Walking into Dress Shoppe II is like walking into an emporium of color and cloth. The shelves are overflowing with hand-embroidered fabrics and saris, the racks are tightly packed with kurtas and salwar suits, and even the ceilings are covered in intricate tapestries. Below the main floor of the shop, there are two storage floors packed with piles of additional product. All of it needs to go by Jan. 31.
After nearly 50 years of business, the treasured East Village store is shutting down. Following nearly two years of pandemic-related struggles, combined with a landlord dispute, the loss of her husband and her own health problems, Saroj Goyal, the owner, decided that closing the store was the best choice.
“Every moment is special here,” said Goyal, 72, as she sat sipping hot tea on a December afternoon. Every so often, she paused the conversation to help a customer who had wandered in, sharing suggestions and telling them to check out the shop’s Instagram.
Goyal and her husband, Purushottam Goyal, emigrated from Delhi, India, in the 1970s. It was his idea to open the business in 1977; the shop soon became a slice of South Asia in Manhattan.
For decades, the couple would travel to India to find one-of-a-kind objects to sell. “My husband walked from village to village to collect all these things. He had a very unique taste,” Saroj Goyal said, picking up a hand-beaded textile.
In September 2019, Purushottam Goyal died, a loss that still pains Saroj Goyal every day. The store now holds several mementos of his life. “My husband made me laugh so much in this room. All day every day, we were together for 50 years in this shop,” Goyal said, tearing up.
There’s a portrait of Purushottam Goyal hung high on the back wall and a book filled with handwritten tributes to him from customers on the checkout counter. “The world is a little less good with his passing,” one person wrote. Another: “Your presence is missed physically, but your spirit is all around this place.”
On top of grieving his loss, Saroj Goyal had to figure how to keep the store running; administrative matters had been her husband’s domain.--NYT