KITCHENER -- After 74 years in business, Ten Thousand Villages Canada has announced it will close its corporate operations, including its distribution centre in New Hamburg and its store in Waterloo.

"It is with the heaviest of hearts we announce the closure of the corporate operations of Ten Thousand Villages Canada, which includes the head office, distribution centre in New Hamburg," a statement on the company's website begins.

The non-profit social enterprise was started in 1946 by Edna Ruth Byler, a member of the Mennonite Central Committee, when she started selling wares from her trunk on behalf of Puerto Rican women.

The closures include all Ontario stores except for one each in Port Colborne and Cobourg.

"We've worked long and hard for about 12 years to bring Ten Thousand Villages back to profitability," explains Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of Mennonite Central Committee Canada.

"It's of course selling fairly-traded handy crafts from around the world here in a Canadian market. It did very, very well for many years and for the last number of years, that model was very, very difficult."

Operations in Waterloo Region will close on May 29 this year, alongside several other branches around the country and even the company's online store.

"In this challenging retail environment, we recognize your commitment, support and dedication to the success of Ten Thousand Villages Canada," the company says in a news release on its website.

"However, in spite of all our best efforts, we have been unable to achieve the level of sales that would continue to provide us with the ability to operate a sustainable business model."

Under its business model, a total of eight stores across the country are owned and operated by different boards. Some of those stores will remain open.

Two years ago, the Mennonite Central Committee decided to close nine stores across the country, including one in Stratford and another in St. Jacobs.

A few stores will close earlier than May, with a date set for March 31, while others have not yet determined a date to close.