#55 of 109 Asheville Things To Do

Ten Thousand Villages in Asheville

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Ten Thousand Villages: Supporting Artisans All Around the World From a Beautiful Shop in Asheville
Written by: Vicky Reddish
Staff Score:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Did you know that you can easily take a trip around the world without ever leaving Asheville — and while you're at it, support the many vibrant communities you visit? It's all possible when you stop by the Ten Thousand Villages of Asheville. This beloved fair trade retailer carries a variety of beautiful items created by talented artisans who live and work in dozens of countries.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

Ten Thousand Villages is a familiar name all around the world. Dedicated to supporting artisans and communities in dozens of nations, this influential nonprofit encourages visitors to shop with intention. As one of the world’s oldest fair trade organizations, it holds a long history, as well as a dedication to keep moving its mission forward into a new era.

It all began with Edna Ruth Byler, who was inspired to do her part after witnessing poverty during a trip to Puerto Rico. She launched a grassroots campaign involving the sale of handcrafted products — initially from the trunk of her car. Over time, she built strong relationships with a variety of entrepreneurs and organizations. What was once referred to as SELFHELP Crafts of the World eventually became the organization we now know as Ten Thousand Villages. This name change was inspired by a famous Mahatma Gandhi quote: “India is not to be found in its few cities, but in the 700,000 villages.”

Today, Ten Thousand Villages retail locations can be found across the United States. The Asheville location is special, however, in that it clearly fits the city’s compassionate ideals while also embracing the local emphasis on boho chic style. Favorite items stocked at this particular location include wind chimes, pillows, jewelry, soaps, and silk scarves. These are just the beginning, however. Each trip to Ten Thousand Villages is a surprise; you never know exactly what you’ll find, but you can count on every item in the store telling a story and supporting a great cause.

The sheer variety of objects available makes this store an excellent destination when you need to purchase a gift for a difficult-to-please recipient. These gifts are far from cookie-cutter; you’ll easily find something unique that reflects your personality or that of the intended recipient. If you don’t manage to find the perfect purchase during your initial visit, don’t worry; new items are brought in regularly to keep the store feeling fresh. Likewise, if you don’t end up purchasing anything but are still interested in supporting a wonderful cause, consider donating to the independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which is operated by a board made up of dedicated Asheville community members.

As a nonprofit, Asheville’s Ten Thousand Villages is largely dependent on the hard work of its volunteers, as well as the generosity of both donors and shoppers. Volunteers show up every day because they’re passionate about the cause this nonprofit supports — and it shows. During your visit, you’ll learn more about the good your purchase can do around the world, as well as the many other ways in which you can help those in need. Fascinating conversations with volunteers and fellow shoppers will have you feeling empowered. You will emerge from this store with the sense of satisfaction that comes from supporting a wonderful cause — and the conviction that you can enact positive change.

Insider Tips:
– When you visit the Ten Thousand Villages location in Asheville, keep an eye out for the friendly dog who ‘works’ at the store. This animal ambassador can instantly make any visit a delight.
– Asheville’s Ten Thousand Villages regularly hosts special events designed to bring the community together. Popular occasions include fair trade garden parties, chocolate tastings, and fashion shows. Information about these and other events can be found on the Asheville-focused Ten Thousand Villages Facebook page. There, you’ll also find photos of the store’s latest additions, along with updates regarding hours and holidays.