World Villages will close its doors Feb. 22

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The World Villages store in Miller Street Market in Winston-Salem will soon be closing. (David Rolfe/Journal)

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — World Villages will close its doors Feb. 22 after a 24-year presence in Winston-Salem.

“We did not have enough customers coming into the store,” said Doris Doub, the shop’s manager.

The nonprofit store, in the Miller Street Market next to Whole Foods Market, offers fair-trade goods that are created by artisans from throughout the world.

Doub said that World Villages’ mission is to help people in developing countries improve their quality of life, including better education, nutrition and health care. The shop also offers special shopping events to local community groups.

All items in the shop are hand-made. Merchandise includes kaisa grass baskets made in Bangladesh; onyx goblets and lamps from Pakistan; piggy banks from Chile; picture frames made from bicycle chains from India; international cookbooks; and jewelry from different countries.

Most items in the store currently are 40 percent off, but holiday items have been slashed 60 percent. Customers can also place bids on the big bronze tiger and zebra outside the store.

World Villages started as a mission project for the Global Concern Committee of Bethania Moravian Church. In 1982, the Rev. Christian Weber challenged the church congregation to be more aware of the needs of other people through mission work.

In 1989, the late Irvin and Gretta Leinbach — the co-owners of Leinbach Machinery and members of Bethania Moravian Church — opened The Tibetan Rug Shop on Reynolda Road. The store initially sold carpets made by the Tibetan refugees at the Moravian Institute in Rajpur, India, and later offered products from Australia, Tanzania and Kenya.

Eventually the Leinbachs formed Leinbach Imports. The mission began carrying products from Ten Thousand Villages, which is operated by the Mennonite Church. The shop’s name changed to the World Mission Shop as a result of its diversification. In 1997, the World Mission Shop and Leinbach Imports moved into a building at 4945 Reynolda Road near Old Town School.

When the mission shop moved to Miller Street Market in 2006, it started doing business as World Villages. It was a nonprofit project of Bethania Moravian Church but has since gotten its own nonprofit status and is no longer under the auspices of the Moravian Church.

Doub said that sales were great that first year on Miller Street and were pretty good in 2007, but then the economy tanked.

“We just tried to sit it out,” Doub said. “The last two years, the same customers would still come, but they don’t buy as much.”

She said she will especially miss the customers.

“I’m thinking about the people I have come to know that support what we do,” she said. “They’ve made all the difference in the time that we’ve been here.

Shoppers on Wednesday said they would like to see the store stay.

“They have some very unique items,” said Elliott Hermann of North Wilkesboro said.

Robbie Bostic of Clemmons said that his wife, Karen, has shopped at the store since it opened.

“It’s just another casualty of the economy,” Bostic said. “I hope they can recover and do it again because it’s a quaint store with nice stuff.”

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