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Fair Trade Store Opening in Westover

by Katie Pyzyk September 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm 6,900 84 Comments

Update on 10/4/12 — The store is now open, according to owner Lisa Ostroff.

A new store specializing in fair trade goods is opening in Westover. Trade Roots will replace Arax Cafe (5852 Washington Blvd), which closed this summer.

All of the products in the store are handmade by people in lesser developed countries including Kenya, Guatemala, South Africa, Nepal and Madagascar. Rather than resorting to working in a sweat shop, the laborers receive a fair wage for their products and are involved with a system that helps the goods get to market in more developed nations. Many of the items are created from recycled goods and promote sustainability.

“Fair trade is huge in Europe, it’s quite big on the West Coast and I think it’s going to continue to grow here,” said owner Lisa Ostroff. “When people come in they’ll see this is not a charity. They’re all beautiful things and they secondarily help someone struggling in some of these countries.”

Ostroff has lived in Arlington for nearly 30 years and wanted to open a store that tapped into her time spent studying international relations and non-profit management.

“It sort of brings all my skills together,” said Ostroff. “I’m not able to go there and be in the Peace Corps at this time in my life, but this was a good way to help people without actually being over there.”

Fair trade coffee will be sold by the bag, and customers can sample freshly brewed java. Ostroff hopes customers will visit the store for more than picking up a birthday or holiday gift. She pointed out that some smaller items could be hostess or teacher gifts, and many of the items can simply be a personal treat.

“Think of it as a little something for yourself, because it’s not expensive,” she said.

For now, Ostroff is working to stock the last few shelves and tie up loose ends. Trade Roots will officially open once its occupancy certificate is approved, which Ostroff hopes is in the next two weeks.

“I just think this is great for Arlington. Arlington is a liberal community,” Ostroff said. “I’m actually surprised that there isn’t something like this already. I’m hoping that this really grows.”

  • novasteve

    “I just think this is great for Arlington. Arlington is a liberal community,”

    That made me almost puke.

    • Buckwheat

      I was going to visit, but that last couple of lines turned me off.

      I’ve had enough of this liberal/conservative crap!

      • Gypsy

        That’s exactly what I thought. Lisa: it would do you and your business well to know that people of all political beliefs like helping those in need. By throwing out a political statement like that, you may be turning away potential clients, and potential funds for your mission.

        • lisa

          Gypsy, you make a good point. My point was not ‘liberal ‘ — as in Democrats or Republican, but I guess being so close to DC, and the election cycle I should have thought of that… Of couse, no one knows me or my politics, which frankly has nothing to do with the store. Look at a definition of liberal and you’ll understand what I meant when I used that word:
          favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
          ( often initial capital letter ) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
          of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
          favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
          favoring or permitting freedom of action,

          • Mike

            That definition is actually pretty political. The second definition, and probably the first and third as well, are political in the Democratic sense. The fourth definition is political in the Libertarian sense.
            “Liberal” is an ambiguous word with a classical meaning and a modern meaning, but either way it is usually entangled with politics. Perhaps what what meant here is that Arlington is “caring,” or “giving,” or “supportive.”

          • lisa

            Look, the doors were opened for the first time that day; people started coming in, including a reporter. I didn’t choose my words carefully, who knew people would be so sensitive. I believe Arlington is a very progressive community where supportive and intelligent people abound. Whether they are Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Jews or Arabs, is not the point. I meant liberal, as in progressive. But people can interpret the way they want to. And, No, I didn’t write all those other posts. Why bother?

    • okfuskee

      This is one of those unkind statements that contrasts sharply with your book of life thread.

    • drax

      Yet you constantly post about how Arlington is a liberal community, steve.

  • GMo

    Ha! This place will be gone in 6 months…

    • Tash

      No it wouldnt, We have plenty of those stores in Australia and New Zealand. Fair trade is becoming a very important business for us in Australia. We have had enough of food being spoiled by chemicals and also sick of cheap products from china…That last a day.

