Ethical shopping at Maison Soleil

A rack features colorful clothing and unique wall decor for sale at Maison Soleil.

MJ Matthews|Marlin Chronicle

Maison Soleil sells fair trade and locally produced goods to promote ethical consumerism and women-owned businesses.

Shopping that feels good can do good. Maison Soleil, a female and LGBTQIA+ owned fair trade boutique, proves this ten times over. The shop has been serving the Norfolk community for the past 7 years, and brings an array of ethically sourced goods and crafts from other women-owned businesses. 

Beyond the betterment of humanity from shopping their products, the shop gives good to all who enter and hosts events supporting community wellness. The store offers a friendly and inclusive atmosphere that is undeniably feminist and fun. 

The store is packed with all kinds of trinkets, accessories and daily must-haves. Their products range from stationary goods with motivational phrases and designs on them, to eco-friendly beauty in reusable and recyclable packaging, to vintage and second hand clothes to curate style sustainably. 

Owner Lindsay Sims appreciates her chosen selection of goods, and believes patrons will appreciate them as well. “Look around the space, you’ll see products that are usually things that I like, I think my customers will like, and also, it meets our values of being woman-made, handmade, and if it’s made outside of the U.S., it’s fair trade certified,” Lindsay said.

Walking through the store, patrons are greeted by bright hues and inspiring messages that are proudly queer. The space is bright and colorful, reflecting the friendly nature of the team. Beyond the display tables, there’s a vintage corner of second hand gems, paralleled by a microphone performance space. 

The setup and company of the store is cheerful and cozy, with multiple seating areas alongside the store shelves and display tables. This is to accommodate daily store patrons, as well as community events the shop hosts, such as book clubs, open mic nights and writers workshops. 

Walking in, the tone is immediately set up, with store employees offering tea and coffee, asking names of any given customer, wholly engaged. This introduction cemented Maison Soleil’s neighborhood role: a comfortable place to hang out, a locally-contributing business. 

Maison Soleil is a curated community spot. 

“I like the fact that we are a safe space for people who feel like they can come here and just be themselves,” Lindsay said. Through opening the store, Lindsay was seeking ways to empower women through business, but also to make new connections, fostering that with her space. 

That vision has blossomed into what the store is today. Catering to people of all ages, with the main demographic being younger people, the store’s variety of events are made to include all sorts of interests and abilities. 

The store is inclusive in spirit and in action. To make shopping sustainably and ethically more feasible for people, the store houses a “pay what you can” rack of second hand clothes, and they have an afterpay program for pricier items, so people can save up or incrementally pay for something they really love. “I just feel like not everything that’s fair trade or ethically made should be super expensive,” Lindsay said. 

A colorful board shows a list of regular events hosted at Maison Soleil.

MJ Matthews|Marlin Chronicle

Fair trade certified products are manufactured by employees being paid a fair wage and treated with respect in safe working conditions, many companies going the extra mile to help workers get back on their feet or otherwise better their daily lives. These products, as well as those made by minority populations and entrepreneurs, tend to be higher in price than their big-brand counterparts, to make up for the pay gap, small batches and better materials used.

Lindsay works to ensure her store is accessible to all, and is understanding of others’ financial situations, encouraging a slow switch to ethically-sourced products to support all parties involved. 

“What is nice about shopping mindfully and basically with a conscience is that you don’t have to be perfect…just that 1% more that you do every day makes a difference,” Lindsay said.  

Stores that serve as a vehicle for fair trade and ethically-sourced products help make a living for many people in underprivileged communities and other extraordinary circumstances, but they may have a more difficult time staying afloat due to their higher prices. 

Supporting stores like Maison Soleil has a tri-fold effect, giving back to local and global communities. 

Maison Soleil is a friendly place to shop mindfully and maybe discover something new. 

Some upcoming March events include a mic showcase (3/9, 7 p.m.), a writers workshop (3/10, 4 p.m.), a burlesque class (3/14, 3/21, 3/28, 7 p.m.), a clothing swap (3/16, 12 p.m.) and an open mic night (3/20, 7 p.m.) —full list on their Instagram @maisonsoleilnfk. Consider venturing to this pocket of sunshine store, located at 1611A Colley Ave, Norfolk, VA 23517.

By MJ Matthews