Shopping with purpose has become easy in Sarasota with the arrival of Petra Gurin’s Ethnic Origin Company. Tucked neatly into the Rosemary District, the little shop stocks unique items from 30 countries.
Ethnic Origin Company grew out of Gurin’s successful online store of the same name, offering unique statement pieces like sculptures, wall décor and lighting fixtures. The store focuses on African culture, but items from India, China, and even Southwest Florida can also be found. And the store's reach is as wide as the span of its products. Pieces are shipped globally to countries like France and Australia, as well as within the United States.
Though small, the store is bursting with character and has an eclectic, earthy feel, with natural textures, neutral tones and the occasional pop of color or sparkle. Bright with natural light, Ethnic Origin Company is packed from floor to ceiling. Baskets of all shapes, sizes, and colors are stacked artfully on shelves up to the ceiling, and Gurin has created artful vignettes in corners throughout the store. It's difficult to find a place to settle your gaze for fear of missing something among the displays.
Gurin explains that there is a wide range of products for every taste and budget; baskets have proven to be some of Ethnic Origin Company’s most sought-after items, as they can be used as functional pieces or for display. “I love the juxtaposition that an ethnic piece can add to a modern home,” she says.
Each piece in the store has a story behind it that Gurin is happy to tell—she's finishing up a degree in anthropology at Oregon State University, and is passionate about the human history of each item. She personally hunts for each piece in her inventory, building relationships with craftsmen around the world in order to bring something special to her clients. To her, the story behind the pieces she brings in is just as important as the piece itself.
Acknowledging the people behind each product is important for the longevity of ethnic culture, a cause Gurin holds dear. She is an avid supporter of Survival International, an organization that acts as a mouthpiece for indigenous and tribal peoples in an effort to protect them from exploitation.
“I want to give people something that they can connect with,” says Gurin. “These items are rich with history, which makes them all the more special. If you don’t know the story behind [a piece], you won’t truly love it.”
In addition to baskets, wall prints, sculptures, and blankets, Ethnic Origin Company stocks pieces that were once practical but can be re-purposed into ultimate conversation pieces, like fishing baskets transformed into light fixtures; traditional African mortars—originally used to grind grain and maize—flipped and used as end tables; and a hand-carved wooden bed from the Ivory Coast that, according to Gurin, would make a fabulous coffee table.
In providing products that have a deeper meaning behind them, Gurin hopes to facilitate education while achieving the perfect living room aesthetic.
“People can come together over a shared appreciation of these pieces,” she says.
Ethnic Origin Company is located at 1560 Boulevard of the Arts in the Rosemary District in downtown Sarasota. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; call (941) 202-4031 for more information.