  • Kalex

    Goods from West Virginia?

  • novasteve

    Will this be like the store from The Dictator before or after the Dicatator organized it?

  • Tumblebum

    You can’t beat those sweat shop prices though.

  • Becoming indifferent

    Just because it’s “huge in Europe” doesn’t automatically make it good.

  • Congrats, a great addition to the movement. We are confident that you will do great.

  • JimPB

    Welcome, Fair Trade Store. You bring a new and welcome service and array of goods to the community. I’ve made a note to stop by later this Fall.

    Best wishes to owner Lisa Ostroff. I hope that Ms. Ostroff has done her business plan and financial projections homework. I understand that a new small business does well if it breaks even after 2 years. If that is so, Ms. Ostroff needs to have a financial reserve to carry Fair Trade Store that long. And the other tough question: Is is realistic for the Fair Trade Store to develop the $ volume of sales required to pay expenses and make a profit?

  • HughJassPhD

    In Arlington there is always a 100% chance of smug.

  • Chris C

    I think this is a breath of fresh air for the Westover section of Arlington. First, the new Farmer’s Market and now a Fair Trade store – I’m all for it! I hope others will support this locally owned business. Arlington needs more small businesses like this. Good luck, Ms. Ostroff. I can’t wait to visit your store!

  • LaurieG

    This is a fabulous idea and how great to have it right here in Westover. I can’t wait for the opening. I think this market is completely untapped locally and Lisa will do great. Best of luck!

  • Michelle Maynard

    It was sad to see Arax close but what a great replacement! It sounds like Trade Roots will be a fantastic addition to Westover Village. Ifrom your article, it appears that Trade Roots is consistent with Arlington’s character…perfect combo of local ownership/investment with global reach and perspective. Thanks for covering the story Arlnow. Now if we can only get another coffee shop — maybe with fair trade coffee?– in our Westover Village.

  • Theo M

    I am looking forward to shopping at a locally owned business !

  • Char D

    Great idea! I’ve peeked in the window, and the store and items are beautiful.

  • Beth P.

    What a great idea. Kudos to Ms. Ostroff. I am so pleased that a new store is opening and I like supporting locally owned businesses.

  • Diane F.

    Yet another reason to head to Westover! Kudos to Trade Roots for contributing to many communities in this way especially our own. I plan to visit often.

  • Lisa M

    I love this idea and look forward to shopping at this store. I am happy to support local businesses with unique ideas and I totally agree with the previous commenter that this is a breath of fresh air in Westover. Bring it on, we are ready,

  • novasteve

    Maybe arlington will become the next Media, PA?

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Trolley and all.

  • NoVapologist

    Pretty obvious several of these comments are from the same person. First name, initial. Blah, blah, locally owned, blah, blah, will visit, blah, blah, love it, yada, yada, yada.

    • BrianKal

      +1 maybe the owner … all spaced about 15mins apart and not a normal commenter on ARLnow

      • BrianKal

        also unlike most ARLNOw commentors, all the comments left use near perfect grammar which indicates likely same person

        • Upbeat and Positive

          Not to mention that they are upbeat and positive….

          • Upbeat and Positive

            They are also upbeat and positive.

        • Nofrigginintitial

          I think this store sounds like a good idea and might do well, and I just might make my way to westover for it.

          also the trolley is friggin good idea and will pay for itself, and anyone who says otherwise is Treyv, and no Im not 2900 or whatever the hell. And stop running over cyclists and driving your cars into stores, please.

          • Maggie

            How about cyclists quit running over pedestrians?

        • Jen M

          Here’s a thought: Is it so hard to believe that Lisa would alert her friends to her inclusion in ArlNow and that they would write supportive comments? And that being the friends of an educated woman of a certain age, they might not have grown up texting and therefore use careful grammar as a matter of habit? Also, b/c they are busy women who don’t typically spend time in the comments section of ArlNow articles, that they might not have a catchy screen name at the ready to type in? After all, the prompt is for “name”, not “screen name”. To me, all this easily explains why there were several supportive comments with similar screen names and good grammar in a row. Oh yeah, and I know one of the commenters… she’s real and not the owner (and neither am I)! I’m sure there are real conspiracies out there… this just isn’t one.

