Wilmington-based Half United opened its first brick-and-mortar store in time for the holidays to feature its products and those of other local businesses, one of the founders, Carmin Black, said Tuesday.
Half United creates and sells jewelry, shirts and leather bags, and for every item sold, the company donates money that becomes seven meals for someone in need.
The store was founded by Carmin Black
and her brother Christian Black in 2009.
The store at 1607 Queen St. has Half United products as well as products from other local businesses such as MISSIO Hair, which donates money from its hair products to help fight human trafficking, and makeup company River Organics.
Most of the products are under $50, and Half United will donate money for meals regardless of the brand of the item sold.
The store had a soft opening in the summer when Half United held an event to celebrate its partnership with Port City Java, Carmin Black said. Half United sells coffee sleeves and donates 50 cents for every sleeve sold.
After that event, Black said she felt people might not come into the store because it is not located in a business district but then decided to open the store to allow people to see their products in person.
“Fast forward to Christmastime, we just thought, ‘You know, we've got these brand-new leather goods from Haiti that we really want to showcase, we've got a lot of friends that are designers and artists and craftspeople that are always looking for places to sell their products, why not start it around Christmastime and then continue to invest in it and build through 2019.’”
Half United sells its products online at Nordstrom.com and on its own website; however, the company mostly sells its items in small boutiques all over the world, Black said.
Having customers in Wilmington be able to see and feel the company's products allows it to realize how special and handcrafted the products are, she said.
“Showing stuff on Instagram or showing things on our website… it's not necessarily giving our customer the ability to come in and tangibly see the products that these artisans that we partner with create,” Black said.
The company also hopes to hold community events in its space on Queen Street to help expose other artists in the area.
While the store doesn’t represent how well a brick-and-mortar Half United store would do because it’s not in a business district, they are in talks to further expand the store concept, she said.
“We have definitely thought whether or not, in the next few years, if Half United should have a physical retail space. And if we did that, it would be in a high traffic area,” Black said.
Half United has been expanding its product offerings in the past years, adding a clothing line and leather bags this year.
The company hopes to continue adding products, especially to allow customers to support Half United’s cause with a product they enjoy.
“For 2019, we're going to be offering a slew of new products because this company was built on the recycled bullet casing necklace, and while we still are very proud of that product as a symbol of our fight against hunger and the symbol of transforming something meant to harm and turning it into a symbol of healing, we realized that there is sensitivity surrounding gun control and gun violence, though that product has nothing to do with either of those,” Black said.
She said the company also wants to help customers understand how Half United products help feed children in need, which is a message Half United is not putting forward enough.
“I think we've definitely, in the past, missed the mark on that a little bit because unlike a lot of companies that oversell the amount of good they're doing … I think in Half United's case, the amount of good we're doing is under-marketed,” she said.
Black said she hopes to continue to grow the business and maintain customer satisfaction so Half United can continue to support humanitarian causes.
“This business is truly only in existence to help other people,” Black said. “It's the name of our brand. If we will all do our half to help fight hunger and unite together, there’s no end to the amount of good we can accomplish.”