“I wasn’t doing it to get rich,” says Alison Mackie of her Chelsea Underground Art Gallery, which she closed at the end of the summer after two years. It took its name from its original location in a basement on Main, but later moved upstairs. “It was a hobby, but it took over my life,” Mackie says. Although the gallery stayed busy and she sold enough paintings to pay the bills, there was never enough money to hire full-time staff. “We sponsored events and introduced art that some thought was controversial or that was, I was told, ‘not Chelsea,’ and that’s OK,” Mackie says. The art, she says, “engaged visitors in a dialogue on diversity.” And she is still optimistic there’s a market for art: “Chelsea can support another art gallery. If I had more energy and time, I’d have kept going and tried to talk artist friends into taking over the gallery space, knowing it was viable.”

Mackie’s closing was an opportunity for Kevin Frahm, co-owner with his wife Denise of Global Marketplace on Middle St. “We’d been looking to get back to Main St.,” says Frahm, who started selling fair trade items in 1999 as part of an outreach program at First United Methodist Church. For seven years the business was on Main as Mission Marketplace (Just Imagine has that space now) until moving to Middle St. five years ago. Returning to Main “kind of feels like we’re coming home,” he says.

Frahm will probably keep the Middle St. store open through the end of the year. The new place, which opened in October, is one-third the size–just 800 square feet–so he’ll have to “get creative” about how to display merchandise. “I needed a kick in the pants,” he laughs. “The logistics are kind of crazy, but I’m looking forward to it.” “In a few months I will be sixty years old,” he says.

“I’m looking for ways to simplify my life. [The smaller store] will make it an easier transition to retire when I do.” He plans to feature his best-sellers in the downsized spot, including scarves, jewelry, musical instruments, coffee, chocolate, and some knitwear. One big change will be the addition of an in-store computer kiosk where customers can choose from among more than 1,500 fair trade items to be shipped to their homes or to the store. “Some of our big sellers, like our cut metal sculptures, have forty or fifty [design] options online,” he explains. Frahm sees the kiosk as a way to transition to “the new way people are shopping,” and expects to move solely to online sales when he eventually retires.

Global Marketplace sells works by artisans in economically disenfranchised communities around the world, and Frahm says he’s always bringing in new lines, like Kantha bracelets and necklaces, colorful cloth-wrapped beads from India. Customers often tell him about products they’re interested in, and he also attends gift shows. He says he’s been surprised at how well the hand-felted birdhouses from Nepal are selling. The colorful and naturally waterproof birdhouses come in funky designs, including a pink flying pig, a beehive, an owl, and bright flowers, and sell for $32.50.

Global Marketplace, 105 S. Main, 475-7604. Sun. noon-5 p.m., Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Old location: 115 W. Middle, 475-7604, Thurs.-Sat. noon-5 p.m. globalmarketplacechelsea.com