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Trading fairly.

Byline: Francesca Fontana The Register-Guard

Susan Costa was sitting in the Bellevue Presbyterian Church in Washington last March when an idea popped into her head - to start a fair trade store.

At the time, Costa was feeling a little sorry for herself as she prepared to leave behind her longtime home, she said. Her husband, Donald, had been hired as the chief financial officer of Oregon Medical Group in 2014, and now the whole family was moving to Eugene.

The idea to start her own store came out of nowhere, Costa said, and became her "antidote to being homesick."

Five months later, she opened Mosaic Fair Trade Collection in downtown Eugene.

"I raised my kids in Seattle so it was hard for me to leave there, but this store has been such a nice adventure," Costa said.

Costa said her passion for international economic development began during a study-abroad trip to Nepal that she took in college. As a 19-year-old sophomore, she saw both poverty and hope during her nine-month stay, she said.

"It really gave me a heart for people in developing countries," Costa said.

That passion led Costa to her job at Seattle Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade store where she became board president.

"I learned to love the fair trade concept, where workers get living wages and safe working conditions, and I learned a lot about running a retail store," Costa said.

Costa has an MBA degree from the University of Southern California, so the job was a great fit for her, she said, combining her "business background and heart for charity."

The same two passions laid the groundwork for Mosaic Fair Trade Collection.

In a bit of serendipity, the opening of Costa's store followed the closure of Greater Goods, a long-running fair trade store, in 2014.

"I thought that was so neat, that Eugene had a fair trade store, and now they need another one," Costa said.

In another bit of serendipity, the space occupied by Urban Lumber Co., a Springfield-based business that uses recycled wood to build furniture, became open when Urban Lumber decided to consolidate operations in Springfield.

"It's a lovely space," Costa said of the 1,700-square-foot property. "I didn't have to do any improvements."

Costa is still in the early days of her new venture: She has two employees and is still working on determining her store's hours.

By the time college students are starting classes, Costa hopes to be open seven days a week. Costa said she wanted to time the store's opening to the beginning of a new school year, followed by the holidays, but did not want to wait an entire year. So she moved quickly to get the store open to the public early this month, with a grand opening scheduled for Sept. 4.

Costa, like Urban Lumber Co., will be selling furniture made from re cycled wood. Hers will come from Tropical Salvage, which sells furniture handmade from Indonesian wood by fair-trade workers, she said. A coffee table with a live edge, meaning that the natural edge of the wood is used, goes for $349. A 63-inch live-edge dining table is priced at $699.

In addition to furniture, Mosaic offers a variety of other products, including fashion and home goods. The single largest vendor represented in the store is Costa's former employer, Seattle Ten Thousand Villages, which offers items such as tablecloths and oven mitts, pottery, baskets, scarves and handbags from all over the world.

In a nod to her formative school trip, Costa also will be selling Nepalese items from Ganesh Himal.

"They make beautiful jewelry," Costa said.

Currently, Costa has about 500 different items; once she is fully up and running, she said, she plans to have 1,500.

While Costa has a website for the store, she will not be selling items online.

"If you want something special, like the things I have in my store that are unique, I think it's so great to come in," Costa said.

Costa said she hopes as part of her business mission to encourage the local community "to buy things that help people and not hurt people."

"We all cringe when we read those articles about sweatshops, it's just heartbreaking and it's so unfair to do that to people," Costa said.

"But with fair trade, the workers get living wages and have safe working conditions," Costa said. "Women are empowered, children are protected, it's just a nicer, happier way to shop. Mosaic Fair Trade Collection Owner: Susan Costa Address: 28 E. Broadway Contact: 541-344-4000 or Facebook Online: mosaicfairtradecollection.com ========= Follow Francesca on Twitter @francescamarief. Email francesca.fontana@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 27, 2015
Words:773
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