Pilgrim Imports Inc.   

In the Neighborhood

Pilgrim Imports Inc.   

Neighborhood: Historic Third Ward
Founded: 1986
Owner: Martin Huennekens
Product: Fair trade metal items
Employees: 6

What happens at your office?

Martin Huennekens: “We’re not a store; we supply businesses with products. We warehouse and office and design ship from here. The products are handmade fair trade metal gifts from Thailand. We do a lot of ornaments. We do a lot of needle nannies. We do a lot of cute gifts and tchotchkes, decorative gift items.”

How did you get your start?

“I got into it while doing a year of college in Thailand. I met people who have incredible skills to make wonderful items and I sell as many of them as I can so they can have as much work as possible.”

Who are your customers?

“Fair trade stores, art galleries, museums, organizations that have fundraisers, sea mammal rescues, alpaca farms; gift shops in touristy places, from Cedarburg to the North Pole. All the places you would think of and some that you wouldn’t think of.”

Has the popularity of fair trade affected your business?

“It’s been a bit irrelevant. I’m glad more people are aware and care about it. (But) we make stuff of such amazing quality and such unique design, that it sells by itself. When you find out it’s fair trade, it gives one more plus. We have a very unique set of skills based on traditional, hand-craft skills that have been kept alive that families have passed on that it continues.”

What’s up with the flower mural on your building?

“When we bought it, it was a plain, rectangular, cinderblock building. And I thought, ‘I have to come here every day,’ so I hired a muralist and got an entire wraparound mural. I just wanted it to be a beautiful place where, when I have to come to it, I like looking at it.”

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