Friday, May 12, 2023

Why is Supporting Fair Trade Important to You?

It dawned on me that Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry is sold in many stores that are not specifically and exclusively fair trade stores. Yet, many of our customers clearly support fair trade and ethically run small businesses. I wanted to give some of these buyers and store owners I know an opportunity to tell us why they support fair trade. I asked the question and here is what some of my retail partners had to say.


Lyn Cooperman, North Fork Craft Gallery - Wading River, NY says "Supporting Fair Trade is important to me because I feel my customers and I are helping artisans in developing countries break the cycle of poverty. One of my favorite experiences with a Fair Trade wholesaler was soon after I was able to reopen after the pandemic. I placed a large order and the owner of the company called to personally thank me and shared that because of that order 3 women were able to provide food for their families.  It goes without saying that the goods I purchase from Fair Trade vendors are unique, well made, beautiful and representative of their unique cultures."


Susan Hayes
, Lima Bean Glassworks & Gifts - Danville, IL says  "It is very important for us to support fair trade organizations to ensure we’re engaged with those who share our goal of ensuring people in every aspect of the creative and manufacturing process receive fair and appropriate compensation for their contributions."




Jennifer Scott, Eclectic Calico - Madison, NC says "Supporting fair trade is very important to me and to my small business.  First and foremost, I love people, ALL of them.  I can't think of a  better way to show that love than to purchase products that are made by people around the world.  The fair trade requirements help ensure that these artisans are treated fairly and earn a fair wage.  Secondly, it is important that we reach outside of the day to day world we know.  Most Americans have all their needs and many of their wants met and have little idea of how the rest of the world lives.  It is important to me to have these products in my small business in small town America.  I enjoy sharing about these products and the artisans that craft them.  I hope what my customers hear, see, and purchase makes a lasting impression on how they view others."


Patti Opel, Kook's Eye Gallery - Pentwater, MI says "I came about owning a business because ultimately personal responsibility is a keystone to my personal philosophy.  With that comes making good choices for myself, my customers and the globe.  The more ethically a product is produced everyone involved in the process benefits.  Ultimately, I place a high value on handmade hand crafted products.  There is a strong humanitarian appeal to hold on to an object that someone has spent time and energy to produce. Knowing that fair wages, good working conditions and a sustainable future are part of that is why fair trade is important to me.  Supporting fair trade simply is the right thing to do." 



Lea Osby, Animas Trading Company - Durango, CO says "We always jump at the opportunity to work with vendors that support and provide for struggling communities. So many corporate companies today turn a blind eye to developing countries' struggles and how they are contributing to those struggles. We have always believed that a lot of small steps taken by small businesses can make a world of a difference. At Animas Trading, we pride ourselves on carrying fair trade products because we believe it is incredibly important to source from and support ethical and sustainably run businesses. No community should be exploited and businesses should hold themselves accountable for the environmental and ethical effect small decisions can make. We believe that fair trade is an amazing way to start affecting positive change in the world!"


Bernadette Goudelock, Virginia Museum of Fine Art Shop - Richmond VA says "The Virginia Museum of Fine Art Shop searches the world to provide a diverse selection of merchandise including unique jewelry. Fair trade vendors like Dunitz & Company fill the niche of handmade pieces that are unique and it provides our customers a selection of well-crafted jewelry that is not commonplace or can be found just about anywhere. The VMFA Shop strives to support fair trade vendors and artisans. By promoting their jewelry and sustainable material used we provide opportunities that artisans may not have had otherwise. We hope to gain a wider awareness for these artists that are creating great wearable art. 

Amy Scipioni
, Floral & Hardy - Skippack PA says "I purchase from Fair Trade sources because I believe in ethical business practices that take into account the environment and at the same time support the actual  producers whose hands create the  wonderful products."

