Soap from the Aseela Women’s Cooperative in Palestine

Sydney Blackmore knows where you shop.

Pieces of Palestine
Matthew Fitz, Tyler Lovell and Kevin Sooley are three MUN students who have started using Facebook as an online marketplace for fairly-traded Palestinian goods. In January 2009, the trio teamed up to create the group, ‘The Buy Palestinian Initiative!’ and are using this space as an online fair-trade marketplace to sell Palestinian made products to people here in the province.

“We’re importing Palestinian handmade soap. Right now we’re selling bars of pure olive oil soap, made by the Aseela Woman’s Collective,” explains Fitz. “The Aseela group is a group of women from Bethlehem who want to export their culture, and it seemed like a perfect way to help out. They make the soap themselves and they buy the olives from the Palestinian farmers. So it really does promote sustainability there.”

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on, the boys’ mission is relevant to the times. But Fitz insists their Initiative is apolitical and is really about helping people.

“In Palestine, the average rate of unemployment for women is about 20% and in some places it’s 40%. Even if there wasn’t a war going on it would still be an extremely unstable situation.”

A quote from Aseela co-founder Wafa Khatib on the website reads, “people outside Palestine hear only about violence and poverty. We wanted to show the world something beautiful from our country.”

On February 18, the Buy Palestinian Initiative will have a booth set up in Memorial’s University Centre to sell the $5 bars of soap. The boys are also hoping to soon have their own booth at the Avalon Mall’s Sunday Flea market while they work on establishing their own website and e-mail domain, for future orders.

To learn more about The Buy Palestinian Initiative, check out their Facebook group and keep an eye out for their website which is in the works at

Red, white and drank
So you think you’re good at drinking wine? You should meet Nick Hender, a wine stewart. A few years ago, Nick followed his taste buds to the Algonquin University of Ottawa and after two years of intense study with over 25 wine tastings a week, he became a sommelier. Translation? “A ‘sommeleir’ is a fancy french term for someone who is the person who controls all beverages in a restaurant. It’s a wine expert,” explains Nick.

Through his business, Grape Expectations, Hender offers wine tasting sessions and consultations to all wine drinkers in the St. John’s area. “I go to people’s homes and talk at length about wine. I can go to the liquor store with them and help them buy the wine.”

Being a lover of wine, Nick wants to remove the snobbery that’s associated with the drink.

“Wine tastings can be stuffy and uptight and not very welcoming. It’s like you have to know something about wine before you go—and that must be very intimidating to somebody who doesn’t know anything about wine. With my business I’m hoping to make wine accessible and just make it fun.”

Nick is also a Red Seal Chef, so he offers his services as an at-home cooking instructor and catering chef. He makes his own bread and gourmet cheese spreads to bring to the tastings as well.

“The tastings are a really nice evening—usually with about 6 or 8 of your friends over. You get to taste 6-8 wines, one by one over the entire evening, and you learn about the wines as you go.”

Nick also has a bit of fun with his clients and incorporates a ‘guess the aroma’ game into his sessions.

A basic wine tasting with bread is $25 a person and a tasting with the cheese spread costs $30 a person. Both sessions last 3-4 hours.

For more details about how you can book an evening with Grape Expectations, call 765-7527, 726-5957 or visit the website at

Locker graffiti
He wants to draw you in and then draw on you. Tomas Shea is a seventeen year old student of Gonzaga High School who is running his own custom clothing design business—right out of his locker—called Locker 101 Custom Clothing.

Says Tomas, “I can transform your basic clothes. Every single item is hand-drawn, I have special types of markers that work on different fabrics. I’ve always been able to draw well, so that’s an advantage for me.”

Locker 101 is an idea spawned from Tomas’ appreciation for one-of-a-kind graphic tees and his high school’s Enterprise class.

“There are two other clothing companies at my school, so it’s growing surprisingly common [for students to sell clothes],” he says. “But 101 is doing really well. I have help from my friend Patrick Stapleton who takes care of the business side. So far we have made over $225 in profit and we’ve only been doing the business a little over two weeks.”

So is Tomas going to get an A for his effort?

“Right now I have a 97% in enterprise. But I’ll definitely get 100% if I can prove to my teacher that The Scope exists.”

(Yes, Mr. Mazerolle, we do exist.)

Tomas has his own Facebook group called ‘Custom Clothing 101’ where people, both students and non-students, can place their orders. He’s also posted his own youtube commercial that showcases some of his creations on the Facebook group. Prices are $10 to buy a shirt with accompanying design, or $3-5 for a design if the clothing is provided. Tomas has his own original designs to choose from, or customers can request their own design.

“The customer is always right. If they want something, that’s what they get.“ Potential customers can e-mail Tomas at, or Gonzaga students can see him during his lunchtime business hours—at Locker 101 in Gonzaga’s basement.

Gut feelings
A new, fast-food Thai restaurant called Thai in a Box is opening this week, next to the old Totally Greek location in Atlantic Place that closed a few months ago.

Also, while The Fat Duck on Water Street may look closed, it’s just hibernating. The restaurant is closed for the winter season and will open again in May.

Unfortunately that’s not the case for Christopher’s, the restaurant on Duckworth that specialised in contemporary Newfoundland traditional cuisine, which closed this past week.

One last note: Peter’s Pizza is going to the dogs.

Every Tuesday, the tips and profits made from the ‘daily slice’ special at the pizza place on 142 Patrick Street goes to the local animal charity, Heavenly Creatures. Woof!

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