Focus on Mid-Town: Phoenix Traders

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-111099059810599.jpg’, ‘Photo by Charlene DeBrock’, ‘Phoenix Trades is at 215 Seventh St. in the Mid-Town District.’);

Last week in this series, I covered the Hai Quynh restaurant on Seventh Street, as part of an ongoing focus on the many great businesses in the Mid-Town District. These locally-owned stores and restaurants need more public attention to thrive and build better revenue for this under-served community. This week, I’d like to draw the public’s eye to a fairly new retail shop in the area, Phoenix Traders.

If you still have trepidations about wandering too far up Seventh Street and encountering some of those oh-so-charming panhandlers and drug dealers, Phoenix Traders is located fairly close to State Street at 215 Seventh St., in that attractive little brick foyer that also houses JJ Fish. If you’ve seen any of their ads in TRRT, you’ll know that one of their campaign lines is “Why go to Madison when you can work/shop at Phoenix Traders?” The ambience of the store is akin to some of the import/export clothing shops typically found in that college town up north, which appeal to the “socially conscious.” Colorful handmade sweaters, shirts, scarves and other clothing items from all over the world adorn the walls, and you can be assured that none of your money spent is going to exploit underpaid workers.

Owners Jim and Janet Phelps contribute not only to their local community, but to worldwide artisans and crafters. As importers of handmade clothing and jewelry, they practice fair trade as opposed to exploitation, and return a portion of their earnings to the communities providing the wares. “We’re a hybrid store, really,” said Jim. “Everything from wholesale is fair trade, but we also offer some non-fair trade items.”

Some non-fair trade items include the hemp and some bead jewelry and a rack of factory-made hoodies, but as the Phelpses pointed out, these things are wanted by customers and help maintain the business.

Not being big on incense myself, I was still impressed at the wide selection and reasonable prices offered at Phoenix Traders. They have the staples: nag champa, cannabis, patchouli, sandalwood, etc., as well as some I had never smelled before, such as co-cao tangerine. Janet assured me they will be carrying cone as well as stick incense soon. Although I think Minglewood has more varieties and brands, Phoenix Traders has some of the same brands for far cheaper prices.

Jim and Janet have a great deal to say about fair trade and the donations they have made to the Ali Shungu Foundation in Ecuador, but like a raccoon or magpie, my eyes were too distracted with all “the shiny” to pay enough attention. I was really trying to, because this nonprofit business that assists five indigenous communities in Otavalo with programs improving health, education and general welfare of the people is not only really interesting, but also effective in its humanitarian mission. But a pair of earrings from which hung the rounding tips of ostrich plumes dangled with so much appeal from the rack it was hard to focus.

We’ll delve into the Ali Shungu Foundation next week. Visit or stop by Phoenix Traders at 215 Seventh St. More info: 962-4212.

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