ADDRESS: 259 SW Madison Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97333
PHONE NUMBER: 541-738-0808
OWNERS: Margaret and Lily Wilson
MANAGER: Theresa McLaren
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 6 years as an independent business
WHAT THEY SELL: Children’s toys, books, jewelry, ornaments, kitchen items, clothing, and decorative items for your home
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Great care is taken by the owners to choose beautiful, well-made gift items, many of which are Fair Trade. The store has a wonderful atmosphere for browsing, and smiling staff members are always ready to help. Its abundance and comfortable layout make Many Hands the perfect place to find a gift for anyone for any occasion.
Shopping at Many Hands Trading Company is like wandering through an exotic bazaar. Look left and you may see a Himalayan salt lamp. Look right and there’s oil drum art from Haiti. If it’s an icy winter day and your head is cold, you may want to walk straight ahead to the shelf of hand-knit woolen hats from Nepal. And not only does Many Hands carry intriguing goods, but it strives to do good with its socially conscious buying and selling. Come travel the world in downtown Corvallis.
Theresa McLaren (manager), when and why was the business started? The business was originally started as a fundraising not-for-profit in 2005 for the Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center. It was only open for 8 weeks, and they raised $45,000 to open the Literacy Center. It continues to be one of the Center’s major fund raisers. Margaret and Lily then opened the store as a business on Monroe Avenue in 2007. In 2009, they were able to move to their current location on Madison Avenue.
What are your specialties? One of our specialties is jewelry. You can find fun fashion pieces starting at $3, arranged by color so you can coordinate with any outfit and very fine pieces of jewelry, as well. Many of these items are Fair Trade, and all items are carefully screened for their source by the buyers.
What challenges have you faced as an independent local business owner? Being independent, it is a struggle to compete with large companies and with online sources. Staffing can be difficult as well, especially during the very busy holiday season.
What is the impact of local independent businesses in Corvallis – and what does the future look like for local independents? Local independent businesses keep the town vibrant. It is important for people to understand how independent businesses create a synergy in particular in the downtown area. The restaurants and shops make it a wonderful destination place. The future looks very good.
What is your relationship to the community? Many Hands is very much a part of the fabric of the Corvallis community. The store continues to give back in a variety of ways, such as the “Day of Sharing.” Day of Sharing is part of Many Hands Trading’s continuing mission to contribute financial support to local organizations that support children, education, and families. The recipient organization receives 25 percent of the day’s sales. In addition to raising funds for the organization, it is Many Hands Trading’s goal to broaden public awareness of the organization’s programs and mission. Past recipients have been the Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis; the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence (CARDV); Corvallis Public Schools Foundation; Linn Benton Food Share; and, of course, the Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center. The owners also give back generously to other worthy causes, donating over $42,000 in 2012.
How important is sustainability to you and your business? It is extremely important, and we look for vendors who believe in it, as well. Many Hands uses cloth towels instead of paper for cleaning and for our restrooms. We also recycle all the packaging material that we can, and we look for minimal packing for the products that we sell.
(Interview and article by Cindee Lolik – February 3, 2013)
The Local Business of the Week program is designed to help the Corvallis community identify our locally-owned independent businesses by featuring one business each week. The program is part of the Buy Local First campaign co-sponsored by the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Corvallis Independent Business Alliance.