Indian culture is known for its vivid, vigorous spirit, so the visual display is a perfect introduction to the downtown Hummelstown shop.
“My vision and mission are to provide economical Indian clothing and accessories to promote diversity,” said owner Anju Singh, who greets customers with a warm and welcoming smile. Her motto is “apparel for anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
Singh was born and raised in India and earned her medical degree before coming to the United States. After enduring a difficult divorce and earning a PhD in molecular medicine, she was looking for a job that would be fulfilling and allow her to be her own boss while caring for her three children. She says her daughters, 4 and 6, were the inspiration for her store.
“They love the bling, bangles and jewelry,” Singh said. “I wanted to keep the culture and tradition alive in my own family.”
She got a business license, $4,000 from a friend who believed in her idea and began selling clothes and jewelry from her home in the fall of 2013. A year later, she opened her shop, presenting a unique concept for central Pennsylvania.
“I found this niche in the market,” Singh said. “There is no other brick and mortar store in the area selling Indian apparel.”
Singh carries items for women, men and children, with everything from casual clothing to wedding gowns. Brides can buy dresses she carries in the shop or order custom creations that will be made in India and take four to six weeks to arrive, depending on the season. She schedules appointments for wedding parties and individuals and also offers free sari-wearing lessons, taking pride in teaching second-generation girls and anyone else who wishes to learn how to wear the traditional Indian garment.
All of the items she sells come from India, and Singh works with multiple suppliers to provide a wide variety of options to her clients. She says she has one great supplier that she does rely on because they have a good relationship and his prices are reasonable.
“If he doesn’t have it, can’t get it, or won’t get it, though, I tell him I’m going shopping,” Singh said with a laugh.
One aspect of her business is very important—keeping her prices affordable. Singh has an exact formula for calculating her costs, allowing her to make a profit while ensuring the clothing and accessories are reasonably priced. She knows that she is competing with online stores, but cites an example of silk scarves in her display case of why customers should come into the shop. She says the same scarf she sells for $30 costs $41 online.
The reason for keeping her prices reasonable is simple. She believes that people are more willing to try new clothing items if they’re economical. She advocates a “try it before you buy it approach” because each piece is cut differently and because people like to be introduced by touching and feeling the clothing.
One of the items she is most proud of is what she calls the “1-2-3 sari.” Women can choose their fabric, and Singh then sends that material to her tailor in India to stitch into a ready-to-wear sari within a few weeks. The majority of her clients are American, and she takes great pride introducing new people to Indian apparel and accessories.
She also feels strongly about working with other local business owners to build mutually beneficial relationships.
“We generate energy by working together,” Singh said, adding that she is always looking for other small- and women-owned businesses with which to collaborate.
Singh was recently elected president of the Hummelstown Business and Professionals Association and has a vision to put the area on the map.
“Hummelstown is a small American town that has preserved its heritage but is in the 21st century,” Singh said, adding that she hopes to add to its diversity and culture.
Singh regularly attends community events to meet other local business owners and to promote Aanchal. She says she never fully understood customer loyalty before opening her store.
“I am touched to see that there are people who show up at events to support me and take the time out to support us,” she said.
Aanchal Apparel & Accessories is located at 417 W. Main St., Hummelstown. For more information, call 717-991-5105 or visit the Facebook page: Aanchal Apparel & Accessories. Singh also will be out with other local vendors between June and September at First Friday events at the Giant Food Store at 257 Hershey Rd., Hummelstown.