ArtGehna Fabrics: Turning a dream into reality in Springfield
By Janine Cooper
Walking around her store, draped in a blue sari, Veena Mahendru, 57, arranges jewelry: bracelets in various colors, surrounded by shiny, gold earrings, making sure everything remains in perfect shape for her customers.
“I’ve been doing this all my life,” says Veena.
Born and raised in Bombay, India, Veena became a textile designer, but it wasn’t until she and her family moved to the United States where her dreams of owning a store would become a reality.
Her husband, Avinash Mahendru (pronounced aw-vin-osh) became a heart patient in Bombay, after experiencing a massive heart attack. It was at that moment when the family decided to move to the United States. The Mahendru (pronounced Muh-hen-droo) family already had relatives living all over the U.S. and originally planned to move to New York, but decided to settle in Springfield, Va.
“Actually we had a lot of family out here so it was home away from home, and it’s a mixed place. You know, you have a diverse area and it’s not as fast-paced as New York. I think this is just the perfect mix, metropolitan as well, and it’s not as crazy as New York,” says Akshata Mahendru (pronounced ok-shaw-ta), Avinash and Veena’s 24-year-old daughter.
Springfield, Va. is a quiet area, filled with different cultures, much different from the busy streets of Bombay, India.
“Bombay is like New York. New Delhi is like Washington, D.C.,” says Avinash Mahendru, 57, Veena’s husband of many years.
“I think the beauty of the Springfield area is it’s beautiful and it’s a diverse area. There’s a mix, a good cultural blend. We have a lot of Afghans, Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, Vietnamese,” Akshata says.
After she and her brother attended college, both children decided to go in together to buy their mother a store. Knowing her love of fashion and fabrics, they ended up purchasing a store in the middle of a tiny strip mall in Springfield. Now named ArtGehna Fabrics, “Gehna,” the Indian word meaning jewelry, Veena sells clothes and jewelry that are custom-made from India.
The Mahendrus come from a family where fashion is the specialty. Avinash’s brother is a famous fashion designer, designing for India’s premier film stars and Bollywood movies. He occasionally designs dresses for ArtGehna customers if they like any of his designs.
“The thing in India, each estate has their own specialty as far as fashion is concerned because India itself is very diverse and depending on their design choice, we have designers all over India who can help us out in that aspect,” Akshata says.
Even though they enjoy living in Springfield, the Mahendru family still misses the city of Bombay.
“I do miss India. Whenever we get a chance to visit, we run,” says Akshata.
“It’s a happening place,” Veena says with a smile.
Embracing both Indian and American cultures, Veena and Akshata discuss the latest fashion trends from Indian designers using a mix of both Hindi and English.
Sitting behind the counter of her store, surrounded by fabrics and the sound of Indian music playing throughout, Veena appreciates all of the support that her children and husband give her.
“Yes, I love doing this,” Veena says. “Not a lot of people get to do what they want.”