WESTWOOD, N.J. – The owners of Market House in downtown Westwood don’t make a huge profit from their gift shop, but that hardly matters to them.
“We’re paying rent and we make a couple extra bucks for ourselves,” said Sarah Christensen of Old Tappan. “Basically, we just love our artists, we love our customers and we love being able to use this as an opportunity to get donations to do what we really like.”
That thing Christensen and her business partner Chelsea Quinn of Demarest really like is raising money for food and supplies for people in impoverished Mexican villages.
The pair has made about six mission trips to Valladolid, Mexico, where Christensen’s father owns a bed and breakfast and restaurant.
Throughout the year, they collect money to purchase food and items like diapers and blankets for families in nearby Mayan villages, and then head down each February to personally deliver the supplies to families in need.
“It has really become the thing that like drives us,” Christensen said. “We tell people we are not looking for big donations … If you have $5 or $10 or your spare change, it makes a difference.”
Christensen and Quinn met while working at a yoga studio. And they first went into business together by selling natural body products at local farmers’ markets, where they met artists selling their own hand-made items.
Now, the pair sells those artists’ creations – and many others -- in their store. They offer items such as jewelry, pottery, T-shirts, leggings and toys, and can tell customers the story behind each product and the artisan who made it.
“We have about 200 artists now ... Probably like 95 percent of our artists are super local, meaning like Pascack Valley, Northern Valley local,” Christensen said. “We always tell people that if you come in and you live in the area you probably know one of our artists. You just might not know that is what they do.”
Christensen and Quinn also sell some products hand-made by artisans in the Mexican villages they help, and the profits go back to the villagers.