Revive boutique offers unique handcrafted items

Six years ago, Lisa Dunn merged her separate career paths in retail, fair trade and human rights advocacy and opened the Revive Fair Trade boutique on Lee Road. “The goal of the store is to sell products that are handcrafted by artisans around the world and to give them a platform to retail their products,” said Dunn, a 10-year resident of Cleveland Heights.

Dunn had wanted to open her own store for as long as she could remember. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to have my own boutique,” she said. “Once I got into retail, I started to wonder if I could do it in an ethical manner. When I realized there was an opportunity to sell products that people can believe in and make a positive difference, it was like the floodgates opened. I was very focused on making it happen with limited resources.”

It wasn’t an easy process to open Revive’s doors. Dunn had to identify which groups she wanted to source from and the product mix that would appeal to her customers.

“I based [those decisions] on my past experience in the fashion industry and knowledge of the fair trade wholesale world,” Dunn said. “I really knew all of the fair trade groups that were out there and readily available, so I was able to determine which would be the best products to sell."

Her next step was to secure financing. She and her husband worked fulltime while they spent about two months renovating the store. Family and friends helped, too.

“When you have a community of friends and family who believe wholeheartedly in the same mission as you do, it’s hard to stop it,” she said. “It’s a force and the reason we were able to get off our feet and get the store up and running."

Dunn began to feel the economic stress of the recession in 2008. Inspired by artisans’ dedication, work ethic and hope, she never gave up her own hope to keep pushing through the recession.

“We made the decision to stick it out through the tough economy because we believed so much in what we’re doing and the mission of the store,” she said. “We believe that there’s a wonderful dynamic here between clients who greatly appreciate the product mix and the ethical sourcing of products."

To help get through the tough economy, Dunn opened a second store in Legacy Village in the fall of 2008. “We gained a lot of new customers and we were able to put fair trade even more on the map,” she said. “It’s been great to have two locations that can complement each other.”

Dunn’s Cleveland Heights customers helped the most. “They’re very loyal and I feel the mission of the store means a lot to them. [This] is a wonderful community that supports independent businesses and has a mix of cultures and global awareness,” she said.

Revive offers hand-knit organic cotton sweaters and items made from recycled materials, such as wallets made from recycled newspaper with unique text, making them one-of-a-kind pieces.

Dunn believes all the items she sells are unique “by nature because they’re handcrafted, not mass produced, so you can’t find them in every store you go into.”

She warns hopeful entrepreneurs that they will have to face possible 100-hour work weeks when opening a business. Even so, she still loves her work. “It’s what I love to do, so it doesn’t feel like work,” Dunn said.

Yelena Tischenko

Yelena Tischenko is a senior majoring in magazine journalism at Kent State University and a Heights Observer intern.

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Volume 5, Issue 9, Posted 8:25 AM, 09.03.2012