"Janet, you need to think about what you're going to do when all of this is behind you. What brings you joy?"
Balding, puffy and in the middle of chemotherapy, Janet Barkmeier, owner of Once in a Blue Moon, hadn't given much thought as to what came next. But the words of her nurse practitioner came back to her throughout chemo as she asked herself: What brings me joy?
Barkmeier operated the original Once in a Blue Moon in Springfield from 1995-1998, closing the business to devote herself full-time to her children. "When I closed that shop in '98, I wasn't done with it. I closed it, but I didn't sell it," says Barkmeier.
Revisiting the idea in 2017 after recovering from chemo and cleared of cancer, Barkmeier's kids were grown. And when thinking about what really brought her joy, reopening Once in a Blue Moon was the answer.
The store at 1535 Wabash Ave. opened in 2018, and is filled with handmade, artisan and fair-trade items. The term "fair trade" means goods have been certified to meet criteria assuring that living wages are paid to the makers of the goods and there is no exploitation.
Barkmeier says art is the umbrella term for what her shop offers. Among the goods at Barkmeier's shop are Polish pottery, clothing, hats, purses, greeting cards, holiday and seasonal decorations, baskets, sun-catchers, paintings, extensive beadwork and Firefly jewelry.
A former English teacher, Barkmeier attaches story cards to the goods she sells, describing the makers of the products, the regions around the world in which they live and the craftwork of the artisan. Often the artisans are members of worker collectives, paying fair and steady wages in areas of extreme poverty, doing much to improve the lives of the artisans, especially women and their children.
"The basic human need is for connection," explains Barkmeier. "I feel that in telling these stories, they stress our similarities and our connections and bring us closer."
The variety in Barkmeier's store is impressive, making it a great location for those who enjoy shopping and especially for those purchasing gifts. This holiday season, consider giving gifts that connect you to those across the globe, celebrating their art and making the world a better place.