What: retail store with handmade, ethically sourced international products
Where: inside Main Street Market, 118 Main St., S.W., Gainesville
More info: www.purchaseeffect.org
For more than a decade, Connie Rock wanted her purchases to have purpose.
Rock is owner of Purchase Effect, a new retail store inside Main Street Market on the downtown Gainesville square. Purchase Effect is a collection of ethically sourced, handmade goods — including boots, shoes, handbags, jewelry, notebooks, home goods and much more — sourced from villages in developing countries. Its purpose is to provide income and work for artisans all over the world.
Rock grew up primarily in South America, living there 12 years before her missionary parents moved to Canada for three years and then Guatemala for nine.
“I had a lot of exposure to stuff in third world countries,” she said. “With all my travels as a missionary, I love to go to the markets and hang out with the people there. I usually stay as long as I’m welcome, and sometimes that includes eating meals with them, learning about their products and how they make stuff.
“For me, as a missionary and as a Christian, it was a great opportunity to build that relationship and that trust, to speak into their life a little bit and buy beautiful products. It was just a way to help them and support them.”
In her travels, Rock started having items brought back to the U.S., where she would tell their stories.
“So, say a pair of boots that I’d bring back, I would tell you about the gentleman in a boot village who made them,” she said. “And how it helps six different men that make the boots, providing income for their families.”
Rock began selling the products and sending 10 percent of the sale back to an organization in the country of the boots’ origin.
“A lot of them are Christian organizations,” she said. “Whether it’s an orphanage, a leper colony or a school for children.”
Today, Purchase Effect uses the same business model. Rock said the business has run debt-free up to this point, with not one employee earning a salary. She said she hopes to be able to change that, but the focus is getting money back to the communities in need.
“Ten percent maybe isn’t much, but this initially started with me going back and just taking 100 bucks,” she said. “And then multiplying that, having $200 the next time, and then $400. So we hope to be able to give back even more in the future.”
Purchase Effect also has two original T-shirt designs, Rock said. One reads “If you can’t help a hundred people, then just help one,” while the other states “Purchase local, effect global.”
Rock hopes the downtown Gainesville store could become more than a shop, but a place for people to hang out on the couches, relax and work.
With each purchase from the store, customers receive a “story card” with their product, which tells a story from the product’s country of origin.
Purchase Effect currently sources primarily from Thailand, Guatemala, Cambodia and some from India.
“For Guatemala, you hear the story about Roger and how he makes these boots, but you also get to hear about the 10 percent that goes back to an AIDS orphanage for children,” she said.
Another story card tells of two young girls in Cambodia who stepped on a landmine. One girl was killed instantly, while the other lost her leg.
Today, the survivor is a business owner, employing poor and disabled in the fair trade silk factory she owns with her husband. Their products, now stocked by Purchase Effect, provide for all their families.
“The part now that’s so rewarding is being able to go back,” Rock said. “Just to help financially, physically and spiritually, to bring the love of God there.”