Nearly a year ago, Rhonda Kircher read a post on Facebook, then called her fiancée, Alan, in a panic. Her favorite store was to be sold or closed. When Rhonda finished sharing the devastating news, Alan replied, “Well, why don’t you buy it?” They continued their conversation and Alan repeated his idea, with Rhonda finally answering, “If you keep saying that, I’m going to take you seriously.”
The couple ultimately decided to approach their friend Amy Kay Pavlovich about purchasing the store. After more than 11 years at the same job, Rhonda decided it was time for a career change. In the period between March and May, Rhonda quit what she calls her “real job,” got married, moved, and took ownership of Just Good Trade.
“I feel privileged that Amy Kay picked me to take over Just Good Trade,” Rhonda says. Taking over the store has “never been a job for me,” she explains. “I look forward to coming in every day.” While Rhonda has enjoyed satisfying jobs in the past, this is her first experience feeling so much passion and fulfillment from her work.
The community support for Rhonda over the past year has truly touched the local store owner. She is naturally reserved and managing the store has helped her overcome some of that shyness. Being front and center of a project is new to Rhonda, but she appreciates the opportunity to engage with new people and make friends in the community. “I’ve enjoyed meeting new people. It’s been fun.”
Rhonda initially discovered Just Good Trade at a local bridal and prom expo. She enjoyed meeting Amy Kay and decided to visit the store, in Amy Kay’s home at the time, to purchase bridal shower gifts. Amy Kay’s passion for fair trade became contagious and Rhonda visited her a short time later when the business moved into its current downtown location.
The atmosphere of the shop instantly impressed Rhonda. Amy Kay introduced her to fair trade coffee and she became “hooked” on it, visiting the store on a regular basis to get her regular cup of Joe and to enjoy the ambiance of the place. “I just love being in the store,” Rhonda explains. “The whole attitude when you come into the store is special, as is talking about fair trade.”
Rhonda remembers the first time she read the story of one the fair trade artisans featured at Just Good Trade. The artisan was a Ugandan woman who created handmade sandals. Participation in fair trade made it possible for the artisan to pay the high fees to send all of her children to school. Reading this family’s story brought Rhonda’s own life into perspective and she realized that, while education is a right here, it’s a privilege for some. She is grateful that her work contributes to helping these children receive an education.
After taking over the store, Rhonda learned more artisan stories and felt honored to be a part of fair trade. For example, a group of Peruvian weavers work together in their community. Their involvement in fair trade allowed the community to pave their roads for the first time. “I feel privileged knowing that we help make that possible,” says Rhonda.
Just Good Trade is also important to Rhonda because of its place in the Jacksonville community. “This is mine,” Rhonda explains, “but it also belongs to Jacksonville.” The store helps artisans around the world, while also benefitting the local community. Customers come to town from Springfield and St Louis just to visit the store and learn about the surrounding businesses in the process. Rhonda appreciates the opportunity to have a business so focused on community, expanding to include individuals from throughout the world.