Where it all began
Amy Johnstone first went to Ecuador in the fall of 2009 after running a successful polartec business for 17 years. After being told the Andes were a textile fanatic’s dream, she just had to see it for herself. When she walked into a room with a dozen or more Quichwa women laughing and knitting hats out of alpaca wool, it was love at first sight! After modifying the patterns a little, she went about the business of buying the wool and supplying it to the women so she could bring home enough for her store in Saranac Lake. That soon opened the doors to a long lasting, wonderful relationship with many local indigenous people. And thus, Amy’s wholesale company Amor a la Vida was born!
In a short while, Amy was traveling to Ecuador four times a year to buy the local artisans’ handcrafts and to design new and creative products utilizing the talents of weavers who have been perfecting their craft for centuries. The skill and desire to work has always been a quality the artisans have, it just took the right gringa to bring their talents to the United States! Ten years and fifty trips to Ecuador later, the Quichwa dream has come to fruition.
Along with the higher-than-average wage the communities earn, Amor a la Vida has also built a school, supports a community center which now provides a “meals on wheels” program for the elderly in remote villages and has free internet services for the community, provides access to scholarships and also provides health care for families in crisis. We now sell wholesale to over 200 stores throughout the northeast and continue to joyfully be a part of the indigenous communities of the Andes.
Fun Fact! Amy once received a live rooster as a gift for being an achimama at a wedding, and has also been given the feet of a guinea pig as a special gift to eat at baby Amycita’s baptism. Wow. Can’t beat that!
For more information about Amor a la Vida or to make a wholesale order, visit www.amoralpaca.com
Ross Manny is a native Saranac Laker, and a long time friend of Amy’s son. When Amy decided that it was time to pass on the legacy of EcoLiving alpaca, he jumped at the chance to use his business knowledge to carry on the name and, more importantly, the vision that it represents. Ross has spent most of his life outdoors, and strongly believes in the power of human connection and treating each other fairly. These principles coincide perfectly with Eco Living values: selling sustainably-sourced products purchased at reasonable prices directly from the people who make them.
Ross officially took over the store in July 2019, and is excited to see what this leg of the journey will bring. On nice days, he likes to sit outside and talk to people about the store and life. Come down and say hi!
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is a trading system focused on alleviating global poverty and promoting sustainability through ethical global trade with disadvantaged producers. By supporting fair trade products, you are taking a step towards making the world a better place.
Why Buy Fair Trade?
- Fair trade is anti-slavery and anti-child labor.
- It supports the conservation of the environment.
- It empowers women and minorities.
- It provides a living wage for marginalized groups.
About Alpaca Wool
Alpaca wool is the natural fiber harvested from an alpaca. It is a soft, durable, luxurious, and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer and non-itchy. Alpaca fiber is also naturally water-repellent and breathable.
Alpaca ranching is environmentally friendly:
- With one alpaca you can make up to five sweaters, while it takes four goats to produce sufficient cashmere for a single sweater.
- Alpacas are some of the most efficient eaters in nature. They won’t overeat and they can get 37% more nutrition from their food than sheep can.
- Alpacas always poop in the same place. They line up to use these communal dung piles. Plus, alpaca poops make excellent fertilizer!
- Because alpacas have toenails instead of hooves and are relatively light animals, they disrupt soil far less than other grazers and thus create less erosion and runoff.
- Alpacas can eat native grasses and don’t need you to plant a monocrop for them – no need to fertilize a special crop! Chemical use is decreased.