          • Savanarola

            I know the commenters, too – I can identify them by their names (Hi, ladies!). I can attest that we’re real people, LOL. I found this article about the store while looking for information about hours so that I could bring a friend this weekend to do a little early Christmas shopping. I am, likewise, not the owner – but a neighborhood resident, well-educated, “of a certain age,” and capable of writing whole paragraphs without misusing a preposition.

            Gosh, does that make me a mole?

            I went to the store, and loved it. I’m coming back with a friend who, like me, misses the fair trade stores we had back home in another state. Especially LOVED the Bolivian chocolate – including some that is harvested wild, rather than plantation grown. Locally owned stores are a boon to our community: I want to see Westover’s shopping district stay vibrant and I support people who work in or for my neighborhood.

      • sunflower

        i havent noticed many “normal” commenters on arlnow

      • Maggie

        ‘Normal’ commenter on ArlNow? You’ve gotta be kidding!

  • MAK

    I can’t wait until Trade Roots opens! It’s going to carry beautiful handmade and recycled items and be a great addition to Westover. And it will help support artisans from around the world. Go for it, Lisa!

  • Debs

    This is a great addition to Westover! I will visit the store often since I walk by at least once a week to get my ice cream scoop at Toby’s!

  • Glebe Roader

    As pointed out by NoVApologist, Laurie G, Theo M, Char D, Beth P, Diane F, Lisa M and then MAK and Debs are all the same person. You’re not helping your cause!

    • MC 703

      I know zero Chars

    • Quoth the Raven

      What would be better would be the owner getting on here and explaining why she decided to make sure an asinine statement about how Arlington is a “liberal community”. If I’m not liberal, does that mean I can’t shop there? Or that I’m not welcome?

      • Nofrigginintitial

        more likely it means that “liberals” are less likely to think that free market wages ARE fair wages, and hence more likely to go out of their way to shop for fair trade items.

        While thats probably not true 100% of the time, its seems pretty friggin reasonable as a first order approximation.

        I mean opening a store like this in some right wing neighborhood in the suburbs of Houston would probably be a bad idea (que – some wiseass finding a fair trade something in some ron paul voting nabe in Houston – congrats you win the internet)

      • lisa

        Please see above. And no, those weren’t all me. I stayed out of this mess until now..

      • drax

        No, it doesn’t mean that, and that’s so obvious that you shouldn’t have asked.

    • Ted

      I would like to know whether Arl Now is dominated by economic development boosters operating out of the County Office Building and Economic Development Office.

      How about a Made in USA store? A novel concept that may achieve popularity with older Arlington residents.

      • Nofrigginintitial

        there are made in virginia stores (none on arlington I think)

        • Maggie

          There is a ‘Virginia’ Store in Old Town … used to be made in VA but now items just have to remind one of VA … watch out for all the made in China stuff that fits the bill.

      • drax

        There are several Made in the USA website stores.

  • Andy

    Those looking to be offended certainly never miss an opportunity to be offended.

    • drax

      Like liberals!

  • SteamboatWillie

    Wait, people are offended that someone stated the factually accurate point that Arlington is a liberal community?

    It probably wasn’t the smartest business decision to risk alienating the conservative minority in the community, but the whiny false umbrage from self-proclaimed non-liberals is a bit much. All this time, I thought we liberals were supposed to be the hypersensitive crybabies.

    Have a nice weekend.

    • Quoth the Raven

      You hit the nail on the head. I don’t think people are debating whether or not her statement is or is not factually accurate. Or at least I’m not. I’m simply stating that as a new business owner, who presumably wants to build her business, shouldn’t make such tone deaf comments.

