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'Go big or go home'

Chilean natives have built business selling work of indigenous tribes

Terra Natural Designs has opened a showroom on the south side of the Fairfield square. (Photo courtesy of Pamela Soto Krarup)
Terra Natural Designs has opened a showroom on the south side of the Fairfield square. (Photo courtesy of Pamela Soto Krarup)
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FAIRFIELD — Terra Natural Designs has opened a showroom for its jewelry and clothing on the south side of the Fairfield square.

The company, co-founded by Pamela Soto Krarup and Jesse Schele in 2008, sells handmade jewelry and accessories from indigenous tribes in South America. In mid-November, the company opened a showroom in the building previously occupied by The Bookhouse Fairfield, which moved down the street. In addition to its new downtown showroom, Terra Natural Designs has a warehouse in the former Telegroup Building north of Fairfield.

Krarup and Schele are both Chilean-Americans. In fact, they were both born in Chile, in the same city of Valdivia, in the same hospital and delivered by the same doctor, which they didn’t realize until they met years later in the United States.

They both developed an interest in the indigenous cultures of South America by backpacking across the continent. For years they brought the crafts they found to sell at farmers markets and other venues in the states. The company imported items from indigenous tribes in Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. Today, their business has a new focus as a wholesaler, working with indigenous people to develop new products.

The couple moved to Ecuador three years ago, and now split their time between living in South America and Fairfield. Krarup said the company decided to open a showroom to increase its visibility. It’s a precarious time for a business to expand given the worldwide pandemic, but it’s not the first time Krarup and Schele have waded through adversity. After all, they opened their business in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. Their business model has allowed production to continue despite the pandemic, since the artisans who make the crafts can work alone.

“Our vision was always to go big or go home,” Schele said.

Since 2012, Krarup has met with artisans to develop new products that preserve the unique characteristics of indigenous cultures while also keeping in mind the price points at which those wares are profitable. The company has found tremendous success selling in health food stores across the United States, where they offer their products in an attractive wooden display. They now have a presence in all 50 states and close to 1,000 stores.

Krarup and Schele said the company’s “bread and butter” products are its line of jewelry made from seed — nuts and berries from the Amazon — but it’s got plenty of other items, too. It offers two lines year-round and two on a seasonal basis. It has a line of winter wear, and a line of summer wear, including hair bands, scrunchies and more.

Those who visit the company’s new showroom can receive a tour from the floor manager to see the jewelry lines, accessories and winter items. Krarup said the company just launched a line of face coverings this year in response to the pandemic.

The showroom is designed for people to bring their family and enjoy perusing the merchandise. There are a few couches and a place for little kids to play.

“We want people to enjoy the atmosphere,” Pamela said.

Once the pandemic has passed and things return to normal, Krarup said she wants to team up with other businesses on the square to bring more activity to the downtown.