Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on March 22, 2020
by Caurie Putnam
Every item for sale at Afrikamba, Curios ... in Spencerport tells a story.
Among beautiful beaded jewelry and colorful clothing, there’s a metal giraffe made of repurposed Coca-Cola cans by artisans in Capetown, South Africa, and a Volkswagen Beetle carved from scrap driftwood collected in Zanzibar, a Tanzanian archipelago.
No two items in the store are the same, but they do share a common bond: They are for sale in Spencerport due to Harry Ewell and Carol Nellis-Ewell.
The Ewells, who are both Kodak retirees, opened Afrikamba, Curios ... in 1998 following several trips to Kenya. Their first trip was a photographic safari in 1989 with AAA and second, a philanthropic trip building solar ovens in a small village in 1993 with a group called Earthwatch.
During those early trips they bought some handmade bags and when Carol took them to work, the reactions of her co-workers were so positive she realized there was a market for artisanal African goods in Rochester.
Thus began Afrikamba, Curios ... and over 50 trips to 13 countries in Africa for the couple who buy each product they sell personally, paying the artisan a fair price up-front.
“The store is really about learning and sharing our love of Africa and the people,” said Nellis-Ewell, who is also the deputy mayor of the village of Spencerpor t.
Each trip they take to Africa they bring about a dozen suitcases filled with items to distribute in the communities they visit, like food, books, medical products and clothing. They also bring items made by the Spencerport Methodist Church’s Dress a Girl Around the World program.
“There is tremendous need, but extreme gratitude,” Nellis-Ewell said. “We had so many wonderful experiences in Africa, we’ve always felt drawn back and that we had to give back.”
They’ve made so many trips to certain villages that they are treated like family. In Zanzibar there is a little girl named after Carol and in western Kenya a little boy named after Harry. As animal lovers, they are also very active members of the East African Wildlife Society, serving as the United States financial representatives.
Two decades after opening Afrikamba, Curios … in Spencer’s Landing in the village, they are still passionate about sharing their love of Africa with others. “We felt there was a great opportunity along the canal here in Spencerport,” Nellis-Ewell said. “In the summertime people get off their boats, discover the store and ask, ‘Why are you here?’ We say, ‘Everybody has got to be somewhere.’ We wanted to anchor here.”
Dancers’ group celebrates 50 years
Happy birthday to the Cloverleaf Squares, a
modern western square dancing and round dancing singles club founded in 1970. The group, which meets in Chili from September to April and Henrietta in the warmer months, celebrated their 50 th birthday with a reunion dance on Sunday, March 15, at the Diplomat Banquet Center.
In attendance were the group’s first president Bob Sponable and a member of the first dance class, Ann Crowley-Hash.
The group is currently led by Henry Capron and features Mike Callahan as their caller. They have about 100 members, including Sharon Meyer of Farmington, Ontario County, who met her husband of 17 years in the group.
“It’s all about dancing, meeting people and getting some exercise,” Meyer said. “A lot of us have met our spouses there. People keep coming back year after year because they like the dancing and comradery.”
Contact Caurie at firstname.lastname@example.org with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/ BrockportBlog.