Retirement did not agree with Devi Nadarajah.
Barely a year after shuttering Srider’s India Imports, her longtime shop on Pacific Highway, Nadarajah is back with another portal to the East, featuring the familiar mix of spices, foods, clothes, and gifts that fans of the Tigard store loved for decades.
The shelves of her new space are stacked with rice, curry pastes, and dahl. Saris and groom’s suits hang in the back room with silks and everyday Indian styles.
She’s stocked fresh henna and mehndi books, replenished the figurines of Hindu deities, sandalwood beads, toothpastes, cooking oil, cookware, and carvings, and waits for her customers to return.
“They don’t know I’m here,” Nadarajah lamented, saying she missed busy days in the shop during her short hiatus. She longed for the bustle and company that came with being a fixture in the community.
Nadarajah sold imports from India and Sri Lanka for nearly 35 years in her former Tigard location before liquidating and leaving it behind at her children’s urging in 2021.
Her shop was among the first of its kind in Oregon – 3,500 square feet stuffed with pieces of her home that no one else carried when she opened for business.
She quickly found she wasn’t the only one longing for the familiarity of old country comforts. Indian customers began traveling from around the metro area for spices and clothes, music and Bollywood movies they couldn’t find anywhere else. Along the way, Americans drawn by the exotic discovered her too. So many that the customer base grew into an even cross-section of cultures.
Though the new Srider’s is smaller, about half the footprint of her original, and it’s moved down the road, right outside of Tigard, she’s happy to be back. Even with a sleepy start.
Nadarajah liquidated when she shuttered the original location for her short-lived retirement, donating merchandise she couldn’t sell to resale shops and keeping a few things for her family.
“I never thought I’d open a store again,” she said. “Some of the silk saris I kept because they were very expensive. I have five granddaughters, and they like to wear them, so I kept those.”
Those saris now hang with traditional hand-embroidered, beaded silk groom’s suits in the back half of the store, a clothes section packed with Indian fashions.
Her life has again settled into a happy rhythm of waking early, saying morning prayers, and cooking the day’s meals before opening at 11 am.
“The last year, oh boy, I was suffering (without the store),” she said.
Srider’s was the center of Nadarajah’s life for more than three decades after she immigrated to Oregon in the 1980s, but her business roots stretch back even further to Sri Lanka.
Nadarajah began importing clothes from Singapore to Sri Lanka as a young woman. She built a thriving business out of her home before the civil war destroyed it and sent her fleeing in the footsteps of her four children to the United States.
Now in her mid-80s, she is beginning fresh with the same formula and hoping to recapture some of the longtime customers who called her “mom” and sometimes stopped in just to talk through problems.
“They loved me like their own mother, some of them,” she said of Srider’s old regulars.
“I was so happy to see them. That, you can’t buy for money. I had that for 35 years while I was in the store. I just enjoyed my life.”
She’s no stranger to starting over, but the new space in the plaza anchored by Grocery Outlet at the intersection of Hall Boulevard and Scholls Ferry Road comes with modern challenges.
Google and Yelp have yet to catch up, creating an obstacle she didn’t have to contend with the first time around. The search engines only pull the store’s old Tigard address, still tagging Sriders as “permanently closed.”
It took more than a month to get a sign hung after opening, and the freezer meant to hold naan and sweets and ready-to-eat frozen meals still sits dark and warm, waiting for an outlet fix to accommodate it.
Still, old faces are very slowly beginning to find her.
And she is overjoyed to see them.
Srider’s India Imports is located in the Grocery Outlet Shopping Center, 8604 SW Hall Blvd.