Ten Thousand Villages looks forward to new home

On March 3, Ten Thousand Villages will be moving from its current location in South Pointe Common to the historic Bawtinheimer Building at 4925 48 St. in downtown Red Deer. It is a promising move for Ten Thousand Villages and a great addition to Red Deer’s downtown core.

Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade, non-profit retail outlet, run almost entirely by volunteers. It sells products that are handmade by artisans in developing countries. The overall aim of the program is to help provide a fair wage to artisans who would otherwise be underemployed or unemployed and thereby help to provide the means of paying for food, education, health care and housing for themselves and their families.

The roots of Ten Thousand Villages go back more than 65 years to the work of Edna Ruth Byler of the Mennonite Central Committee, who helped to market embroidery from Puerto Rico, cross-stitch needlework from Palestinian refugees and hand-carved woodenware from Haiti.

The initiative became a great success. By the early 1970’s, there was an official M.C.C. program, operating as SelfHelp Crafts. In 1996, it became a non-profit alternative trading organization with the name Ten Thousand Villages.

The Red Deer store officially opened in South Pointe Common in Red Deer in October 2007, the 45th addition to the network of stores operating across North America. There previously had been a small component of Ten Thousand Villages in the gift shop at the Red Deer Museum.

The new outlet in South Pointe Common was such a success that the central office initially thought that there might have been some error in the reported sales figures as they were so wonderfully high.

It is a success that has continued over the subsequent five years, to the extent that the new location has become needed to provide more store space for the products carried.

However, while the Bawtinheimer Building is new to Ten Thousand Villages, it is a heritage landmark for Red Deer. In March 1911, Harvey Bawtinheimer decided to establish Red Deer’s first garage business, the Alberta Garage Company. It initially operated in the old McKee and Cruickshanks carpentry shop on the north side of Alexander (48) St. Almost immediately, however, a new 372 square metre (4,000 sq. ft.), ‘fire-proof’ building was constructed on the site.

Many people thought the venture was doomed to failure as there were only a handful of the ‘new-fangled’ automobiles in the community at the time. Fortunately, the naysayers were proven wrong.

While the building was primarily a garage and machine repair shop, it was also put to other noteworthy uses. In August 1911, the Red Deer Horticultural Society’s first flower and garden show was staged in Bawtinheimer’s Garage.

In 1939, Harvey sold his existing building to Eaton’s, who were planning to build an impressive new department store in Red Deer. He made such a handsome profit from the sale that he was able to build both a large new garage on the south side of 48 St. and a new home for himself and his wife Alice on 48 Ave.

In 1940, Harvey was joined in the business by his nephew, Leslie, who had previously worked at Paul Crawford’s White Rose Service Station and later for Hepworth Motors. In 1950, Harvey sold the business to Les but continued to work with him until 1961.

Les was joined in the business by his son Neil. Later Neil’s son Pat also worked with them. In other words, it became a five-generation family business. Bawtinheimer Repairs Service continued to operate in the 1939 building until two years ago.

Now, the historic structure has a wonderful new use. Moreover, Central Albertans can continue to support a worthy non-profit, self-help initiative that truly benefits the world.