      And I’ll note that if someone opened a store and said they were catering to the conservative folks in the community, I bet there would be plenty of “whiny false umbrage” from the left. (And for the record, I’d have the same comment to them as I do to Lisa.)

      • SteamboatWillie


        I’m just skeptical that some of the regular right wing posters on this site sincerely would patronize this type of store in the first place. Fair trade, or sustainable and green for that matter, has become unofficially synonymous with liberal, so in this über-partisan environment where so many people have taken sides with their consumer boycotts and buycotts- Chick-Fil-A, Domino’s, Verizon, Credo, etc. – I’m guessing that the conservatives would have avoided this new place soon enough.

        Maybe Lisa just saved them the intellectual exertion.

        • Nofrigginintitial

          fair trade is more political than sustainable/green – one COULD believe that GHGs are an externality. Believing that free market wages are problematic would seem to be a more fundamental questioning of the market system. I suppose one could say that free market wages are optimal, but I choose to give charity via paying more, but I doubt thats the spirit of the store.

          Anyway, purely from a market POV, it makes sense to locate in a liberal area. I mean is it bigoted to locate a tanning salon in a heavily white area? A pupuseria in a heavily hispanic area? A christian book shop in a mostly christian area?

          • sunflower

            notfriggin–your style bleeds through and identifies you

        • Quoth the Raven

          Sad that both environmental protection and helping those in need are political issues.

        • Gypsy

          Your skepticism is based on hate.

          • SteamboatWillie

            Oh the irony.

      • Nofrigginintitial

        she should have said

        “the store should do well because Arlington has lots of people who would pay a premium for things made by workers paid fair wages, not the prevailing wage that multinationals will pay them, and this includes people who otherwise believe that the free marketplace is the absolute definition of justice, but they will make an exception for me”

      • Oliver

        Her “liberal” statement is gaffe under Michael Kinsley’s definition of that term: when someone accidentally speaks a truth, or makes an admission, that they didn’t intend to. She was right – Arlington is a ‘liberal” community, that always elects Democrats, often from the more leftward half of that party. Her comment therefore makes perfect sense – “fair trade” stores are common in places like Cambridge MA and Berkley CA, and it was a little surprising that Arlington didn’t have more.
        But as a business owner, that was a thought best left unspoken. Some people of more conservative views might buy something there just because they like it, without caring where it came from or whether their purchase said something about their politics. Explicitly injecting “liberal” into the store could be a bit like the current fast-food situation, where people believe that buying or not buying a particular brand of chicken might imply that they support a particular agenda.

  • Stitch_Jones

    Thanks for identifying your store, not by the products or prices, but by your personal politics.

    However, she is correct. Alrington is by and large a liberal community, as evidenced by a bullying crook such as Pat Moran repeatedly being sent back to congress for more pork for Arlington.

    So yeah – she will probably do ok.

    • Nofrigginintitial

      the prices will NOT be as cheap as they could be if the workers were paid as little as one could pay them and still get a labor force. thats the point.

      How is fair trade NOT political?

      • Oliver

        “Fair trade” is a political concept, but its appeal doesn’t have to be limited to customers of a particular political bent. The prices will not be as cheap as if the workers were paid less, but the goods will be different than what is carried in other stores. People may find hand-made items not available in mainstream retailers, and may feel the prices are justified because they like the products, even if they don’t particularly have an interested in helping the workers who made the products.

      • Clarendon

        It’s a free market approach to a political end. Put a label on something that says the profits from this product are equitably distributed to everyone in the chain from worker to owner and let the consumer decide if the product and that assurance is worth the cost (sometimes it is more, but not always).

    • SteamboatWillie

      Pat, huh? You might be on to something, so please keep at it.

  • sunflower

    i consider myself a liberal, but i don’t think we have a monopoly on being pro fair trade or fair wages, or against sweatshops–or being “green” for that matter. use of “liberal” here was ill-advised, and definitely not a good marketing strategy

    • Tabs


      Pangea in the IMF building closed, by the way. And they had good prices.

