PITTSFORD, NY – Opening a new store in the midst of a pandemic isn’t easy. But one woman decided to take the plunge to share some of her culture with others, while helping other local businesses and the nonprofit Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha.
Rubiena Duarte’s family is from South Africa. Before he was born his father was involved in the anti-apartheid movement and he and Duarte’s mother fled to Canada in the 1970s. Once it was safe to do so, his family returned, and this time with Duarte.
“So I ended up going back and living there for 14 years, that’s where I met my husband and my kids were born there as well,” she said.
Fast forward and now she and her family have taken root in Pittsford. However, she wanted her culture to have a home here too, which is why she opened Our African Roots.
“They don’t know what’s going on in the villages there,” Duarte said. “Beautiful things people do and we thought, what better place to do it in Pittsford where we know there is a lack of diversity. We are the only business in the village that is actually owned by people of color. . “
The store offers handmade tribal masks from Kenya, baskets from Ghana, dolls and much more from all over Africa. Her store officially opened on Saturday and she said opening in the midst of a pandemic was actually a convenient time for her.
“For me it was almost why not… it seemed like everything was coming together,” Duarte said.
Selling African artisan products has also really helped them amid the pandemic.
“Really small in some of these village areas, there are tourist areas where a lot of these products would be sold, that doesn’t happen anymore,” said Duarte. “Tourism has gone down, people don’t buy a lot of these things and some of these markets have been closed.”
Our African Roots also has a small business products section in the Rochester area and also helps benefit the local nonprofit Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha – an organization that provides birthday gifts and essentials. to over 1,000 children from Kindergarten to Grade 2 in schools with the highest levels of poverty in schools in Rochester, Rome and Buffalo. Carrie Green is the founder.
“When I got her message I was almost in tears because it started for me as kind of a pet project. It became so much more, and to be recognized and to have my photos. in his store, it’s so meaningful, ”says Vert.
People can donate money to Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha at the cashier. Some of Green’s products will be sold in the store and one hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the association.
Duarte said she just wanted to give back and support the community that her family and store are a part of and hopes people learn something when they walk into her store.
“When people think of Africa, I often think of safaris… and animals… and very poor areas,” said Duarte. rural areas of Africa that can develop and create beautiful products.