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Fair trade reigns at Hutcraft in Ellicott City

By Diane Pajak

7:18 PM EDT, October 4, 2011

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When browsing at Hutcraft in Historic Ellicott City, it’s advised you walk slowly.

With so many pretty whimsical items, it’d be easy to miss the one that strikes your fancy. It could be the curl-handled cup and saucer set from Vietnam, the Indonesian batik serving tray or the Peruvian knitted finger puppets.

Ellicott City couple Vishal and Sheeba Cherian, owners of Hutcraft, have put together a shop featuring fair trade items -- those aimed at supporting producers and artisans in developing countries -- from more than 40 countries.

“Having fair trade items, none other, makes me know I am helping people who make them,” Vishal says. “There’s no middleman.”

Each item at Hutcraft, which opened in March, is handmade and has a story behind it. The Cherians share those stories on cards propped up next to particular items in the store and on the shop’s website, www.hutcraft.com.

The inventory includes a wide variety of items and constantly changes -- jewelry, masks, shawls, handbags, artwork and more.

Vishal has a background as a computer engineer and Sheeba is a registered nurse, but both wanted to venture out into this business promoting fair trade.

The couple hopes their shop will soon become an official member of the Fair Trade Federation trade association. Although new to the business, they’ve accumulated most of the 12 months of involvement necessary for membership. The store’s inventory is currently supplied by Ten Thousand Villages and other members of fair trade.

Another of Vishal’s goals is to have the artisans in his family village of Kerala, India, become active in fair trade.

Hutcraft, 8167 Main St., Unit 105, Historic Ellicott City. 410-465-0520, www.hutcraft.com or Facebook.com/Hutcraft.