Dan Ayers-Price, Key West Art & Historical Society - Key West, FL says "In the world of museum stores, we want our merchandise offerings to represent our mission, exhibits and artifacts as best we can in order to extend the guests experience from the museum into the museum store.  While this often includes a lot of custom made/bespoke items, I have always felt that Fair Trade, in all forms, is equally as representable within our offerings.  The trend of shopping smarter, shopping American made and shopping Fair Trade is something that everyone is embracing and seeking out, especially the younger generations, and will continue to grow as we embrace a global mindset.  The sheer creativity and resourcefulness of Fair Trade items is art within itself."  


Kathy LaCorte
, Kathy's Kove & Kafe - Washington, NJ says "
After seeing first hand how people who are living in poverty try so hard to earn money, I felt the need for an organized and cooperative effort to give these people an opportunity to earn money by providing their crafts to people who appreciate them.  In this way, they feel pride in a job well done, are working in a safe environment and earn a living to provide housing and education to their families. Through fair trade they see real possibilities for their future."

I know the Dunitz & Company collection is pretty and well made, and for that alone, many stores will sell our designs. For me, it is just as important that our jewelry is verified fair trade by Fair Trade Federation. In my eyes and heart, this is the only combination that works. I am so thankful for my retail partners who share the same beliefs we do at Dunitz & Company. Together we all make a big difference. Tell me. Why do you support fair trade? -ND

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The Early Days: Dunitz & Company Stories Part#2

Many of you are familiar with Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry collection. It's beautifully and consistently made. For many years now, you can count on us delivering exactly what you assume you will receive. Being able to do that didn't happen overnight.  When I first jumped in and started my business, things didn't always happen so smoothly. Let me share some stories here and on some future posts.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I was working a corporate job at MGM/UA when I first decided to explore business opportunities in Guatemala. Initially I was focused on starting a business offering home decor items. After my initial trip to Guatemala, I knew I wanted to keep at it. 

You won't believe, but you must, a few of the serendipitous situations that resulted in my decided to jump ship and leave my position at MGM/UA. Believe it or not, I learned that my boss intended to promote me on the very day I offered my resignation. It was an easy decision. At that point, I'd already garnered a large order from a prestigious department store.


On my first trip to Guatemala, I had discovered some exquisite glass bowls at a fancy gallery-like store in a more monied district of Guatemala City. Intuitively, I knew pounding the pavement in this neighborhood would trigger ideas for higher end decorative accessories I might find in-Country and offer to stylish patrons in the US. I had decided to hire Ray Morales, who I had met on a previous trip at a smoky bar that many x-pats patronized to be my driver and guide. I shared my find with Ray and before I arrived he had visited that fancy store on my behalf. The glass artist had left her pieces there on consignment, and Ray had told them that he had an artist friend that wanted to study glass making. Somehow he finagled Patricia Crowe's home studio address from the store and we went to meet her. I think we drove by a few times before we found her at home and discussed my desire to offer her work in the USA. She explained how she made her fused glass bowls and hand-painted each piece with traditional Guatemalan iconography from villages all over the country. I bought some samples to hand-carry home. We worked out pricing. And we also negotiated that the designs I offered in the US, she would not offer to others. With his resources, Ray helped me get a contract drawn up. Contracts are meant to keep honest people honest. If Patricia had sold the designs I wanted to offer to others, there really wasn't going to be much I could do.


After I returned from that second exploratory trip with my glass samples in tow, I showed them to a friend and colleague at MGM. Crazy as it is, she had previously worked at I.Magnin, an upscale department store (that no longer exists) and knew the home decor buyer very well. She made the introduction and I swear, 10 days later, not only had I met the buyer, I had a $8000 purchase order. In my entire career, I am certain I've never written another order that easily. It was the sign to change my life. (It was after that, oy, I had to learn how to import heavy glass items, custom brokering, packing glass and dealing with a Department Store!) *[BTW, We still have many gorgeous bowls and trays. Inquire if you'd like some!]


