Advocate BroMenn Medical Center Gift Shop Focuses on American-Made, Fair Trade Items

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Normal, Illinois hospital's gift shop manager takes "Made in the USA" to heart.

When one thinks of a hospital gift shop, generally images of flowers, candy and various stuffed animals come to mind. But Carole Nyitray, manager of the Atrium Café and Gift Shop at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., has been working to expand that vision, not only with the types of items the shop carries, but also with how – and where – the items are manufactured.

“Since taking this position nearly a year ago, I have made the conscious decision to focus on vendors that sell products made in America,” says Nyitray, who works for ARAMARK, the company Advocate BroMenn engages to manage its gift shop and café. “I look into how and where the product is made because I want to offer my customers the best quality product, even if it means spending a little more.” Making the transition from foreign-made to American-made products has not been easy she says, but it’s a goal worth striving for.

“The biggest challenge is finding plush toys and stuffed animals that are made in the U.S.,” says Nyitray. “Almost every vendor I looked into makes their toys overseas.” When purchasing a product from an American company is not an option, she tries her best to make sure the business overseas is fair trade. Fair trade contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions and securing the rights of marginalized producers and workers. For example, the gift shop and café carry Starbucks coffee products and Terra Design Jewelry -- both of which utilize fair trade practices.

Most of the products Nyitray purchases for the Gift Shop have a story behind them. Take the shop’s Stephanie Dawn handbags, for example. The owner of the Stephanie Dawn line was a former handbag designer who decided to create her own exclusively “made in the USA” bags in 2008, after her then-employer began outsourcing its manufacturing to China. “The Stephanie Dawn bags are lovely, and are very popular,” Nyitray says.

Another company Nyitray buys from is Pure Play Kids, where all toys are designed, crafted and manufactured in either America or Europe. “What I like about this newly-formed company is the owner, a father of 2 toddlers who also worked many years on Wall Street as a toy business analyst, knows the industry inside and out, did not like how trade agreements were not being honored from overseas and decided he could do something about that by starting his own company,” says Nyitray.

The shop carries pajama sets and canvas bags from Live for Life, Hope for All, an Ohio-based business that makes and sells clothing and accessories both for and in support of cancer patients. The company donates 5% of its proceeds to the National Cancer Institute.

Other eco-friendly, American-made options sold in the gift shop include Locally Grown, Lucy Lu Designs and Canus. Locally Grown, based in Des Moines, Iowa, sells clothing made with all organic cotton, while Lucy Lu manufactures jewelry and gift items in California. Waterbury, Vermont-based Canus sells organic goat’s milk soaps and skin products.

Nyitray also supports many vendors from her local area, such as sweets from The Chocolatier in Bloomington, Ill., and handmade knit wear, jewelry, bibs and bows from central Illinois-based sellers.

Nyitray is conscious of the slightly higher prices of USA-made products in comparison to products made out of the country. “I hope, though, that once people are aware of the better- quality item they are purchasing and how they are helping support American jobs and businesses, the price point won’t be as important,” she says.

The Atrium Gift Shop, located at 1304 Franklin Avenue, Normal, is open to anyone visiting the hospital and the general public Monday through Friday 6:30 am to 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday 7 am to 6 pm.

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About Advocate BroMenn Medical Center:
Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, located in Bloomington-Normal, has been serving and caring for the people of central Illinois for more than 115 years. As the health care leader in McLean County, BroMenn provides healing and discovery, while simultaneously offering the warm touch of professional caregivers who form the BroMenn family.

A 221-bed hospital renowned for its neuro, cardiac, orthopedic and women’s services, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center is also a teaching facility, offering residency programs in Neurosurgery, Family Practice and Clinical Pastoral Education. The facility has won several awards for clinical quality and patient satisfaction. BroMenn also has several active partnerships with other organizations, including a community cancer center, an Advanced MRI site, a sports enhancement center, a sleep disorders center, an addiction recovery unit, and an assisted living facility.

About Advocate Health Care
Advocate Health Care, one of the nation’s top 10 health systems based on clinical performance, is the largest health system in Illinois and one of the largest health care providers in the Midwest. Advocate operates more than 250 sites of care, including 10 acute care hospitals, two integrated children’s hospitals, five Level I trauma centers (the state’s highest designation in trauma care) and two Level II trauma centers, one of the area’s largest home health care companies and one of the region’s largest medical groups. Advocate Health Care trains more than 2,000 residents, medical students and fellows at its three major teaching hospitals. As a not-for-profit, mission-based health system affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, Advocate contributed $571 million in charitable care and services to communities across Chicagoland and Central Illinois in 2011.

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Eric Alvin
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