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Small Biz Saturday: Ten Thousand Villages returns to in-person shopping, focuses on safety

Ten Thousand Villages in downtown Ann Arbor reopened for in-person shopping and follows strict safety protocols.
Ten Thousand Villages in downtown Ann Arbor reopened for in-person shopping and follows strict safety protocols. (Ten Thousand Villages)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Located in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, Ten Thousand Villages Ann Arbor is a store with a mission.

The locally-owned fair trade retailer is one of a series of stores across the U.S. that want to make a multigenerational impact on the artisans who supply it with handcrafted works.

But fulfilling that mission has been hard right now due to the pandemic, according to general manager Cathy Marks. The store was closed for in-person shopping for many months and is now operating with a dramatically reduced staff.

Before the pandemic, 66 volunteers would help Ten Thousand Villages’ four paid employees manage the store, but since it reopened in June only 29 have been able to return.

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However, sales and foot traffic at the store have been steadily increasing since it reopened for in-person shopping, which means that more artisan goods go out the door.

“The closures of the streets downtown [on] Friday, Saturday and Sunday has been a huge help for us and I’m sure for all of the businesses down here, " Marks said, adding that the store has seen more and more people come in and out.

Items inside Ten Thousand Villages were rearranged to make it easier for customers to stay socially distant.
Items inside Ten Thousand Villages were rearranged to make it easier for customers to stay socially distant. (Ten Thousand Villages)

Marks said Ten Thousand Villages has gotten a lot of positive feedback about its safety protocols from customers.

“Everything is cleaned constantly. Every time someone touches a credit card machine, we sanitize it. Every time someone uses the restroom, we sanitize it,” Marks said. “We’re constantly making sure that everything is as sanitary as it could possibly be.”

In-store shoppers are also asked to use hand sanitizer before touching any of the store’s unique items. Anything that has been tried on, such as dresses or scarves, is quarantined for three days before going back on the shelves.

Marks said the store is so proactive about safety because, in addition to caring about its customers, the store also wants its volunteers to remain safe.

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Marks said Ten Thousand Villages underwent some changes while closed to in-person shopping. The 16-year-old shop was freshened up with new paint and goods were rearranged.

The shop may look more sparse but the changes were done to make it more socially distance friendly for in-store shoppers, according to Marks.

The store also continued to receive shipments from its parent company and other artisans during the closure so shoppers have a wide variety of items to choose from.

As for other changes, only ten customers are allowed in at one time but Marks said staff monitor who is coming and going. The number is adjusted according to what feels the safest and most comfortable.

Moving forward, Marks said she is hopeful that the store will be able to expand its hours as it gets ready for the holiday season.

Ten Thousand Villages is currently open for in-person shopping from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

For customers uncomfortable with in-store shopping, Marks said that the downtown Ann Arbor retailer still offers curbside service and pickup.

Ten Thousand Villages Ann Arbor is at 303 S. Main St.

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