There were other events that might have deterred me from continuing. I previously mentioned that when I started my business, Guatemala was in the midst of civil war, something that I clearly ignored. Guatemala is most known for artisan made textiles and weaving.  My hope was to offer traditional designs and also modern takes on traditional designs. With this in mind, Ray had a Guatemalan friend, Linda who was a teacher in a village above Ciudad Vieja, not far from Antigua. If you were brave enough to visit Guatemala in the late 80s, Ciudad Vieja was on the tourist route. Ray thought his friend might introduce me to some of her student's mothers and they could create weavings for me to offer in the States.  With this in mind, we drove to the village located in the volcano foothills, where I met with some of the mothers. I had a series of questions. "How long does it take to make a placemat?"  "Can you create custom designs?"  "What is the cost?" After a lengthy discussion about possibly working together, we told the women we'd be back in 10 days to learn their answers. No pressure. 


What happened was outright scary. Linda was fired from her teaching position. And the message that came back was "this is Guerilla territory and we don't want any foreigners messing with our Indians.  If she (that's me) comes back, she won't be going back. We suggest you don't mess with the Indians living over that mountain in the next village because that is Mafioso territory, and they don't want you working with their Indians either." Decision made. I didn't pursue that project and I never returned to that village. Sad, right?


Which carried more weight?  A big order or a threat on my life? It seems the desire and promise of building a business won. I worked laboriously, making many mistakes and accomplishing some wins. I carried on. I do wish I had had a mentor early on, which I never did. I learned by trial and error and a lot of hip shooting. It was hand to mouth for me for several years. But in the end Dunitz & Company, my fair trade business succeeded. Stay tuned for more stories. I have plenty of them. -ND

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

In The Beginning; My Dunitz & Company Story Part#1

I started Dunitz & Company a long time ago. Initially I dreamed of opening a retail store and working with artisans all around the world. After some due diligence, I decided building a wholesale business made more sense for me. That was in 1988 when I was still working at MGM/UA, then located in Culver City, CA. I had a promising career in the entertainment business, but I just wasn’t that happy. I always joke I’d be a lot richer (money-wise) today if I’d stuck to that course. In 1985, I left a position I had at Warner Home Video for a year of travel. I was restless then too. Most of my time was spent in Asia and I’m certain that that is where the initial notion of exploring and offering world crafts came from.

It’s a bit of a blur when I think about the early days of Dunitz & Company. I was young and stupid and did a lot of shooting from the hip. While still working at my corporate gig, I decided to take a vacation to Guatemala. I didn’t know if it was time to actively seek a new “job” or take a leap and start my own business.  Assuming I would throw my hat in the ring and start a business, Guatemala was a country a lot closer to me than any of those I’d visited and really enjoyed in Asia. It meant spending a lot less hours on a plane. The time I could steal away for traveling was limited by my allotted vacation. And I knew I’d find lots of beautifully made crafts in the “Land of Eternal Spring.” I assumed Guatemala would be an easier place to start a business. What I didn’t realize, and later ignored was that Guatemala was in the midst of Civil War and since the early 60’s more than 200,000 people were either killed or forcibly taken never to be heard from again. The peace accords weren’t actually signed until 1996. It was rough times in Guatemala and there weren’t a lot of travelers there. Those of us that were there, traveled by public chicken bus. It would be years before travelers could easily move about Guatemala by tourist vans. In 1988 it was me and my Lonely Planet guidebook being courageous.

Market Day in Antigua
That first trip to Guatemala I was mostly a tourist. I checked out the markets and galleries in Guatemala City. I strolled the cobbled streets of Antigua and was in total awe of the colonial architecture.  And yes, I took one of those chicken buses to Chichicastenango to explore their big Thursday market and to Panajachel so I could visit the towns around Lake Atitlan. Although I was playing tourist, my primary motivation for visiting Guatemala was to explore arts and crafts and see if it was a country that offered potential for business.

(I’ve changed many names, to protect the people I write about.)

