HARLEYSVILLE — The name "Taste of Haiti" makes some people think it is a restaurant.

It's not.

What it is is a gift shop that has unique products made by hand in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Everything in the store on Harleysville Pike is purchased, not on consignment, so the people making the items have already been paid, said Dan Ziegler, owner of the store.  

"As we sell, we keep buying," he said.

"It just keeps them going," he said. "We work a fair price and we bring it up here and we sell it and then we take the money and go buy more."

That helps provide full-time jobs for the workers, he said.

The vendor in Haiti that a lot of the items come from is a co-op that has 300 full-time employees along with others working out of their home, said Renita Leatherman, Taste of Haiti's business and procurement manager.  

"It helps a lot of families," Ziegler said.

Statistically, the person working the full-time job helps sustain 20 people, he said.

Items sold at Taste of Haiti include Haitian art, pottery, jewelry, coffee, honey, vanilla, soaps and cards. 

"Their chocolate is amazing," Ziegler said. "They really have good cocoa beans." 

Ziegler, who also owns Jeff Daniels Jeep Customizing in Harleysville, said he began going on water purification, coffee growing and mission trips to Haiti in 1994. He hasn't done any in the past year and a half to two years because of the civil unrest that has been going on, but the situation seems to be improving and he expects to soon make another trip, he said.

People on the trips often give money to help the Haitians, but that's not the answer to the problem, he said. 

"The hand-out doesn't sustain," Leatherman said.

The purchases for the store create a more long-term solution based on a responsible relationship, Ziegler said.  

When he first started purchasing Haitian items, "it was more trinkety stuff," he said, but Leatherman has worked with the vendors to make sure the items now being sold at the store are what customers are looking for. 

The art includes pieces made from reused 55 gallon drums.

"They'll lay it out, tap it down, and then they put that on wood and they have a small chisel and they tap all that out and then they paint it," Ziegler said pointing out some of the artwork. "Look at all the detail on that." 

Using the drums is also a way of recycling, he said. 

Probably the oldest piece on display at the store is from about 20 years ago and used coffee and berries to make the stain to paint on banana leaves, Ziegler said. 

"There's not even a price tag on that. I think I'll just keep it," he said. 

"It's kinda unique," he said. "Somebody had to think that through to do that." 

After starting in the basement of another Harleysville business, Taste of Haiti moved in June of 2018 to its current location in the Clemmer Music building, Ziegler said. 

The business just covers its costs, but that's enough, he said. 

"It doesn't really need to make a profit. It just needs to cover costs," he said. 

The big thing is that the workers have an income and are doing business the way it should be, he said. 

"They're being able to make a living and we're able to keep it going just by having it here for people to see," Ziegler said.

Information and online sales are available at www.tasteofhaitishop.com. The business also has a Facebook page. 

"A lot of times, people look to see what we have online and then they come in here," Leatherman said. 

The store's hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed Sundays and Mondays.



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