This summer, we’re seeing more retail stores opening in La Jolla that are aligned with specific causes.
Last month, Two Stories, a clothing store helping to forge collaboration and peace between Israelis and Palestinians, opened on Pearl Street, and just last weekend, Social Concept, eyewear, jewelry, and apparel store devoted to helping the people of Latin America, hosted a grand opening at its Prospect Street location.
The idea behind Social Concept, owner Chris Ortiz said, is to “provide customers with attractive, high-quality merchandise produced by talented artists and designers in impoverished regions like El Salvador.” The product lines that Ortiz and his co-owner wife Stephanie lovingly curate come with an inspiring backstory. Their line of women's apparel, for example, is weaved by artisans in Cojutepeque, a small town in El Salvador.
Each product is connected with a specific social program that supports the health and education needs of the local population. Social Concept also has a partnership with Buenavista Optometry in El Salvador. An optometrist recently performed eye exams in a poor community for more than 80 students and parents; of that cohort, Chris explains, 37 individuals required glasses, which were provided without charge by Social Concept.
The inspiration for Social Concept came when Chris and Stephanie, after years of toiling in fast-paced ad agencies and then completing their graduate degrees, decided to move to El Salvador, where Stephanie has family. What they saw on the ground changed their perspectives.
“The need down there is extraordinary,” said Chris. “We spent a lot of time getting to know the people and identifying their most fundamental needs. We wanted to help the people, and Social Concept became our vehicle.”
The human suffering in that part of the world is driving migrants away from Central America in search of a better life elsewhere. The best way to address the problem, say the experts, is by tackling the underlying causes, including poverty and gangs.
“Our customers know that they are receiving high-quality products that are not only unique,” said Chris, “but which allow young men in El Salvador to learn a craft that can translate into a lifelong career and keep them away from gangs.”
But Chris and Stephanie Ortiz are not just pie-in-the-sky idealists; they are marketing pros who understand that doing good is also good for business. The Nielsen Global Survey on corporate social responsibility, which surveyed nearly 30,000 people across 58 countries, found that 50% of global consumers are willing to pay a premium for socially responsible products.
“The idea with Social Concept is for the customers to feel they are engaging not simply in a transactional exchange of money but a deeper and more meaningful purchase experience,” said Chris.
While Chris and Stephanie are currently creating partnerships that benefit the people of El Salvador, their plan is to eventually expand the Social Concept model to other Latin American countries such as Panama and Mexico.
For more information about Social Concept, visit their store at 1295 Prospect St., Ste 109 or go online at socialconceptsd.com.