It felt a bit scary on that first trip to Guatemala. I didn’t have a clue of where I should go, what I should see and how I should get around.  Initially I booked myself a room in a small worn down hotel in a tough part of town, Zone 1 of Guatemala City. Picture a charming old building with lots of dark stained wood paneling with peeling wallpaper.  I remember it was a block from CafĂ© Leon where I could snag some good coffee and later mail 1lb bags home to friends and family. It was also an easy walk to Bar Europa.

Nancy & Ray, my driver
Bar Europa in Zone 1 was the place ex-pats and tough guys hung out. I had heard if I wanted to make useful connections, I should venture out to this place. I did. It was smoky and there was lots of drinking. I don’t smoke and I’m not much of a drinker. I was definitely out of my element. I did however meet some interesting people. One person I met was Ray Morales, a Texan who had been living in Guatemala for many years and was married to a Guatemalan woman who worked at the US Consulate office. There is no question that he was once a mercenary who had turned a page. At the time I met him and when he could, he hired himself out as a guide and driver. Since traveling around Guatemala was near impossible, I knew our acquaintance could be advantageous if and when I returned to Guatemala.  He charged a daily rate, and on top of that, I would have to pay gas, his hotel and food.

On one of my first evenings in Guatemala, I met a man, Carlos Duarte, who was the age my father would have been. My mother actually obtained his contact information for me when she knew I was traipsing off to Guatemala.  He was a financially successful businessman, living in Guatemala City.  His cousin was the husband of one of the women in my mom’s card group. Now widowed, that friend of my mom’s thought meeting Carlos might be advantageous for me. Carlos picked me up and brought me to his home where I met his wife and we had dinner. Evidently his kids were at school in the US. Their home was in a posh neighborhood and it was behind barbed wire.  He operated sewing shops where he manufactured clothing for distributors and retailers abroad. I learned that his business partner had been murdered for most likely political reasons, the details I never ascertained. I think Carlos was impressed with my moxie and he offered me a job repping his business in the USA. The truth is, if I wasn’t going to continue on the corporate route back in the States, I knew I would start my own business working with artisans. After dinner Carlos dropped me off at my hotel. I knew if I ever got into trouble in Guatemala I could look him up again. Thankfully, I never had to do that.

It was suggested by the people I met in Guate (Guatemala City) that Panajachel would be the best place to make artisan connections. It was one of the few places artisans could travel and meet tourists, to sell their goods. On most days there were many Mayan men and women lined up on the street with their baskets of weavings and carvings. It was obvious to me that there was a plethora of opportunity in this country where so many seemed to have little opportunity.

Learning about Weaving
El Chisme, which no longer exists, was the place for breakfast and hob knobbing amongst foreigners who lived in Panajachel or those living in neighboring lake towns. It was owned by an American couple that had shuttered the place while they temporarily  moved back to the States, due to the instability of Guatemala. Apparently many foreigners who had been living in Guatemala left for their safety in the early 80’s and were now gradually returning. The ex-pat community was quite varied. There were those that chose to live in Guatemala because it was beautiful and inexpensive. I met retired teachers and a doctor that had lost his license to practice (in the States.)  And there were the x- Rajneesh followers. Lots of them. There was no shortage of people I met at El Chisme with colorful stories. And because many of them were interested in my story, I was able to meet many of the people that helped change my life. And with changing my life, it allowed me to change the lives of many others.

But that is for Part#2. After all, I had to return to Los Angeles and my job at MGM/UA and marinate on all I’d learned on that first exploratory trip to Guatemala. Would I look for a new job? Would I pursue a business of my own? (I guess you know the answer to that question.) Would I spend more time in Guatemala before taking my next steps? Stay tuned. I promise to write another segment soon.- ND

Friday, November 25, 2022

My Choices for this Fair Trade Holiday Season - Edibles & Consumables

I love receiving gifts. After living so many years (oy!) I have so much stuff.  What does that mean? My favorite gifts are edibles and consumables. Here are some fantastic gifts for Holiday 2023 that are just that. My choices support fair trade and many of my Fair Trade Federation colleagues.

