The End of An Era…at Mum’s Mecca…
In June of 1984, Manu & Jyoti Nagrani (Mum & Dad) opened the very first Desi designer boutique on Pioneer Blvd., Artesia (Little India), California called Sari Boutique.
Sari Boutique was opened 2 months after mum and dad migrated to America and boy was it opened with panache & grandeur. Dad built a fine boutique with the help of a decorator (Dusyant) from London and my brothers (Banu & Jack), all hands on. Jack just sent me a message saying, ‘amazing learning experience for Dusyant and I, creating and building the interior display canopies (21 of them) and the warehouse storage……life experience that cannot be taught :-)’. Mum picked & created the finest of silks and fashions and displayed them in unique ways which were so different at the time for a Desi textiles shop. The then Mayor of Artesia was invited to cut the ribbon and all the known Desi (mainly Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi) personalities and families graced the occasion.
Through the years, mum and dad fondly came to be known as ‘Aunty’ & ‘Uncle’ on the ‘Street’ by staff, clients and fellow business owners. ‘Aunty’ started to collect many titles by her clients and by the local media, some being ‘stylist to the stars’, ‘designer with elegant taste’ while she charmed everyone in their native tongue (Hindi, Gujarati, Kachhi, Punjabi, Swahili & obviously English).
My brothers and I are very fortunate recipients of the beautiful relationships created in these years as a result of this business. Sari Boutique sponsored many local Charity Galas, Bridal Expos and Beauty Pageants while coordinating and participating in fashion shows – a journey through which we have made some amazing friends. I worked in Sari Boutique in between college and working in the garment Industry and in between degrees. Later, I was part of the team which launched and ran ‘Cottage Art’. Moving to America as a teenager and being part of the stereotypical ‘mom & pop’ business definitely had it’s poignant & positive lessons for me for which I will ever be grateful.
Along with our Desi clientele, we started to see and serve Hollywood celebrities from behind as well as on screen, musicians and fashion designers using saris and Indian fabric on western fashion. Thank you for the education and the opportunity to put my fashion degree and Industry experience to good use!
At the turn of the Millennium, Sari Boutique changed name and business to Cottage Art – a handicraft shop carrying furniture and soft furnishings from Bali, India, China and Thailand. ‘Uncle’ travelled to exotic cities (Nepal, Bali, Chiang Mai) in Asia (some not so exotic) to source and mostly to design amazing home furnishings with a blend of vintage fabrics and contemporary design.
This new phase brought about a whole new zest to the business and our lives as we interacted with a very eclectic range of visitors many of whom have become our very dear friends. (Some of these beautiful people actually flew to Goa for my wedding!).
30 years on… ‘Aunty & Uncle’ Nagrani & Family would like to thank every single person who walked in those doors, who we had the opportunity to speak with and to serve, who have enriched our lives in Los Angeles through your knowledge & experience you shared, your friendship and your loyalty to us and our business. We would like to thank especially all our neighbours, fellow businesses owners on Pioneer Blvd. and the members of the City Council. I personally would like to thank all the designers, ‘karigars’ (embroiderers), and our exporters who took the time to teach me during my few years in the business. It’s been magical, it’s been enlightening, it’s been growth in the most amazing of ways including spiritual, it’s been humbling but most of all, it’s been an amazing ride.
‘Aunty’ & ‘Uncle’ now embark on a new journey to build new memories with their family and friends.
From our heart to yours… ‘Shukriya’ (Thank You) & ‘Namaste’ (The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you).