Cobourg Board of Directors. “Our hearts go out to all of the staff and volunteers in New Hamburg and all of the company stores across Canada as well as to the artisans that Ten Thousand Villages has worked so closely with. It is very, very sad. But Ten Thousand Villages Cobourg is a Board store. We have the option to stay open and this is what our Board of Directors has decided to do.”
Mennonite Central Committee Canada established Ten Thousand Villages Canada as its fair trade social enterprise in 1972. The unique structuring of Ten Thousand Villages Canada means that there are stores which it operates (the company stores) and there are stores that are more like franchises with their own Boards directing operations. The Cobourg store is a Board store and while it has been a successful retail operation providing quality fair trade items including jewelry, coffee and rugs, other stores have not fared as well. Recent changes in retail marketing proved to be very challenging and after attempts to achieve financial sustainability, the Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCC Canada) made the decision to close company stores, leaving Board stores to make their own decisions whether to remain open.
“It’s our commitment to fair trade – our commitment to the artisans and their families and communities – that was the deciding factor for us,” said Henderson. “It’s why we opened this store ten years ago and it is why we are working to keep it open now.”
Ten Thousand Villages Cobourg will continue as a not-for-profit organization, employing a part-time store manager and otherwise relying on volunteers to staff the store. It will also continue to operate under a licensing agreement with MCC Canada.
“We have changes to make and we will be working hard to implement them,” said Store Manager, Derrick Cunningham. “But for our customers it will be business as usual here at Ten Thousand Villages Cobourg.”
Adds Henderson, “From the beginning we have had the support of our community here in Northumberland. And we are counting on that continued support to see us through this transition as Ten Thousand Villages Cobourg remains open for business.”