The colorful little shop that since November of 2002 has carried items imported from the financially impoverished but culturally wealthy Caribbean country of Haiti, will close its doors this May.
Haiti's Back Porch in Middletown's Riverview Center is a non-profit that's run by local volunteers from the Haitian Ministries for the Diocese of Norwich, will still have a presence by continuning to sell items on eBay and the internet.
"It's very important to stress that Haiti's Back Porch is not closing," according to Kym Tolson, Haitian Ministries Development Director. "It's still going to exist, but the shop where it is is not breaking even."
Tolson said she was in the shop twice last week, after customers called asking for it to be opened. Anyone can call for an appointment, she said.
NBC News reported that U.S. Census figures released in 2011 showed Haiti had the highest rate of poverty in the world — 77 percent of residents live in poverty.
The January 2010 Haiti earthquake, a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 on the Richter Scale, had its epicenter just 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the island's capital. The quake caused such tremendous damage, little has been repaired fully to this day.
Former store manager manager Patty Kantrowitz, who left the shop a year ago, is saddened to see the storefront close.
"It was the light of my life and I grieve for the artists in Haiti. That store really was the face of Haiti for people who didn't know Haiti. When they came in to see the art their faces would change. They'd say, 'Wow! If they can create this …'"
Kantrowitz, who worked at Haiti's Back Porch for six years and has an extensive background in art history, traveled twice a year to Haiti to stock this fair-trade store.
Meanwhile, Tolson said, the shop will hold its traditional May sales on May 3-4 and 17-18 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. "Even after the end of May, we'll entertain purchases," she said.
And once spring arrives fully, Haiti's Back Porch will have a presence again at local craft shops and fairs. "We even go to occasional conferences as far down as Washington, D.C."
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