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How one woman went from working after school at popular Sonoma shop to becoming its owner

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It started as an after-school job, but Sofie Burt kept getting promoted and eventually became manager of Global Heart Fair Trade, known for offering goods sourced from around the world and at an affordable price.

Now she’s owner of the personal accessories and home goods store, located on the Sonoma Plaza, and has been with the business for over half her life — longer than she’s been with her partner, who she met at 19.

She started working at the store in 2005, when she was 17 years old and a student at Sonoma Valley High School. Back then, the store was called Baksheesh.

Originally owned by Candi Horton and Brian Smucker, the store opened on West Spain Street in 1997 and moved to the Plaza on First Street West in 2002.

A few years into her tenure, the owners approached her and asked if she’d like to own the store. After three years of training, on Dec. 31, 2013, she officially became owner at just 25 years old.

“It was overwhelming,” Burt said. “It’s smooth sailing now.”

The shop has become a staple of the Plaza, and she said she hears Global Heart has never looked better.

During the pandemic, Burt had to close the store for months. She still showed up every day, creating an online store and reorganizing the shop. She scaled back on ordering and was able to comb through what the shop had on hand.

Once closures were lifted and Global Heart reemerged, it looked different that what people grew accustomed to, but the feedback was positive.

Burt, 34, has evolved the business but she said she never strayed from its roots: every artisan whose work ends up in the store makes a living wage for their work.

She’s been able to keep many of the longtime vendors — from over 35 countries, the most common being Peru, Nepal and India — but she said the inventory now feels more cohesive.

She’s adamant about keeping things reasonably priced, too. The most expensive thing for sale is a large stuffed alpaca for about $500. But most things sell for under $100, a price point that has been a success, particularly among tourists.

A smaller $30 stuffed fleece alpaca accounted for over 4% of Burt’s sales last year, but she’s seen many trends come and go. Crystals and celestial moons are on trend right now, along with fanny packs and scrunchies that are making a comeback.

Though the shop has been a huge part of her life, Burt said she’s learned to make more time for a life outside of it. To that end, shoppers won’t find her in the shop on Wednesdays. She uses her day off to run errands, cook and spend time with her cats.

Before the pandemic and when she had a few sales associates, she felt the need to keep the store open seven days a week, but being forced to slow down has led her to reevaluate. Now it’s just her and her husband.

“This space, this location — I’ve been here half my life,” Burt said. “I hope to stay here a million more years. It’s perfect for me.”

Contact the reporter Rebecca Wolff at rebecca.wolff@sonomanews.com.

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