According to a brochure from the organization, it was begun to "help women in need discreetly earn a living", and currently "the Exchange continues to serve its non-profit mission as an outlet of hand-crafted goods made by women and men intent on supporting themselves with dignity".
I had first read of this organization in Jane and Michael Stern's first Roadfood book; they touted the old-fashioned atmosphere of the Exchange's handmade goods and tearoom fare.
Well, this is the 21st Century, so the tearoom menu has been updated and some of the crafts look a little slicker than they probably had when the Sterns first visited (if I remember correctly, their first Roadfood book came out in the early 1980's). We ate lunch in the tearoom, where the pasta salad and veggie wrap had the same odd tangy flavor to them - whatever had been used for a viniagrette wasn't exactly to our liking. However, my side order of macaroni and cheese was fine, as was my ice tea. And the complimentary biscuits couldn't have been better!
The Exchange shop carried soaps, baby toys, children's clothes, jewelry, tote bags and so on. Most of the prices were quite reasonable.
A few photos:
Signs outside The Women's Industrial Exchange.
I bought the above, which is a tiny stuffed cat on a keychain, at the Exchange. A neighbor girl takes care of our cat while we're on vacation, so besides paying her, I also like to bring her a little something picked up on our travels. Thus, a cat-shaped item seemed appropriate. It was so adorable I wanted to keep it for myself! However, I know that I can always make one if I feel like it. Not sure if I would do as neat a job as this crafter had, though - from past experience, I know that miniature shapes can be a pain to sew and stuff. Whoever made this stuffed cat had done a very nice job!