In 2004, Marcie Boyer and David Lewis took their passion for fair-trade issues and combined it with their business and corporate backgrounds to open Flavours of Life, now in its second location on Bank Street.
Many people point to Flavours of Life, commonly called The Fair Trade Store, as exactly what the downtown needs: a small niche shop with products that attract locals and tourists alike. The store features clothing, jewelry, crafts and food from around the world.
Boyer and Lewis worked at Pfizer when they listed their life's passions and then molded them into a concrete business plan around which to build their work life. They used their Pfizer training in goal-set-ting and Boyer's degree in finance and her background in information technology to match a plan to their dream.
The couple were deliberate in their approach: They took a business course at UConn-Avery Point and honed their business model; they continued to work at Pfizer, each setting aside money from those paychecks every month for business expenses; they expected not to make a profit for several years; they reached out in the community to give speeches and host panel discussions; and they networked with local businesses and city leaders.
Boyer and Lewis never considered anyplace but New London for the store.
"I think it was a feeling more than anything," Boyer said.
Lewis added with a laugh: "It's probably not a very good business sense to have, just to feel that this is the right place to be. … It's just got that right feel about it."
Lewis had seen the concept work in the United Kingdom, where he came from, and the couple saw it work in Ann Arbor, Mich., and elsewhere. And New London's "feel" matched the fair trade concept, they said.
"New London is a gritty city with a maritime past, and it's all about trading with the world, and diversity, and that's reflected in how it is now," Lewis said. "And we should be celebrating that, I think."
Boyer and Lewis said fellow business owners, city hall staff, local colleges and others have all helped. Lately, they said, the city feels different, more communal.
"What I've felt about the support we've gotten, particularly in the last couple of months … is a feeling that we're all in it together, and that that's a different thing," Lewis said. "It is recognizing that the success of individual places is related to the success of downtown, and vice versa."