One on One: Carole Griffin and Melissa Kendrick

This month’s conversation brings together two kindred spirits: Carole Griffin and Melissa Kendrick. 

One on one May

Photos by Beau Gustafson

In the realm of fair trade, Kendrick has been innovative in her approach. “I feel so sure that Birmingham is ready for the fair trade concept and a venue for the cultural education and interaction that a fair trade gallery provides that I invested everything in Sojourns,” Kendrick says. “And I truly believe in downtown Birmingham. We are located in the heart of the revitalized city center. Just look at all the wonderful old buildings in this area that are being transformed into lofts and offices. The growing residential community in the downtown area is generally comprised of individuals with post-secondary education and incomes above the average for Birmingham. That demographic aligns closely with the average fair trade customer. I feel that we’ll be well positioned to serve this increasing flow of people into the heart of Birmingham.”

In October 2005, Kendrick took the plunge to open her store. She invested her savings in Sojourns, her fair trade store and gallery. Specializing in international art and artisan products imported from around the world under fair trade standards, the store is the first of its kind in Alabama. A visit to the store is a mini-trip around the globe: You’ll find baskets, carvings, embroidery, lace, and other products from developing countries in Africa and South America; nesting dolls and jewelry from Russia; pottery from Peru and South Africa; vases from Vietnam; dinnerware from Mexico; porcelain, pottery, and metal work from developing Asian and Caribbean countries.

“Fair trade, also known as alternative trade, plays by a different set of rules than normal commerce. Instead of exchanging goods or services based on clout and driving hard bargains, fair trade is based on economic and social justice,” Kendrick says.

Griffin has owned Continental Bakery (in English Village and now downtown) and Chez Lulu for two decades, providing diners with some of the most innovative food in the city.

Griffin introduced artisanal breads in the French tradition to Birmingham. “Chez Lulu was born of my desire to showcase the beautiful artisan breads we were creating next door . . . and to share with Birmingham my own passion for the flavors and spirit of French cafe society. The restaurant and bakery have given me an opportunity to explore all my passions, from the whimsical decor to the bistro cuisine to the entertainment that has made us an avatar of fun.

“Over the years, we at Chez Lulu have introduced the Birmingham public to opera singing professional wrestlers, tribal belly dancers, jugglers, Sunday evening accordion pulls, Indian karaoke dance parties, late night poetry jams, Moroccan gypsy fiddlers, a French Acadian band, and an accordion-playing, cowboy-boot-wearing, wandering Jewish minstrel named Shalom Sherman, and that’s just for starters.”

4 Responses to “One on One: Carole Griffin and Melissa Kendrick”

  1. john scalici says:

    i love you both. Thank you for being so upbeat about your passions!

  2. A beautiful conversation between two beautiful people about beautiful Downtown Birmingham. We Downtowners know that this is the center of the Universe, and it’s fun to watch people discover that fact each and every day. Thanks! Y’all come see us!

  3. John Ocampo says:

    Carole & Melissa are just awesome people. I am lucky to know you both!

  4. susan spencer says:

    Happy birthday melissa!

Leave a Reply for susan spencer