Revive: A local store with international reach

Lisa Dunn travels the world to find Fair Trade items for her Lee Road store. Photo courtesy of Kim Sergio Inglis.

Amid a unique selection of clothing and accessories, there are thousands of stories inside Revive, Cleveland Heights’ Fair Trade boutique.

One story describes the work of Mercado Global, a group of artists in Guatemala, whose skillful crafting of jewelry and textiles is helping to break the cycle of poverty for their daughters. Another story belongs to Gloria, a single mother in Central America, who supports her family with a line of crocheted handbags sold at Revive.

All of the stories are linked together by Lisa Dunn, Revive’s owner, who founded the Lee Road store in 2006, and has since expanded to a second store in Legacy Village. Dunn and her staff make sure the tag on each item includes information about the artisan who created it. “We put a lot of work into the description, making sure there is a story,” says Dunn. 

Dunn’s own story merges her background in retail management with subsequent work for a Cleveland-based human rights organization. In that position, Dunn explains, “I learned about the struggle for human rights in labor. In many areas, minimum wage is not a living wage. Fair Trade is an alternative commerce structure—one that is committed to paying producers a living wage, so that they can eat nutritiously, take care of their health and educate their children.”

During a trip to El Salvador several years ago, Dunn met a group of women; all skilled tailors, they were unable to find work in their community because they could not compete with cheaper clothing imported from China. Impressed by their craftsmanship and moved by their story, Dunn commissioned them to make 20 pairs of embroidered pants, which she gave as holiday gifts. Dunn recalls, “In spite of the obstacles they faced, they still lived every day with hope. I was inspired by their resilience to take chances, and work in Fair Trade to bring their work to a retail setting.”

“At the same time I was learning about Fair Trade,” says Dunn, “I felt like a new eye was opened to me for fashion. I learned about hand-blocked fabrics, vegetable and clay dyes, and organic fabrics. I work on product development with the artisans, and buy from about 70 different groups, from 37 different countries.”

She adds, “I am struck by the skill level and desire for work of the people I meet. I know my store has a real social impact. At the same time, we work with the artisans to keep the items we sell unique, fashionable and current.”

New this month is a travel-inspired organic cotton line from Uganda, exclusive to Revive. “These are great basics,” Dunn points out, “with unique details, such as ruching on the side of some pieces.”

While much of her inventory is imported, Dunn sells several domestically produced lines, including belts made in Chicago from factory-discarded seat belts and vintage ribbon. “The same husband and wife who make them also make guitar straps used by my favorite band, Wilco, and sold at Heights Guitars,” reveals Dunn.

Revive’s website,, includes links to other Fair Trade stores and organizations, as well as an online shop. A monthly e-newsletter focuses on a particular collection or artisan, and highlights special events, such as trunk shows and fashion shows, and private shopping parties.

“With all the traveling I do, I’m really happy to call Cleveland Heights home,” says Dunn, who has lived here, with her husband, for 10 years. “I think there is something special about this community,” Dunn observes, adding, “Everyone here is committed to keeping the Heights vibrant. There is a strong devotion to independent businesses and restaurants. And when things happen in other parts of the world, because it affects the artisans we work with, Heights residents understand.”

Revive Fair Trade, 2248 Lee Rd, 216-371-2778, Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Closed Sunday.

A former marketing professional, Kim Sergio Inglis recently relocated to Cleveland Heights from Brooklyn, NY.

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Volume 3, Issue 7, Posted 9:51 AM, 06.22.2010