Small Business Spotlight: Isasuma brings Colombian charm to downtown Easton

Isasuma+sells+handmade+accessories+from+Colombia%2C+donating+a+portion+of+the+proceeds+to+the+La+Guajira+region.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Isasuma%29

Isasuma sells handmade accessories from Colombia, donating a portion of the proceeds to the La Guajira region. (Photo courtesy of Isasuma)

Oliver Finlay, Contributing Writer

Just off the circle in the center of town, there’s a new face in Easton’s retail community. Isasuma, which sells handmade accessories, arose organically from the work and travel of Easton locals Manuel Fresneda, Andrea Rincon and Curt Weihz.

After visiting family in Colombia and getting compliments on his fashion upon returning to the United States, Fresneda decided to start bringing items back to Easton to sell.

“He started just bringing small stuffearrings and sometimes a few bags every time he went to Colombia, and he noticed how people really loved that,” Rincon said. “It was just like that for many years. Once or twice a year, I would help him sell at street fairs. We’d take out a table and we have a few pieces, and that was the end of it.”

When the pandemic hit, Weihz knew it was time to move the business to an online space. With a background in photography and graphic design, Rincon got to work on the website. They started with a personal website, then added an Etsy shop.

“It blew out of proportion. We were selling incredible amounts of face masks that were all hand-made and also gave us exposure in the other items that we had,” Rincon said.

The Etsy shop made hundreds of sales, further convincing the trio to push the shop seriously.

During the Winter Village last year, exposure from customers visiting the group’s booth had them fielding question after question about where people could find their store. Isasuma only existed online at the time; this explosion of interest catalyzed Rincon and Fresneda to open a physical storefront in town.

The shop is now located at 228 Northampton Street, just above Easton Outdoor Company and across the street from Sogo. It is run by Rincon and a few new hires that help with inventory, photography and accounting.

Shoppers have also been drawn to Isasuma recently because of their connection to the fervor surrounding Disney’s new film “Encanto.” Mirabel, the film’s main character, carries a mochila bag, inspiring families to seek out similar ones.

Mochila bags were bestsellers before the film as well. They are a product of the Wayuu culture indigenous to northern Colombia. According to Rincon, the bags grab people’s attention for many reasons: vibrant colors, durable material and unique design. What is most important for Rincon is the tragedy that surrounds them and the steps Isasuma is taking to stop it.

Hundreds of thousands of Wayuu people live in a region of Colombia called La Guajira. Despite being right on the shore, the area is extremely dry; the Ranchería River, once their greatest water supply, is now used to supply a controversial coal mine.

“For a few decades now, they’ve been dying from hunger, malnutrition, thirst…they live in front of the water but they cannot drink that water. It’s saltwater and the clean drinking water is contaminated,” Rincon said.

Despite indigenous protests, a dam was built in 2011 that diverts even more water to the mine. Part of Isasuma’s mission is to provide these Wayuu people with clean water.

“Without being able to travel, I found out about the opportunity to donate water, and that’s how we started our GoFundMe campaign. It’s an ongoing campaign, and we have a fundraiser once a year. It’s coming up in April,” Rincon said.

A portion of Isasuma’s sales goes directly to buying water for Wayuu communities. You can donate to their GoFundMe or buy from their website to support Isasuma’s efforts. Last year, they raised enough money to deliver 150,000 liters of water.