The simple act of shopping at (pronounced Eye-in-DEE-suh) might have a positive and financial impact on the lives of marginalized people around the world.
That, according to Ayindisa owner Chris Gay, is what makes his Ridgefield based business so special.
“Each product that is purchased directly helps someone else in a different part of the world,” he said, “And you can actually see pictures of the people you help.”
One of only two fair trade retail businesses in the entire state of Connecticut, Gay said that each beautifully-made item sold in his store has a story behind it; items such as all-natural African hand-woven grass baskets, handmade backpacks made from vibrantly colored recycled fabrics, and unique jewelry from India, Africa and Asia.
“Ayindisa is the African tribal name artisans in Ghana gave to me. It comes from the Frafra language of Gurunsi people in Northern Ghana and means God's hand is in the work that you do,” he said.
Gay, a humanitarian at heart, grew up in Ridgefield and attended until his family moved west his junior year. He returned to the area in 2003, and currently lives in Ridgefield with his wife and two daughters. Before opening Ayindisa in 2008 with co-founder, Dagando Dramani of Ghana, Gay worked for Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary, and also for the non-profit humanitarian organization Engage Now Africa, where he still serves as the Director of West Africa Operations.
“I wanted to combine my passions for art and service work in a unique way that would help others and still enable me to travel,” Gay said.
Toward this end, Gay said that last year he was able to help build a clean drinking water well in the village where his basket weavers live. “We invest some of our money from sales proceeds back into communities and people we work with. This means my customers play a role in this development as
well. It’s great!”
In addition to the five part-time employees working in Ridgefield, Gay also has a small Africa-based staff of employees.
“I have a small African staff in Ghana and Ethiopia that helps me to run all the shipping and logistics in Africa because we work directly with our own producers/groups from Africa. I also use my partnerships with other Fair Trade organizations and wholesale suppliers to sell stuff imported from Asia, South America and elsewhere from around the world,” he explained.
Gay said that while the sluggish economy has caused his retail business to slow down, his wholesale business is growing. “I am in a position to offer wholesale on a select number of artisan products and this has been doing well this year.”
“Many people in town still do not know I have been open for the past three- and-a-half years, despite considerable effort on my part to let people know where I am and what I sell or do,” he said.
“Plus it can sometimes be hard to tell what someone is selling inside a store just by driving by and only looking through a window. Come inside, say hello. I love meeting people!” said Gay.