Shopping That Gives Back

American ex-pat Jodi Tobman moved to Aruba some 20 years ago. Her chain of unique retail stores is well known among local and repeat visitors as having some of the most interesting finds on the island. But her stores are also different because they are part of a community give-back program called Tikkun Olam, which loosely translates to "repair the world" in Hebrew.

The stores that participate in this program give back a percentage of their sales to community programs. At point of purchase, customers choose from a Community Menu, earmarking their choice for that store to donate to on their behalf. From Alzheimer’s and cancer support to autism, education for children, elder support, abused women, and the arts, and even youth sports, each store has its own menu of foundations it supports.

Seeking out and patronizing these shops is worth it not only for the good feeling you get knowing you are giving back to your host island community in some way, but also for the wares they sell. Tobman travels the globe seeking out unique products to stock the stores, always with an eye toward handcrafted or sustainable or arty concepts. Stores that participate in the program are the Caribbean Queen, the Lazy Lizard, the Coconut Trading Co., Caribbean Clothing Co. & T. H. Palm & Company, and, recently added, Juggling Fish. You will find them all over Aruba, and the items they stock run the gamut from avant-garde souvenirs and arty gifts to high-quality apparel and even housewares.

But one shop in particular also ensures that local female crafters and artisans get their due: the Caribbean Queen. Each month a different, locally based female artisan has her wares or products highlighted at the store as that month’s chosen Caribbean Queen. On-site workshops with the artist in attendance also allow customers a peek behind the creative curtain. And the gorgeous items they create always make fabulous souvenirs for the folks back home.

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