Luke and Charlotte Lundemo’s Fair Trade Green inside Rainbow Plaza is seeking investors to buy into their profitable and debt-free store.

The couple, moving to Bali in October, said in a public meeting Sunday, they don’t want to be “absentee landlords.”

“We (wouldn’t) feel good about that because we wouldn’t be spending money in the community [ourselves,] Luke explained. “If [Fair Trade] continues to be profitable, we’d be taking money out of the community. It could be more of a cooperative, community owned business.”

Similar yet different from the community-owned structure Rainbow Co-Op is set up under, Fair Trade Green Collective would be set up as a limited liability company. The Lundemos want to own less than half of that business, valued at $25,000, “well under the current market value,” they believe. Their hope is to collect enough investors to reach more than $12,500. A handful of pledges, in amounts as little as $100, have already been received.

“If we cannot reach that amount by September 15, we will begin the process of liquidating the business,” Luke said. (The deadline has been extended to September 30).

“That space was a black hole,” Charlotte remembered in approaching Rainbow in late 2009 with the idea for the store that sells fair trade merchandise from local artisans and 50 countries from around the world. In total, items like jewelry, clothing, books, candles, toys and others have come from 200 vendors over the years.

Inspired by the Pachamama Alliance, a global initiative based in South America, the Lundemos said they appreciated the alliance’s perspective on economic justice, spiritual fulfillment, environmental sustainability and how they’re interrelated. Following those values in their own mission statement, Luke said, “We thought it would be really great to see if we could build a store based on those principles.”

Low rent (including utilizes), through the generosity of Rainbow Co-Op, allowed the store to become debt free last year. According to Luke, the business is in the black, on track to remain profitable. Full-time manager Leslie Puckett is supported by three part time employees, David Edwards, Liz Patterson and Carolyn Walker, who have been with Fair Trade for some time.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said jewelry artisan and vendor Melinda Downey, who attended the meeting. “Yes, I’m biased. I want this to continue for me but I want it to continue for others. I have never been in that store when there wasn’t activity. There’s stuff happening there. That’s a good thing.”

Luke remembered one other meeting in his life similar to this and told the story of a commune he was a part of in Columbia, Missouri in the early 70’s.

“We were renting four big houses, spending $4,000 a month in rent,” he recounted. “Then we had this bright idea: why don’t we buy some land and move out to the land?”

Locating a 310-acre parcel in the “Missouri breaks” north of the Missouri River, the group scrounged together a $10,000 down payment on the $33,000 property.

“We all got jobs and paid for the farm in two and half years. And we still own it.” Lundemo’s son is still a part of the property, constructing buildings and maintaining the acreage. Recently, the group held a 45-year reunion.

Power in numbers?

“Yeah!” Lundemo said. “That’s kind of the theme – power in numbers because none of us individually could have dreamed that plan up.”

Interested in becoming part of the ownership of Fair Trade Green? Stop by the store for a packet, including financial information and a pledge card, or call Luke at 601-937-7224.

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