About Barron Imports
Since 1980 Barron Imports have sourced unique and unusual pieces for interior decoration and landscaping in the form of art works, furniture and crafts from India, Myanmar and Thailand.
Owners Barry and Annette Leadbeater have committed themselves to improving the health and welfare of people in these countries, particularly the nomadic hill tribes of Northern Thailand and Myanmar. They travel regularly to many countries and assist indigenous people to earn a living and help their families. The crafts and other products made by these underprivileged people are purchased and imported into New Zealand for sale at Barron Imports.
Barry and Annette love what they do and get immense pleasure out of helping people, whenever and however they can.
In this way Barron Imports is able to provide a substantial proportion of their sales profit towards financing schools, medical clinics, education facilities and water supplies to improve the lifestyles and health of these people in often forgotten and very poor areas.
Barron Imports sell a wide range of unique handcrafted products sourced from India, Myanmar and Thailand. Their products are ethically sourced and sustainable. ALL wood and timber products in the store are made from recycled materials. Absolutely NO wood used in the store is from native forests or the forestry industry. Barron Imports guarantee all their products.
This story began several decades ago when Barron Imports ‘adopted’ several tribes of the previously nomadic Karen hill people from the border region of Thailand and Myanmar (Burma).
The Padaung (or Pah-dawng) tribes of the Karen Hill people (pronounced Kahrinor Kah-ree-ung) are renowned for their carpentry skills. Today they recycle timber from old wagons, wagon wheels, old houses, ploughs, farm implements, old machinery, animal water troughs and even old boats, much of which are about 150 years old, rather than fell trees from their native forests as they have done in the past.
Basically anything made of wood is reused to make these unique products. The timber is traditionally stored in the open until needed. The furniture and handcrafts are almost always made from teak, with a little rosewood and monkeywood added in some pieces. These handcrafts are unique to each village. As a result, tribal populations have thrived and increased in number. Barrons encourage the villagers to utilise each person’s skills to regularly produce a range of 20,000 different items. Most of this product goes to the United States and Canada. Some go exclusively to Barron Imports in New Zealand.
Barry and Annette travel to the remote hill tribe villages several times a year helping the tribes to learn new skills and to improve their health and lifestyle. New schools are so popular that classes are rotated in shifts to cope with the high demand. Many of the tribe people now speak English and literary skills are increasing. Long associated with the Golden Triangle and infamous narcotics trade, the hill tribes no longer grow or use opium or any other narcotic and are all gainfully and sustainably employed. While most people have clean running water, they do not have road access or electrical power, but still use the traditional water buffalo cart and elephant as the favoured mode of transportation. A regular dental clinic and a doctor’s surgery now operate three times a month. Infant mortality has now dropped from 98% to 21%.
Barron Imports was granted a dredging and reclamation permit along the Mekong River to gather submerged teak and rosewood logs and roots, neither of which float due to their massive weight and density. This timber is transformed into the unusual form of furniture seen in Barron’s store.
Some of the rosewood logs dredged are 2,500 years old and have been preserved in the river sediment up to 3,000 years. The wood is so hard and heavy, that it regularly burns out power drills and saw-blades. None of the furniture or craft pieces are perfect, but they are all handmade with love and care. Therefore, they are unique and retain a distinctive ancient character.
Barry Leadbetter has been overseeing this project for over 30 years. He says his humanitarian work with the hill tribe people will never finish. The villagers are wonderful people, who will ‘love you to death’ with their hospitality, and their warm smiles will make your heart melt.