This local shop supports artisans in Laguna and around the world, one gift at a time.
By Sharon Stello
Buy Hand, a popular local gift shop, has carved out a unique niche, selling handmade items by artisans from Laguna Beach, across the U.S. and other countries, with a focus on fair trade items.
Started in 2012 by Kavita Reddy because she “wanted to have a retail store that was socially conscious in some way,” Kavita was later joined by her sister, Vidya Reddy, in running the operation and they moved the business to Laguna’s HIP (Historic and Interesting Places) District a little over a year ago in March 2017.
Here, they talk about the handcrafted items they carry—from jewelry to stuffed animals, suncatchers, clothing and more—and the importance of supporting independent businesses and artisans both locally and around the globe.
What inspired you to start the store?
Kavita Reddy: In the midst of the economic collapse [in 2012,] … we saw a lot of people lose their jobs. I was transitioning out of the tech world and wanted to start a business that could do something good in the world. So I focused on handmade items from American artists. When you buy a handmade item, as opposed to a mass-produced item, you are helping a fellow human being who made that item [be able to] afford dance lessons for their kids, or put themselves through college.
Vidya Reddy: Though I didn’t live here when Kavita started the store, we discussed the concept a great deal. When she told me she wanted to open a handmade gifts store, I loved the idea immediately. Handmade products have a little bit of the soul of their makers and always feel a little more special. I think that’s because of our East Indian heritage where people still work with their hands to make crafts.
How has the store and what you offer changed over time?
VR: As my sister just mentioned, we started off being a strictly “handmade in America” concept for about four years. But, when we decided to change locations to the HIP District last year, we decided to expand our concept to include a global collection because there is so much great craftsmanship all over the world.
KR: We decided to concentrate our global collection around fair trade, especially organizations that work to bring women out of poverty. We have items from all over the world with a concentration on fair trade items from India because we have family that works in the NGO [nongovernmental organization] sphere there.
How do you like your new location in the HIP District?
VR: We love this new location. The HIP District is a great mix of visitor and local foot traffic. We’ve been humbled by how much local support we’ve gotten since moving to this area. There are so many conscientious and good-hearted people in Laguna Beach that want to help artists locally and around the world.
How is your store different from other typical gift shops?
KR: We specialize in unique, one-of-a-kind handmade gifts that you won’t necessarily find online or at other stores. We scour the country, and world really, finding just the right products. When you buy a gift from Buy Hand, it is twice blessed. It blesses the recipient with a lovely gift, but it also blesses the maker in achieving their own dreams.
What are some of your favorite items carried at the store?
VR: We have a wonderful line of candles that smell so good. The scent is a custom scent made for us by a SoCal artist. We have a great line of crocheted ocean themed toys including a little mermaid that makes every little girl that comes in the shop go crazy. We also have great gemstone jewelry, some of which my sister and I make ourselves.
Who are some of the Laguna-based artists with items sold in your store?
KR: We carry Laughing Raven [Design] jewelry, Backward Prints T-shirts, Transcend Organics, Jill Cooper fused glass artwork, Leah Cano’s crocheted scarves.
Why do you think it’s important to support independent artists locally and around the world?
KR: Technology and automation is making the world change so rapidly and everything is becoming more and more mass-produced, putting people out of work. We want to preserve human dignity as much as possible. So handmade is about preserving tradition and workmanship as well as respecting humanity.
What has been the response from shoppers?
VR: We’ve had such an amazing response from Laguna Beach locals at our new location. A lot of people are newly discovering the shop and we meet some wonderful and caring people on a daily basis. We have found that our local customers really enjoy our fair trade products.
Anything else you want people to know?
VR: We are just so thankful for being able to live our dream of creating a socially conscious business together. We thank Laguna Beach for supporting us and all of the other wonderfully independent local businesses. None of us can survive without you.