COLUMBIA – Scents of mixed incense and music welcome customers to the basement store with an inventory that includes books about activism, sustainability and peace.
The Peace Nook, with its trademark rainbow flag outside the entrance at 804 E. Broadway, has been a downtown Columbia fixture since it opened Aug. 24, 1990. A celebration of the 20-year milestone is set for 3 p.m. Sunday at Stephens Lake Park.
IF YOU GO
What: 20th anniversary celebration for the Peace Nook
Where: Gordon Shelter at Stephens Lake Park
When: 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday
Music: Lee Ruth at 3:30 p.m, John McHale at 4:15 p.m., Universal Drum appeal at 6 p.m., Violet Vonder Haar at 7 p.m.
Dinner: Free veggie dogs and burgers from the Peace Nook. Please bring a salad, side or dessert to share.
During a recent visit, Catherine Blackwell purchased four bottles of toasted sesame oil, a fair trade product imported from Asia.
"It's a nice and pleasant place to shop," she said. "The price here is really good."
Keeping with its principles of sustainability and social justice, the Peace Nook's staff hand-selects its merchandise. Some products are from fair trade organizations that ensure their craftspeople earn a decent wage via regular inspection of overseas factories.
The Peace Nook is designated by its operator – Mid-Missouri Peaceworks – as a non-profit, volunteer-based community resource center and an information and social change activism referral center.
"Each purchase people make is a vote," said Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks and co-founder of the Peace Nook. "Whenever we shop, we transfer dollars – green energy – to the business or organization we buy from."
The Peace Nook doesn't do commercial advertising, Haim said, and relies mostly on word of mouth.
Turnover of the hundreds of volunteers who have worked at the store during its 20 years is another challenge.
"Since our volunteers are largely university students, they kept coming and going, which is a joy, but also a challenge to us," Haim said.
Zora Serfozo volunteered at the Peace Nook for more than four years before becoming a part-time staff member.
"This place is so unique," Serfozo said. "It's an opportunity for young people to talk to someone they may never have a chance to talk to."
Laura Wacker has volunteered at the Peace Nook for two years.
"It's kind of a well-kept secret in Columbia," she said. "We've got a lot of cool things down here. A lot of people think it's hip nowadays to shop fair trade, but we've been doing it for 20 years."
Missourian reporter Pavan Vangipuram contributed to this report.