Shipping boxes and plastic bins are stacked all over the room, and there are T-shirts and pieces of felt piled atop folding tables. This is the workshop for The Green Egg, although it sometimes doubles as Tracey Davidow’s Hamilton living room.
At one table, Amanda Clauson of Melrose is cutting tiny pink hearts out of felt, which will later be glued as a design on the T-shirt. The larger pieces - elephants and hippos and carrots and locomotives - are cut by Haverhill-based Boston Lasers, said Davidow, and assembled here.
“They cut parachutes and military supplies, and then us. . . . We need 100 monkey ears,’’ Davidow said, smiling at the contrast.
Davidow’s company sells high-end decorative T-shirts for kids. They come in 65 styles, sold online (thegreeneggshop.com) and in 150 shops, with the felt appliques made of recycled materials (post-consumer plastic) and the T-shirts of made-in-the-USA cotton. They sold 10,000 shirts last year, their first attending trade shows, and expect to double that this year.
What makes the company noteworthy, though, is where the shirts go when they leave Davidow’s living room.
On this day, Davidow, Clauson, and intern Sophia Healey of Winchester are in the process of packing a shipment of 6,400 T-shirts bound for Haiti. There, they will be taken to a village where approximately 100 women - skilled embroiderers - will apply the “fancy stitch’’ that completes the design.
The shirts will then return to the states and be shipped to retailers.
The Green Egg is the first contract partner of the Haiti Projects, a fair-trade, nonprofit sewing and knitting cooperative located in Fond des Blancs, Haiti. Situated in a poor mountainous area 75 miles southwest of Port au Prince, it was founded in 1995 and has US offices in Beverly, with the goal of empowering women in Haiti to lift themselves out of poverty, become self-sufficient, and strengthen their community. “It feels good to me that these little shirts can actually make a difference in their lives,’’ said Davidow, who runs the company with her husband, Steve. “It’s got a very powerful meaning for me. It’s amazing that these little shirts can do so much for somebody.’’
The process of dealing with Haitian shipping can be time-consuming and expensive, she said, and to meet the demands of large retailers, she and Steve sometimes sacrifice their own sleep to stay on schedule. But the wages to the women - which equate to significantly more than the minimum wage for Haiti - go a long way.
“It’s a commitment to the women of Fond des Blancs,’’ said Chantal Healey, director of US operations for the Haiti Projects, which is the second largest employer in the village. “It’s a lot of work for the Green Egg to do this.’’
The organization produces and sells embroidered fine-quality linens, and bringing in contract work “ensures that the women have work,’’ Healey said.
With prices for shirts starting at $28 (the shirts are carried locally at Hayfields in Hamilton), the Haitian contributions also mean a lot to their clientele.
“Our customers like the hand-stitching, it’s attractive, and they like the story,’’ Davidow said. “They like the fact that when they buy this higher-end shirt, it’s doing something for someone else.’’
The Green Egg experience is helping Haiti Projects as it develops a new model. Traditionally, the organization has sold its own embroidered products, such as linens or nightgowns, and sold them itself.
One of its clients was Davidow, who founded and formerly ran Mulberry Road, a Boston custom nurseries retailer located just off of Newbury Street in Boston. The store is now on Newbury Street, and has expanded into clothing and other goods.
“When I was pregnant with my daughter, had a six-month-old baby, and was commuting up to the North Shore, we sold it,’’ said Davidow, who now counts the store among her clients. “The new owner has done wonderful things with it.’’
A few years later, the Davidows opened The Green Egg as a retail store in Manchester-by-the-Sea. They closed the shop and began renting space in Wenham before outgrowing it and moving things back to their spacious living room.
“It’s been a great partnership, because it’s allowed us to figure out the best way to work together,’’ said Haiti Projects executive director Lucy Levenson. “What do we have to work on together to make this successful? How do we handle shipping, how do we handle payments, how do we handle the joint marketing between the two of us around this issue. It’s been great, because as you know they’re in our backyard, so it’s allowed us to meet and work together and figure out the best way to make this a successful partnership.’’
From her standpoint, Davidow also sees it as providing a story for her T’s, and a little extra reason for people to buy a high-end T-shirt in a tough economy.
“It feels good,’’ she said. “And we have a strong customer base because of it.’’