One of few fair-trade stores in E.L., La Bodega, announces plans to close
Ring after ring, disappointed voices leaked through the store phone after La Bodega’s regular customers caught word of future plans.
Or really, lack thereof.
“We sign a lease every three years,” store manager Kayla Holcomb said. “Our sales have declined in the last two years, and we’re uncomfortable signing for the next three years.”
The last fair trade clothing store left in East Lansing, La Bodega, has announced its plans to close the second week of July.
La Bodega, one of a series of stores owned by the clothing business Orchid Lane, is also a family business. There are five other locations, one of which is in Ann Arbor.
Holcomb said the company makes strides to be socially responsible, selling only organic or recycled products. “Everything we buy, we know where it comes from,” she said.
La Bodega first opened in East Lansing in 2009 and has developed a strong customer base, including international students.
“(La Bodega) takes a lot of students closer to home,” Holcomb said. “It’s nostalgic. They like coming in here and seeing their culture.”
Exploring different cultures and fashions, most recently La Bodega is donating all profits until April 30 to the relief effort for victims of the Nepal earthquake.
“We carry a lot of Nepali products,” Holcomb said. “The earthquake affected a lot of our knitters, weavers and people we do business with.”
Customers and employees alike are disappointed to see fair trade, organic and recycled clothing leave East Lansing.
“There’s not a huge market for fair trade organizations,” said Sonya Major, a La Bodega employee. “Fair trade lost its movement here.”
Sisters Josephine and Allie Brown started shopping at La Bodega since it opened in 2009.
After Allie Brown, a senior at Grand Valley State University, introduced the store to the family, the sisters and their mother have bonded through exploring the different cultures La Bodega provides.
“We started just buying mirrors then started adding clothes,” Lansing Catholic High School senior Josephine Brown said. “We like how different everything is, and affordable. It’s different from any other store.”
Upon her recent discovery of La Bodega’s plans to close, Allie Brown was devastated.
“We love it here,” Allie Brown said. “We love the bohemian type of clothes. We’re into that.“
Allie Brown and other customers will miss the wide range of clothing La Bodega offers to customers.
“This was the first store where I started buying wild colors,” education teaching certificate intern Kaitlyn Hlywa said.
Hlywa said her style is simple with plain colors, admitting she has trouble putting outfits together and matching complex colors.
“I’m looking for simple pieces, but also statement, wild pieces. La Bodega was perfect for that,” Hlywa said while browsing through a sale rack.
After leaving a footprint on Grand River Avenue, Holcomb said, “We’re extremely grateful and thankful for all of our customers who have supported us for the last six years.”