Dean's Beans for Coffee
: My choice of course comes from Guatemala where Dunitz & Company has worked with artisans since 1989.  Not only do I adore Guatemalan coffee, my choice is always medium roast. Enjoy a good cup of coffee and know workers were treated fairly. 1lb for $14.89

Ten Thousand Villages Rose Soap
: A repeat performance on this one! I bought several types of TTV soaps from Global Gifts Fair Trade a couple of years ago for gifts for Mr. Postman, Mr. DHL, Mr. Fedex and a bunch of other friends. I have a few friends still talking about the Rose Soap and how much they loved the smell. How could I not put this on the list for 2023? One Bar, $5.99. 


African Bronze Honey: I eat a lot of honey. I love honey. Typically I buy local at the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Sundays.  I've been eying my Fair Trade Federation colleague's honey for a long time. Maybe you want to treat me to a jar? A 12.35oz jar of their Organic Wild Honeydew Forest Honey is $15.50 - it might be gone in one week!

Quinoa Cookies: I love cookies. I love baking cookies. And I love eating cookies. When I learned that my FTF Colleague, Andean Dreams offers cookies, you know this had to go on my holiday list. I'm not vegan or gluten intolerant, but their cookies are perfect for those that are. Wanna surprise me with their Quinoa Cookies Variety Pack? I'm sure you have friends that would love these. $18.99

Rumi Olive Oil: From Canaan Palestine Fair Trade. This small business works with farmer to bring us fair trade oil and other yummy edibles that I know you will enjoy eating. Whether you like to cook or prefer do drench your bread in tasty olive oil, this might be the perfect gift for you. Or yes, give it to the cook in your life. It's on my list. A 500ml bottle is $35.00 

Chocolate Bar Collection: Equal Exchange is known for their chocolate. In my book, the darker the better. They're offering this assortment this season which would definitely please me. That means it will please a lot of your friends and family members who have a sweet tooth. Since I'm nuts about coconut, I can't wait to dig my chops into the Coconut Milk variety. That's if someone sends me some! $30.00

Cardamon & Clove Candle: Our FTF retail partner and colleague, Humankind offers an amazing collection of candles that come from Bright Endeavors, a Chicago based social enterprise that trains and helps young mothers facing economic hardship in the inner-city. These women make wonderful scented and soy candles. My choice is the Cardamon & Clove. Burning at home, the exotic smells remind me of my travels to Asia. A 4oz candle will last 20 hours and is only $15.00


Umzimbubu Chili Ginger Pepper: ships from Latitudes Fair Trade and is made by Serv. I confess, this one is probably not perfect for me, and better suited for the cooks in your circles. I used be cook a lot and was quite good at it. In recent years I really haven't spent much time with a stove top or over.  When I look at the collection of spices Latitudes offers, it certainly inspires me to bring out the pots and pans.  One bottle of spices is only $7.75 which means a few together would make an amazing presentation.

There you have it! If these gift suggestions work for me, you know they work for lots of other. When you support fair trade you really are making a positive difference in the lives of producers and supporters. Dunitz & Company (that's me) certainly knows that first hand. Happy Holidays! -ND

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Nancy Draws. Nancy Shows off Fair Trade Jewelry.

I keep drawing. It's been so fun for me to create portraits and then add Dunitz fair trade jewelry to the mix. The truth is, these drawings have provided many posts for our Instagram. And Facebook too. It's fun for me to see all these images in one place. So, here we go. This blog post share some new ones from the last several months, in no particular order :). See something you have to have for your own ears or wrist? Or a style you want to offer your customers in your store?  I'm here to help. -ND

I often draw models from magazine ads

Men often wear our small stud earrings

Self Portrait. And I don't have pierced ears.

It seems people like portraits in sunglasses!

It's been fun drawing people wearing hats

I really like this drawing!

I can't get enough of this smile

Did I capture that stretch?