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Sona Chaandi: The Mother Of All Sari Shops On Pioneer Boulevard

Adriana Janovich |
February 8, 2012 | 12:25 a.m. PST


Reporter's Notebook - January 19, 2012

ARTESIA, Calif. — The color is what stands out. The color and the sparkles. Walking into Sona Chaandi is a rush of turquoise and red, lime green, hot pink, purple, yellow and orange.

All of it seems to glitter.

The sequined dresses on the racks. The beaded shoes on the shelves. The gilt representation of a four-armed, three-headed Ganesha, sitting atop a table with offerings of incense and a fresh lime at its feet.

The statue is one of many small Hindu shrines located throughout the boutique and adjacent salon, one of the largest and oldest Indian-owned businesses in a pocket of city blocks on Pioneer Boulevard known as Little India.

It’s a place where the casual shopper can pick up kurti, or tunics, on sale for two for $25, and someone in need of something fancier for a Bollywood-themed party or traditional Hindu wedding can spend anywhere from “$500 to $5,000,” according to manager Nita Vibhaker, 56.

“We do specialize in daily wear to wedding,” she said, adding,  “Everything is from India.”

Sona Chaandi — the name means gold and silver in Hindi — anchors the corner of Pioneer Boulevard and 183rd Street. In its early days, the boutique — which opened 32 years ago — attracted customers mostly from the local Indian community.

With the Internet and success of movies like 2009’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” shoppers are now coming from further away. They’re also coming from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds  — as well as Hollywood.

Disney’s 2011 “Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides” used fabric from the store, according to Vibhaker, who also noted the rock diva Gwen Stefani has shopped here as has Tori Spelling. In fact, Spelling and her husband Dean McDermott filmed episode eight of their Oxygen show “Tori & Dean: sTORIbook Weddings” here last year.

“Slumdog Millionaire” star Freida Pinto visited shortly after the film opened in the United States.
In recent years, customers also include those shopping for quinceañeras, coming-of-age celebrations for 15-year-old girls from Latin America.

At the cash register sits another gilt Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god worshipped as a remover of obstacles. Taped to the register is an image of Shiva, who seems to be looking over the gold-colored bangle bracelets in the glass case below.

Here’s a look inside the shop, which Los Angeles Times fashion critic Booth Moore in 2009 called “the mother of all sari shops on Pioneer Boulevard.”



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