Alexey Mernaugh, shown holding a basket from Tanzania, and his father, Larry, own the One World Emporium in Strawberry Fields that sells only free trade-certified items from around the world. (Photo by Don Watkins)
By Scott Weybrightsweybright@patuxent.com
Consumers concerned that goods they buy may have been made in sweat shop conditions or were the product of other unfair labor practices in foreign countries won't have such worries shopping in a small store set back from Frederick Road.
The One World Emporium, in a former carriage house behind the Catonsville Gourmet restaurant, features only fair trade items hand-made by native artisans, according to store owner Larry Mernaugh.
The items include woven baskets from Tanzania, Uganda and Cameroon; wind chimes from Indonesia and the Philippines, and even small teddy bears from Sri Lanka, among other products from around the globe.
Mernaugh, 62, gets his products from A Greater Gift, a program run by a nonprofit alternative trade and development organization called SERRV International.
The organization -- Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation -- sells fair trade items such as coffee and chocolates from around the world.
It started A Greater Gift to handle the hand crafts portion of the business.
One World, which opened in May, had been located in York, Pa. for about a year.
Mernaugh said he closed that store in April 2007 because it was losing money.
The Catonsville resident said he met with developer Craig Witzke last year and decided to try again in Witzke's Strawberry Fields complex, where Catonsville Gourmet is located.
Mernaugh's son, Alexey, 19, is a co-owner and runs the store most of the time while his father works full-time as a psychotherapist in Baltimore.
"We certainly won't get rich with this type of enterprise," Larry Mernaugh said.
"It's just about appealing to people's sense of social conscience and supporting fair trade and helping others."
Witzke said he wanted a store that focused on issues beyond profit, especially after hearing from local churches that asked for a store selling fair trade items to be part of the commercial area on Frederick Road.
"I thought it was a perfect fit for what we were trying to achieve," Witzke said.
Mernaugh said he hopes to branch into other areas, such as environmentally friendly products, in the future.
Buying fair trade or green merchandise provides a dual sense of satisfaction for shoppers, he said.
"It's an opportunity to buy something for yourself and at the same time help others," Mernaugh said. "We weren't trying to burden people or ask people to go above and beyond what they already do."
Mernaugh, who has been married to wife Pamala for 25 years, also wanted to include items made in Catonsville, so he's working with artists to display their works in his store.
Currently, works by Marty Spence and Lori Mellendick are available.
Mernaugh said he hopes to add more in the future.
The store is open Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.