Why did a former social worker/community corrections worker and a former probation officer turned oil company CFO open a fairly traded folk art store? “It will be such fun,” said Lonnie. “I don’t know anything about retail,” said Jan. Even so, in 1984 Jan and Lonnie Buerge opened a small market stall in Westport. It was loaded with folk art and gifts from around the world spilling out onto the sidewalk each day like a colorful market in some other country.
Several moves and expansions and 29 years later, World’s Window continues to be a “window to the world” presenting a mixture of organic, American-made, fair trade and internationally made clothing, jewelry, gifts and folk art in the lovely Brookside neighborhood of Kansas City.
While originally all crafts were acquired through the Mennonite Church’s Self-Help Crafts Program (now called Ten Thousand Villages) and from the Church of the Brethern SERRV crafts program, purchases are now made from an average of 200 small companies and individuals each year. Jan and Lonnie continue to be committed to buying from Fair Trade Organizations and small businesses as much as possible in their search to represent the best of clothing and crafts from around the world.
Clothing now represents about 70% of their business but it continues to be surrounded by masks and carvings, whimsical folk art and gifts, and other home decor and lots of jewelry. When asked who their customer is, Jan and Lonnie respond, “creative people who love exceptional service and value quality, integrity and the unusual.” Their colorful, eclectic store truly is not about rules, but about excitement, exploration, belief and individuality and, as their motto states, “. . . a place where the creativity of human mind, spirit and experience is celebrated everyday.” The Buerges and their staff create a retail experience that is a haven from daily chaos, a warm and welcoming environment with beautiful music, wonderful scents, good conversation and exceptional products.