  • WestoverNative

    This store seems like a great fit for the Westover neighborhood. I’ve seen a good amount of people go through this location (anyone else remember Magpie?) and wish her the best!

  • ArlingtonWay

    It’s a tough spot to locate in. I go to Westover multiple times per week and have for nearly a decade. I am regularly at the library, lost dog, the rite aid, the 7-11, thai nou and tobys. In ten ears I think i went into the coffee shop in that space once, and only because I was curious. Its something about that space that is just not as visible or accessable as the rest of Westover. Wish her well all the same.

  • SouthPikeGuy

    Don’t forget to patronize Woodmont Weavers and the local artist Fine Arts and Craft store in Ballston too. Keep the money in the US and help local disadvantaged people.

  • PL25rd

    I will definitely stop by! I see stores like this all the time when I visit Northern California (one of my favorites is in Santa Rosa), so I’m glad to see something similar here.

  • From the only GOP in Arlington

    As a small business owner, it never ceases to amaze me about how many of the responses on this blog are negative — and quick to predict failure.

    And as my moniker denotes, I am a Republican yet I do agree with the owner of this unique store: Arlington is a liberal place — (duh!) — but that doesn’t mean I won’t shop at her store! I travel worldwide helping women enter public service and my house is a GIANT “Ten Thousand Villages”, full of women-made products, especially art. It’s my passion, and I’m glad someone like Lisa Ostroff is helping women (and men) succeed. In Nigeria, I met with women who were learning how to make soap to sell at the markets…..when we help folks (esp women) succeed economically, they can feed their children and pay for their education.

    Please be kind — why is that so difficult?

    • HayyDiosMio

      Well put… this is difficult because these these fools around here are a bunch of Pendejos w/ nothing to do. that’s all they do.. childish cry baby BS. putting down people or defending some silly arse cause like “don’t post mugshots “…

      PURA PENDEJADA.. first world problems man…

    • JimPB

      Well said”From the only GOP in Arlington.”

      And, what my elders, who were very outspoken (tough on issues) but also valued good manners and all others (tender on people), would do and say about many of the writers of ARLNow.Com comments.

      There were beyond administering mouth washings with Ivory soap, so they would focus on manners and respect for others, e.g.,
      “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.”
      “Treat others like you would want to be treated if you were them.” OR
      “Don’t cast a stone unless you are without sin.”

  • Cindy

    Nothing like someone trying to open a nice small business in a residential neighborhood to really bring out the crazy. Oh wait, it also helps people in underdeveloped countries? Outrageous! The stupid banter on this site is so annoying. I’d be willing to forgive it if it was actually funny or thought-provoking, but 90% of the time it’s just pointless vitriol. I’m always happy for an excuse not to go to the mall (or Clarendon) so I look forward to visiting.

    • HayyDiosMio

      I think comments on all news sites should be shut down. that’s the reality. use your FB or twitter or chat roulette account to vent about BS.

      comments sections are useless. including this comment as clearly no one will agree with me and shut down comments.

    • Competitor

      Come to my new store: Sweatin’ to the Oldies. Nothing but stuff from sweatshops. You call it child labor; I call it bootstrap self-help economics!

    • amused

      So how much did you buy?

  • ricflower

    Welcome to Westover Lisa, I think your store will be a fine addition. Wishing you great sucess!

  • Arlingtonian

    Arlington may be considered a liberal or progressive community by some. But until a law is passed where rich people must shop there, liberals never put their money where their mouth is.

  • MAG

    LOVE this store! I went in on Saturday for one hostess gift, and ended up coming out with about 12 Christmas gifts – and a couple of things for myself. They have some very unique items, and considering the fair trade concept, I think their prices are very fair as well. Welcome to the ‘hood Trade Roots! Don’t worry about naysayers – the supportive audience for your shop is a much bigger group.

  • Natasha

    Awesome we love fair trade in Australia and New zealand. its the way to go.


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