From Afghanistan to Tahoe: 2 women open business to support artisans from around world
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After meeting halfway around the world, two women returned to South Lake Tahoe to start a business in the midst of a pandemic.
Shayna Dorris grew up in South Lake Tahoe, graduating from South Tahoe High in 1996. She got a job with the Department of Defense which took her all over the world, including Afghanistan.
Bridget Collins grew up in Pennsylvania, then moved to Washington D.C. Her job with the Department of Defense also took her to Afghanistan where the two met while working together on an audit.
“We were battle buddies for the entire time, pretty much attached at the hip and going nowhere without one another,” Collins said.
On days off, the two would go to the local market where they met one female stall owner.
“She was so proud of the fact that she was like the only female vendor there and she had some beautiful things,” Collins said.
The two loved talking to locals and buying their handmade goods. Dorris continued to travel around meeting local artisans and together they traveled to Morocco to do the same.
After leaving the government, the two “went all in” together on a new business, Ginger Threads Collections. In March 2020, as stay-at-home orders were coming down, they launched their online business, then in July they opened their store front in South Lake Tahoe.
The store features items, such as jewelry, scarves and clothing, from around the world, all of which are handmade or made in factories that treat workers well and pay them fair wages.
“The quality of the jewelry and accessories and the clothing is great to start with because usually more care is put into it because it is something that’s handmade or the companies that do have the factory operations,” Dorris said. “They’re very hands on to make sure that it’s a quality product because they know it’s gonna cost a lot more because they’re paying the people fair wages and they’re using better eco-conscious material for that.”
The two women are incredibly passionate when it comes to talking about the artisans they are displaying like the necklace of bullet casings made by Ethopian women.
“Everything they make is to give women the opportunity that were in situations where they’re trafficked or weren’t able to make living wages or couldn’t provide education and food for their children,” Dorris said. “They can do that now because they make sure that they have skill sets where they can make beautiful jewelry and still get paid what they should be paid for what they’re doing.”
Every single item in the store has a story and Shayna, who says she likes to talk a lot, loves to tell every story to anyone who walks in. For people who aren’t in the mood to chat, they have signs around the store telling the story and directing customers to that artisan’s website.
“I say, ‘go on, join the website. Please check them out. We don’t carry everything they have by any means, this is only a sampling of what they offer, and it’s all beautiful stuff, and it supports a really great company,” Dorris said.
When coming up for the name of the store, Collins threw out the name Ginger Threads and Dorris immediately loved it since that was her mom’s name.
Ginger passed away in 2002 but she instilled a life-long lesson of sustainability. A picture of her next to her story is on the counter for everyone to see.
“What we’re doing is because of the way she lived and what she was about so that’s kind of a way to carry on her spirit,” Dorris said. “It makes me happy every time I see that sign when I walk in the front door.”
Opening a store during a pandemic is a challenge but the two women have done a great job, not only providing security for their artisans but also providing customers with a safe shopping environment. Customers can make appointments to come shop so they can have the store to themselves and feel safe.
And of course, they also have the website where they launch a new collection every week.
To learn more about them and the stories of the products, visit http://www.gingerthreadscollections.com.
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