Hi. My name is Mary Scarbrough Rodriguez. Five years ago, I opened a store, called Merchant Voyage, in historic downtown Loveland, Colorado. But, it’s not just a store, it’s a gathering place for creativity, inspiration, and an exchange of ideas.
My background is in the arts. I am a painter, fiber artist and collage artist. I do my best to help support women’s co-ops from around the world; India, Nepal, Africa, Mexico, and Guatemala to name a few. I try to carry as many fair trade items as I can.
I also support local artisans and support myself. You see, I’m physically handicapped and have been in a wheelchair almost all of my life. I don’t qualify for disability because my husband’s salary counts as my income and because I haven’t put enough into “the system” over the years. But, this isn’t a plea for pity or sympathy because I’d much rather do what I do than be on disability. It’s not just my means of living, but something I enjoy; meeting people, helping others display their art, skill, and craftsmanship.
You might ask yourself (as would I), “Why should I help fund a small business with so many other things going on in the world right now, and with so many people needing help?” Because I am one person you can help. My handicap is not the result of a national tragedy. I was born with it. No one has built me an accessible house. No one has given me an accessible van. I don’t begrudge anyone any of these things and I don’t want them. I just want to stay in business. I can’t get insurance or Medicaid. There is no support group out there for someone like me. I’m one of the ones that falls through the cracks.
My goal is to raise $36,000 to pay back rent, bills, restock my store, and invest in as much fair trade merchandise as possible. The economic downturn hit us hard as it did everyone. But I wouldn’t be asking for donations if I didn’t think I could be successful. At the very least, I need $18,000 to keep from being evicted and the rest to pay bills and invest in new merchandise.
The city of Loveland has begun a downtown revitalization and new businesses and restaurants have moved in. It has started to become a destination, especially for artists and those interested in the arts. My store is in what is considered a prime location but until I can get caught up, I’m in danger of being evicted.
I was successful when I opened and I know I still can be. My customers love coming into the store, not only to look around and buy, but to write poetry and prose, sketch, play music, and be inspired. I get comments from people that come in my store from across the country, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles that tell me they’ve never seen a store like this.
Some of my loyal customers say they come to be inspired, others because they need “their fix” or they need to step into another world for a little while. Someone even said they felt like they had fallen down the “rabbit hole.” It isn’t just the merchandise, but how it’s arranged or displayed. It’s a giant, ever-changing collage that not only shows you things to buy but new ways to use them.
Please help me. Every dollar counts and, if you can’t afford to donate, please spread the word about my campaign. Give all your friends this link, my website: www.merchantvoyage.com and look me up on Facebook under Merchant Voyage.
My team, besides me, consists of Roland Rodriguez, my husband and graphic artist extraordinaire, Vicki Wilson Conley and Christine Kovacs Forster, my media specialists, and Kaia, my service dog in training and support dog for the entire team. (She also makes “Employee of the Month” every single month.
If I don’t reach my goal, the money will go to hiring an accountant to help me close my store and to paying bills and taking care of some of my healthcare needs. Thank you for your help and support and letting me tell my story.