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Banyan Tree prepares to close doors

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Posted: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 4:00 pm

The Banyan Tree may be closing its doors on Nov. 7, but its founders Wanda Faust and Sandy Williams, will take their memories and personal growth along with them.

"We made a great contribution to the community. The efforts we put into this were not in vain. People appreciated what we did, and we were instrumental in changing peoples' lives," Faust said.

The women opened the business in December of 2005 at 550 E. Grand Ave. in downtown Beloit. It later moved in December of 2010 to 410 E. Grand Ave. The Banyan Tree was designed to be a health and wellness center with the goal of changing women's lives.

During its time in Beloit the business hosted speakers, life coaches, book signings and massage therapy as well as offering classes in yoga, reflexology, creative writing and more. It also provided a home for women's Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which helped countless women with recovery. Other unique programming ranged from raindrop therapy to sacred sound therapy. Counseling services were also available at an affordable price.

William said the Banyan Tree worked to support women starting up their own businesses, and various yoga instructors, massage therapists and other women in the community were able to get a clientele base started.

"We wanted to promote women's businesses and did that," Faust said.

The last hurrah for the Banyan Tree will be Saturday when Jim Roberts hosts a sacred sound evening on Saturday. Roberts will incorporate a carefully selected range of instruments including crystal quartz and Tibetan singing bowls, symphonic gongs, mantras and other instruments.

To help support Banyan Tree programming the two owners started selling Fair Trade items and the site became the first Fair Trade store in Beloit. The majority of items sold were made by women in third world countries trying to raise their family's standard of living. By choosing fair trade, consumers were able support safe and healthy working conditions for farmers and artisans and create just economic opportunities for marginalized producers.

The biggest challenge for the Banyan tree, however, was getting enough participation in classes and enough customers to purchase its Fair Trade items.

"Because the unemployment rate is so high, people can't justify coming in and buying jewelry or having a massage when they need to put food on the table," Faust said.

The Banyan Tree also had the occasional bout of public resistance when it offered classes on chakras or had psychics come visit. Faust said that the Banyan Tree never wanted to push anything on anyone, but it wanted to provide unique programming in order to expand horizons for those interested.

"We wanted them to experience different things in life and become knowledgeable about different things," Faust said.

Both women agreed most customers were very enthusiastic about the unique Fair Trade items and the classes available for women.

"We heard that Beloit needed a place like this, a place for women to go and get away," Williams said.

The women decided about two weeks ago the Banyan would have to close because revenues were not high enough to cover expenses. They wanted to thank their landlords Harold and Garnet Bauling for being patient during their time at their latest location. The owners agreed they loved having the store in the heart of Beloit's downtown.

"Our landlords have been very cooperative and very understanding about our situation, and we are grateful to have ended up here for our final days," Faust said.

Williams said the last day for the Banyan Tree will be Nov. 7. Merchandise will be sold at 40 percent off. Hours are 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. There will also be office furniture, supplies and holiday decor available in a rummage sale in back of the store.

The two women agree running the Banyan Tree was a great adventure.

"I grew a lot personally and made a lot of friends and people wouldn't have not met otherwise. It was a fun ride," Faust said.

"I did a lot of personal growing through what we did here. I learned a lot about myself and life in general," Williams said.

The two plan to enjoy retirement. Faust already has a job as a crossing guard and has been having many lively conversations with youngsters. She also hopes to be active in Beloit Civic Theater and redecorate her home. Williams hopes to travel and spend time with family.

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