It’s funny how one MBIP blog post can lead to another one. A while back I was doing one of my twice monthly guest appearances on Peoria’s best morning news and local information show, Good Day Central Illinois with Lindsey Mills, Clay Gordon and Lauren Rainson. We were talking about the post I did on Steve Spain’s basement filled with Walt Disney treasures. Off of the air, Lindsey and Clay told me about another basement here in Peoria that they knew of that was a direct passage-way to India! They discovered this underground island of India while being part of a yearly event called, “Passage to India,” which is an evening celebrating India to benefit Easter Seals. It was through this event that they met Vijeta Arora, who could rightfully claim the title of, “India’s Fashion, Cultural and Artistic Ambassador to Peoria.”
Vijetta and her husband, Animesh, moved to Peoria from India almost twenty years ago. Animesh is a partner with Deloitte & Touché and that brought them to Central Illinois from their home in India. Vijetta had a working background in broadcasting. She wrote and produced on-air TV segments that focused on art and culture in India. When she moved to Peoria, she took that sensibility and transferred it into a unique, one-of-a-kind shopping and cultural experience that embraces the styles and sensibilities of India and brings it right here to Central Illinois. And it’s all done out of her basement right here in Peoria, Illinois. Let’s go meet Vijeta and take a trip down a flight of stairs that starts out in Peoria and ends up in India!
This is Vijeta, at the top of the stairs that lead to her India inspired studio downstairs. Vijeta told me that she started the Silk Route business 15 years ago. Here’s what she said about starting the business here in Peoria: “Given my work in the media on the art and culture in India, I had knowledge and passion for the various handicrafts, fabrics and patterns unique to India. I wanted to bring a piece of that culture to Peoria and use this as an opportunity to create awareness in our community about the Indian crafts and the Indian way of living. It was easy as this was something I loved to do and gave me an opportunity to personally go and shop in India!”
Vijeta had a henna party before I arrived and this is the design she got on her hand. That’s so beautiful, I need to do a henna post sometime...see how one post leads to another? Okay, let’s get ready to take the trip down...
The Stairway To India! The studio down here is divided into two rooms and we’ll take a look at the front room first.
The Front Room—Art, Scarves, Pashminas and Shawls
The front area of the studio has a nice relaxation area where children of clients can play and Vejita can start the experience by discussing the client’s needs and wants. This isn’t retail shopping and Vejita takes time to get to know every client on a personal level. Her client base has grown very large and diverse from strictly word of mouth. She’s spent zero money on advertising and word has spread on Peoria’s only India-based personal shopping experience. As you can see there’s art on display out here, some of it is for sale and some of it is from Vijeta’s personal collection. There’s also some jewelry out here and as people start looking around, conversation flows and Vijetta begins explaining about Indian culture to inquisitive clients.
Scarves are a big seller here and all of them are one-of-a-kind imports directly from India that you can only get here. Vijeta encouraged me to feel the material and said that texture is the key to the scarves, pashminas and shawls on display down here. She works with some retail outlets in the area including: Pink Sugar, Broms, Azura and Crazy Daisy.
Vijeta tod me that most things in her collection are one-of-a-kind and she tries not to stock repeat items. Everything is hand-made and she tries to buy for returning clients based on colors and fabrics that will suit their persona. This is really personal shopping and you’ll never get this kind of attention and quality at a retail level!
The Back Room—Art, Jewelry, Tunics and Dresses
Behind this door is the back of the Silk Road studio. Let’s step in and take a look around!
As you can see, there’s a large selection of tunics and dresses back here and they’re for every occasion, from casual dress to fancy dinner and cocktail party fashion. Vijeta said that part of her client base is people who want custom tailored clothes from India or have a wedding/event in the family and need the clothes brought in a short time from India. Using her network of fashion artists and designers from India she can pull off any request quickly and her in-house studio keeps prices lower than most retail shops.
The majority of the jewelry selections are on display back here. As you can see, it’s all hand-made and one of a kind. When you buy a piece of jewelry at Silk Route, you’re in no danger of someone wearing the same piece at a party or function!
Vijeta spends a lot of time back here and keeps family photos on display back here. The bottom photo is her mom, Krishna Bhalla with her children, Rishab and Aryan. Vijeta said her family is very supportive of her business and they all pitch in and help with Silk Route. Her youngest son is her social media manager and her husband, Animesh is proud of her work and shares information with friends and business colleagues.
This is the motto that Vijeta says she bases here business on. Very true words and a wonderful business motto to follow!
Vijeta gave me these photos of just a few of her many satisfied clients that have passed through Silk Route and found unique clothes and jewelry during their personal shopping experience. If you’d like to talk to Vijeta about setting up an appointment, you can call her at 309-361-8204. She only books one appointment at a time so you’re never rushed and it’s a real cultural and personal experience.
The top photo is a picture of the two people who inspired this post, Lindsey Mills and Clay Gordon at last year’s Passage to India event! Vijeta has been involved with the Passage to India celebration since its inception 11 years ago. The event happens tomorrow night (Friday, May 5th) and you can read all about it right here. Thanks again to Lindsey and Clay for tipping me off about Silk Route and the ultra-cool Stairway To India! And much thanks to Vijeta for a wonderful afternoon in her Silk Route studio, it was informative and a ton of fun! Thanks for a wonderful India-inspired afternoon! We’ll see you all tomorrow!