Good Cause Gifts, a social enterprise business supporting Futures Inc., is now open at 973 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center.
By Ronni Newton
Good Cause Gifts, now open on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford Center, is not only the type of stylish boutique that’s fun to browse in, but it’s also the type of business that’s great to buy from, because those dollars are directly supporting a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities.
Futures Inc., an ARC affiliate which moved its headquarters to 902 South Quaker Lane in West Hartford in 2018, launched Good Cause Gifts, the state’s first social enterprise business, in 2009.
A group of parents affiliated with Futures were looking for their children to have meaningful employment opportunities.
“Pam [DonAroma, the president and CEO of Futures] called and asked me to open the first store,” said Sharon Faucher, who had been a buyer with the clothing store Weathervane for years, but had decided to retire.
“It was 12 hours per week,” said Faucher, who is now the vice president of all of Futures’ social enterprise businesses, which include a Good Cause Gifts store in Berlin and at the Hospital for Special Care, two teaching kitchens, and a cafe.
Good Cause Gifts is far from a consignment shop, Faucher said. She handles the buying of all merchandise, and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic attended shows in New York, California, Boston, and Atlanta.
Ireland Williams, a Hall graduate and recent University of Rhode Island graduate, helped get the West Hartford shop open and serves as its manager, Faucher said.
Prices for everything in the store are in the affordable to moderate range.
There is a baby department, featuring clothing and unique toys, and women’s clothing with brands that include Lyssé, habitat, Cut Loose, and OMG Jeans. “The fit is phenomenal,” Faucher said of the jeans, noting that the fitting room should be opening next week.
Home goods and accessories include cheese boards, a s’mores set, and an adorable collection of “mommy pots” that are perfect for those single blossoms picked by small hands.
Sea Bags are handmade in Maine from old sail cloth, Faucher said.
There is also a wedding section.
“As we get further into fall, this will all change,” she said of the selection of merchandise.
Futures clients are employees of the business, are paid minimum wage, and are expected to clock in and out. The West Hartford location will ultimately have 10 Futures employees, all of whom have one-to-one mentors who assist them on the job.
Faucher said that several clients have assisted her on local buying trips as well.
Andy J. was at work on Friday, arranging merchandise properly as he restocked the shelves and placing purchases in bags which he handed to customers. He said doing inventory is his favorite part of the job.
Good Cause Gifts had its soft opening Aug. 18 at 973 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center, in a space that is still partially occupied by Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union.
“Nutmeg has been a phenomenal partner with us, so accommodating,” said Faucher.
She said Futures had been looking to open a space in West Hartford Center for a while, with the assistance of property manager Mike Mahoney. When Mahoney learned that Nutmeg was considering leaving its space, it led to the perfect match.
“They told us how they unite with other organizations in their other spaces,” Faucher said. “When they heard about our mission, they really wanted to partner.”
Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union still occupies the rear of the space, but either business can be accessed through the front door or the rear door, which leads directly to the Farmington Avenue parking lot.
Good Cause Gifts was originally supposed in April, but those plans ground to a halt due to COVID, Faucher said.
They are excited to now be open – with all employees and customers wearing masks, and hand sanitizer readily available at the door. And due to COVID, one of the fastest-selling products is a “no touch button pusher” which can be attached to a keychain and can also be used to pull open doors.
Faucher is also excited to be in West Hartford, which is such a “warm and welcoming community,” she said.
The more successful they are, the more individuals they can employ, she said. Profits go right back to employing more clients, in positions where they can feel good about themselves and be respected and valued.
“Everyone is equal here. We all work together as a team,” Faucher said.
Good Cause Gifts has also launched an online store, an effort which began in the spring when COVID hit but as of Monday has now been completely revamped to be tied to all three of their stores.
For more information, visit goodcausegifts.org.
Good Cause Gifts is not West Hartford Center’s only social enterprise business. SockStarz, which opened at 18 Lasalle Rd. in September 2019, is a mission of Hartford-based Harc, Inc.
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