MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- The advantages of the internet allow people, and businesses, to connect the world over. Mount Kisco’s Karen and Jay Schecter are doing just that with their e-commerce site while also establishing social change in communities from California to Cameroon.
“We provide items that are good for the soul,’’ Karen said in describing The Aesthetic Sense: Goods for the Soul, which the couple opened last September. “It’s multi-focused with items that are purchased with fair trade and are ethically sourced.”
The Schecter’s business carries a wide assortment of products, including Judaica goods, home decor and gifts for all occasions. Its brick-and-mortar store at 222 East Main St. in Mount Kisco is open six days a week, and shoppers can also order online. Click here for the business website.
The store distinguishes itself from other retailers with its social commitment and by introducing artisans to clients. After owning a retail business for 17 years in Mount Kisco, the Schecters tweaked their business model to bring in both components.
“As we watched the world deteriorate, we wanted to find a way to merge our love of Judaica, retail and social justice activism into our business,’’ said Karen. “We came up with this wonderful combination of everything we love. It’s something for the entire community.”
The Schecters donate a percentage of profits to The Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester and Birthday Angels, located in Israel. Their business offers fair trade goods, which are items that help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and promote sustainability. “It’s the old adage if you give a man fish, you give him a meal,’’ said Karen. “If you teach him to fish, you feed him for life.”
One item on The Aesthetic Sense website, for instance, is Guilt-Free Chocolate Gelt, sold in 6-bag sets for $24. Divine Chocolate, the product’s maker, is co-owned by an 85,000 member farmer cooperative in Ghana. It supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine. The owners get a share of the profits, and a voice in the company and global marketplace. They do not use child or forced labor.
“That’s an example of the value distinguisher of our business,’’ Karen said. “For Hanukkah last year, we didn’t bring any plastic dreidels. They are all made in China. They wouldn’t meet our standards, so we couldn’t bring them in.”
Shoppers also receive information on the product’s craftsman and source with every purchase. One of the artisans is Harriet Zaffoni of Harkiss Designs, which makes candlesticks, vases, platters and home decor items. Zaffoni, a New York resident of Ugandan descent, is deeply invested in East Africa philanthropy. She works with overseas groups to tackle a poverty, gender inequality and lack of resources, among other issues. She travels to Uganda three times every year, and aims to empower women in East Africa with a sense of purpose.
Schecter’s business is filled with similar stories of artisans the world over. Shoppers receive literature with each purchase that detail the producer’s information.
“That’s what makes us real,’’ said Karen, who has a law degree, and whose husband is also a retired lawyer. “Nothing goes out of here without a story. Every item belongs to a person."
That dedication and sense of story extends to their web business. Stressed Karen: “We want every customer to feel as if it’s as intimate as purchasing in the shop. We want it to have a brick-and-mortar feel, whether you’re buying online or in the shop.”