A cooperative of more than 800 South African Zulu works full-time to create brightly colored baskets and bracelets fashioned from telephone wire. These crafts catch the eye upon entering Peacecraft, Albuquerque's only retailer that deals exclusively in fair-trade products. The items sold here provide enough income to support the Zulu co-op’s members and families, says Sharon Cantrell, Peacecraft's outreach director. The trade also creates jobs for fathers, she says, in a region where many families are split apart when men have to travel across the continent to find work.
Cantrell's anecdote exemplifies the far-reaching effects of Peacecraft, housed at 3215 Central NE in Nob Hill.
Jim Neustel, the nonprofit’s executive director since 2004, says the organization is "one of the very few groups in the state that focuses strictly on the fair-trade model." But if the store doesn’t pull together at least $15,000, Neustel estimates that Peacecraft could shut down in six to eight months.
Though the amount considered "fair" is financially relative depending on region, Cantrell defines it as "the amount of money they need to more than survive on."
Peacecraft has helped dozens of small, Third World cooperatives survive over the last 21 years. The store is run, in part, by a rotation of more than 30 unpaid volunteers. It has spent $1,385,000 on fair-trade products over the past 10 years. It is Peacecraft's goal to "establish relationships directly with groups,” says Neustel. “They actually get money directly in their hands."
Peacecraft typically pays co-ops for half of their stock up front, but some take more than half a year to deliver on their orders. This, along with a decline in sales and donations, has meant being more judicious with orders and scaling back how much product the store can accept. The shop used to work with about 20 more cooperatives on average.
"Our revenues have dropped in the last few years to 50 percent," Neustel says.
The store has also made more visible cutbacks. The back half of Peacecraft is being rented out to the Maple Street Dance Company. While Neustel is pleased with this partnership, the empty space that used to be an inventory storehouse is indicative of one thing: Fewer items are coming in, which means a decreased cash flow to Third World crafters.
As for the $15,000 the store needs to scrape by, it isn't exactly clear-cut. Cynthia Beiser, president of Peacecraft's board, confirms that the figure given by Neustel is what Peacecraft needs "to scrape by." Hitting that number "gives us another shot," she says, but she adds that they are still about $45,000 to $60,000 from being comfortable.
Neustel, who is also president of the Nob Hill Business Association and Nob Hill's Main Street Group, has reached out in many directions to aid the faltering nonprofit. He brought together focus groups who offered impressions of the store. He talked to image consultants. "Right now we're stuck because we know that Albuquerque and Santa Fe have communities that know what we do," he says. But spreading the word outside of the highly supportive clientele bubble hasn't been easy.
One of the more promising solutions Neustel's outreach has netted is an upcoming promotion with Whole Foods. On Dec. 21, the grocer at 2103 Carlisle NE will donate 5 percent of its total sales to Peacecraft. Grass Roots Yoga also offers classes in the Maple Street dance space for a suggested $8 to $15 donation, and all proceeds benefit Peacecraft. Yoga classes are held every Thursday at 3215 Central NE from noon to 1:15 p.m.