For six years, Regla de Oro has exemplified business with a heart. Owned by Jessica Smith, the retail store and art gallery has supported local artists, offered fair trade products from around the globe and given back to the community by donating proceeds to non-profit causes.
Now, Smith needs to take a break for health reasons.
The doors of Regla de Oro’s Lyndale Avenue storefront are closing, but Smith plans to stay in business through an online shop. Then, in the spring, she’ll be back in action, participating in sales around the Twin Cities and possibly opening a pop-up shop at an as-yet undisclosed location, she said.
Regla de Oro opened in November 2010 near Lyndale & Lake, then moved to its latest location, next to the World Street Kitchen, in 2012. The heart of its mission has been three-pronged: helping local artists increase their visibility by giving the space to sell their work on consignment; helping global artisans earn a living wage within safe and healthy working conditions through selling fair trade products; and giving back to the local community by donating a portion of its proceeds from sales to various nonprofits, social justice groups and arts education programs.
Smith’s health issues necessitated the decision to close. In 2013, she underwent both a full hysterectomy and a preventative double mastectomy within seven months of each other. This was after she had been diagnosed with stage zero cervical cancer and found out that she had the BRCA2 gene mutation, which causes hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC).
Now, Smith struggles with chronic pain as a result of her surgery.
“The first year after my initial surgery was just a killer because I had no idea how much pain I would be in,” she said.
Even now, her health makes it difficult to do all the things she needs to do to run the store, especially this time of year.
“It’s really hard during the holiday season to do so many holiday shows and maintain the store. It’s just really taxing,” she said. “The chronic pain really takes its toll.”
Outpouring of support
Smith said she was surprised by how many responses she’d gotten to the announcement in the shop’s newsletter of Regla do Oro’s closing. People wrote to say how much they loved the store and how they were going to miss it.
“That was really heartwarming,” Smith said. “I just want people to know we are not closing our business, we are just closing our storefront. We are still going to have our online shop and we’ll have occasional sales around the Twin Cities starting in the spring.”
Marita Bujold, an artist who had shown her work at the store’s first location, said Regla de Oro was a reminder of what’s possible in terms of a fair trade economy.
“This is precisely the kind of thing we ought to support,” Bujold said. “It should be the norm rather than the aberration.”
The storefront space will be open through Christmas Eve, with big sales not only on arts and products but also on the cases and fixtures in the store. After that, art belonging to local artists who have consigned at the store will go back with them, and the global fair trade items that haven’t sold will go into storage before Regla do Oro starts up again in the spring at sales around the Twin Cities, such as the World Jubilee.
Planning for the future
Smith will be doing another surgery at the end of this year, to correct the chronic pain issues that resulted from her HBOC preventative surgeries in 2013. After that surgery, she plans to get lots of rest.
“I’m just going to stay at home and sleep, regroup and figure out what I’m going to do next,” she said.
After her break, besides running her online shop, and participating in sales around the Twin Cities, Smith said she wants to get more involved in advocacy.
“I’d really like to be able to work with different business associations to start promoting fair trade,” she said.
She hopes to be able to connect different fair trade businesses, as well as businesses that offer some fair trade products, together, “so they’re not working in a vacuum,” she added.
In that regard, Smith has already taken several steps.
About six months ago, she started a Twin Cities Fair Trade retailers Facebook group, where people could share different ideas and sales that they were going to be attending.
“We want to make sure we are not duplicating product if there are events we are going to together,” she said.
Ideally, she hopes to work on a creating an online space for both retailers and consumers as a first step.
“That will help lay the groundwork to get people more on board,” she said.
IF YOU GO
Regla de Oro’s “12 Days of Christmas” sale
When: Through Dec. 24.
Where: 2743 Lyndale Ave. S