WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Under Phase One of Governor Roy Cooper’s plan to reopen the state’s economy, many retail stores began opening their doors but under the condition they allow fewer shoppers inside.
Swahili Coast in downtown Wilmington reopens this weekend. With workers around the globe, the shop has some unique considerations when it comes to getting back up and running.
The shop’s owner, Caroline Fisher, said it’s important to keep workers, both in Wilmington and East Africa, safe, as well as the customers who visit.
“We will be requiring face masks to be worn by anyone who is capable of wearing them coming into our store,” she said. “We will also be providing hand sanitizer, as well as putting up a barrier at the register area so that our employees are protected.”
If customers do not have a mask, they can purchase one in the store. Fisher said instead of making beaded jewelry and other accessories, the shop’s partners in Tanzania are making masks that will be sold for $8.
For every mask that is sold, Swahili Coast will donate one to the hard-hit country of Tanzania.
“My husband, Tony, and I used to live in Tanzania and we started a worker cooperative in Tanzania that makes a majority of our goods at Swahili Coast and obviously as business has slowed down, it has greatly impacted workers in Tanzania as well,” she said. “So, we have been doing a few initiatives. We’ve been raising money to send to our partners in Tanzania. We’ve changed the cooperative, which originally made sandals and bead-work jewelry into a workshop that is making face masks. So, we are making a few thousand face masks a week. We are shipping to Wilmington and distributing them to our partners around the country. We are also donating a mask in Tanzania for every mask we sell the U.S.”
This is the second time the store has been forced to close because of forces beyond its control.
In 2018, Hurricane Florence badly damaged the store’s Front Street location. The shop was closed for several weeks as repairs were made.
“This is such an unprecedented event and Wilmington we really got hit hard in the past couple of years,” she said. “I think that the difference this time is that everyone is really in the same boat across the country. We are able to commiserate with our friends and neighbors all over the country and really all over the world. I am of course concerned about downtown Wilmington. It is a lot for a lot of business owners to come from back from and were really pretty proud to be part of this community and it’s shown itself to be incredibly resilient.”
To learn more about Swahili Coast and its mission, click here.