The gift that keeps on giving is what Maria’s Artisan Shop is all about with a collection of Artisan fair trade bags, and accessories that are ethically sourced from Guatemala and other countries. Owner Maria Moore had always been intrigued by culture and colorful items so she created a business online in September 2017 which led to a storefront recently opened at 6618 Third St., in downtown Riverbank.
With the website taking off and the Instagram account gaining a large following she outgrew the shop she created at her home. Growing up in the area and with parents that created their own business with Lopez Imports in Escalon, she had the idea to start up her own business.
“All the things here are from Guatemala though and I have always liked handmade items that are kind of different with more culture to them,” stated Moore. “I first started through a wholesaler and then from there I started working directly with the bag artisans who work directly with weavers.”
The store has a variety of handbags in all shapes, sizes, and colors as well as women’s tops. She explained that the Guatemalan women hand weave tops and blouses that are very elaborate that take weeks or sometimes months to make. On a recent visit to Guatemala, Moore said she learned more about their culture than she ever knew and has worked with different groups where she has been able to meet the people that make the items she sells.
“Everything is ethically sourced,” said Moore. “There are no sweatshops. This is on their time and is more respectful towards their time. A lot of the women that are in the groups we were able to provide better paying jobs for them through weaving. So they are able to work from home making those instead of going to low paying jobs that won’t pay them enough and over work them.”
The handbags are made with full grain leather unlike some chain stores as she described similar to particle board or bonded leather. Moore explained that bonded leather is genuine leather but little scraps bonded together.
“So the leather goes in different levels and the highest is full grain and top grain and that is normally what we work with, the full grain leather,” she added. “You can tell when it is full grain because it is thicker and longer lasting as well.”
Moore was wearing some bright yellow earrings that were made from women in Columbia which she also sells at her artisan shop. They were weaved from a palm plant like all the items in her shop that are also handmade.
She started really small with a table full of items and then grew a following that led her to having her own storefront. There are unique gift items in her shop like handmade colorful dolls, ornaments, belts, and more.
“They are all big in making sure that it is all fair pay and fair trade too,” expressed Moore. “There is a lot of culture in these. They represent the regions that they come from. I am still learning because there is a lot.”
Before her visit to Guatemala she teamed up with another shop and sold bags. During that time they donated 100 percent of the proceeds to help rebuilding roofs in Guatemala for the artisans. Since they don’t have electricity in some of the areas they made the roofs clear to allow more light in. They also were able to help another family build a bathing room somewhat like a sauna. The have also bought materials and some supplies needed as well as an industrial sewing machine.
Although things have been slow and her hours are a bit odd, she has high hopes that business in downtown Riverbank will improve.
Currently store hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. but she is also available by appointment and is flexible to meet people outside of those hours.