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Baraboo store delivers goods from around the world

August 11, 2018

Jill Addy opened her store believing it would be the last piece in downtown Baraboo’s retail puzzle. Customers tell her she was right.

Last month Addy opened A Sense of Adventure, a Fourth Street gift shop specializing in hand-crafted, fair-trade goods produced in Wisconsin and around the world. Customers find dog treats from Wisconsin, sweaters from Ecuador and steel drum art from Haiti.

“I look for things that would fit a Midwestern sensibility but have just a hint of something a little unusual,” she said.

Fair-trade items are made by companies committed to paying livable wages, maintaining safe working conditions and protecting the environment.

Addy believed a fair-trade store would fill a niche in a bustling downtown district that already features antiques, upcycled décor and kitchenware. “This fills in the missing piece,’” customers have told her. “It’s been affirming to hear people say that.”

Downtown Baraboo Inc. President Deirdre Marshall agrees. “Jill’s store has the vibe of a modern, urban market, with many items we simply have not seen before in our downtown shops,” Marshall said.

A marketing professional during the week, Addy learned the fair-trade business by selling jewelry and décor through Trades of Hope home parties. She also has sold fair-trade jewelry at Madison shows.

Along the way she connected with brokers who ship goods from certified fair-trade companies overseas. A Baraboo resident since 2011, Addy believed the community would support a dealer of handmade goods that aren’t manufactured in sweatshops. She was pleased to move into a storefront previously occupied by Countryside Refind, which expanded on Third Avenue in June. A Sense of Adventure opened July 1.

“I knew if I wanted to survive in Baraboo, I had to be on the square,” Addy said. “It just kind of felt like home.”

She has filled the store with items from 32 countries, many of them one-of-a-kind pieces. “If you see something you like, I may not be able to get it again,” Addy said. “We hope we’re getting a good read on what people like.”

More often than not, she and store manager Stephanie Hartman have a story to share about items customers peruse. There are multicolored foam sculptures of animals made from discarded flip-flops, jewelry made partly from cereal boxes, even bags made by residents of a leper colony in Bangladesh.

“There are really cool stories behind a lot of the products, because of how they’re made and what they’re made out of,” Addy said.

“More than ever, people like to know where the things they buy come from, and reading the back story of the merchandise is part of the fun of shopping at A Sense of Adventure,” Marshall said. “I love that buying an item there may keep old flip-flops out of a landfill, or help woman entrepreneurs emerge from poverty, or support wildlife. It’s like shopping for a cause.”

Social media, foot traffic to the nearby Alpine Café and bright mylar balloons attached to her sidewalk sign have been the cornerstones of Addy’s marketing efforts thus far. In October, she’ll open the rear of the store for pop-up shops. Artists and others selling handmade goods will get retail space for a nominal fee, and the store will get some new potential customers walking through.

“People say, ‘I like the store, I’m coming back for gifts,’” Addy said. “We’ve got stuff coming in all the time.”

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