Zee Bee Market, Supporting the Community and the Environment

Image of a man surrounded by baskets with the Zee Bee logo

Print Media Coverage St. Louis Business Journal

Image of Zee Bee

As you enter Zee Bee Market you can expect a comfortable environment with an array of unique gifts such as fairly traded coffee, chocolate, teas, clothing items and children’s toys. The retail store was founded by Julio Zegarra-Ballon and has locations in the vibrant South Grand Business District and in historic Maplewood.

Zee Bee Market specializes in handmade, fair trade and sustainable gifts from around the world and is committed to doing their part to create a better world by choosing products that are made from renewable sources.

“We work with suppliers that are dedicated to promoting fair trade and to giving international market access to artisans and their families,” said Zegarra-Ballon. “We strive to provide unique crafts that meet certified fair trade standards.”

Zee Bee Market has sustained through COVID-19 and has also been able to secure a Small Business Resource Loan (SBRL) through the STL Partnership.  “I appreciate the STL Partnership for helping us during this time,” said Julio. “They provide great resources for small businesses.”

Julio also takes pride in his business becoming a Mosaic Ambassador Company through the St. Louis Mosaic Project. “I love working with the St. Louis Mosaic Project,” said Julio. “It has allowed me to network and connect with other immigrant owned companies.”

The Beginning

Julio Zegarra-Ballon standing in front of his Maplewood location

Julio Zegarra-Ballon standing in front of his Maplewood location (pic courtesy of Zee Bee Market)

Zegarra-Ballon has several years experience in the retail industry. He started as an employee at Famous-Barr (now Macys). After the local stores closed, Julio decided he wanted to launch his own retail business.

“I was not happy working in corporate America,” said Julio. “By working in retail for so many years, I felt I had the knowledge to start and run my own retail business.”

By volunteering for Partners of Just Trade, his vision became clear that he wanted to open up a shop that specifically focused on handmade, fair trade and sustainable items.

“I learned all about fair trade and how handcrafted products are brought to the U.S. and the supply chain model that places people and the planet first,” said Zegarra-Ballon.

In 2014 the first location for Zee Bee Market was opened on South Grand. “It made sense to open my first location in the South Grand Business District because I felt that it was culturally diverse,” said Julio.

The Future

Images of accessories

Unique handmade accessories at the Zee Bee Market Maplewood location

Because of the success of the first location, Julio was able to open the second location in Maplewood in 2018. “I am grateful for all the supporters of my business and our ability to grow,” said Julio.

Future plans are also underway for Zee Bee Market to continue to stay successful.

“We want to increase our online presence for the future,” said Julio. “There must always be a plan B and we want to make sure our business stays successful. We want to also continue to give back to our community by supporting local causes, organizations and fundraisers.”

For more information about Zee Bee Market visit their website here.

Check out the video below for a tour of Zee Bee Market’s Maplewood location.