South Asian neighborhood mourns demise of Vancouver Punjabi Market ‘pioneer’

Balu Thakor’s bridal jewellery retailer, chock filled with dazzling diamond rings, earrings and bangles, has been standard amongst Vancouver’s South Asian inhabitants for many years.

The truth is, Thakor was one of many first Indian immigrants within the space to open up a store and though he handed away earlier this month, his household hopes his legacy will reside on for future generations. 

Thakor opened the retailer in 1975 and laid down the inspiration for what’s now often known as the Punjabi Market, a three-block industrial district positioned on Important Road between forty eighth Avenue East and 51st Avenue East.

“He was a pioneer,” mentioned Balu Thakor’s granddaughter Gayatri Thakor. “He actually set the instance for lots of the companies that got here in a while.”

Thakor ran SK Designs and Jewellers, beforehand often known as Shakti Items and Jeweller, for nearly 35 years till 2008 when he began coping with well being points and handed the store over to his son Jay Thakor.

Balu Thakor, 84, handed away on Jan. 6. He leaves behind his son and 5 grandchildren, who he appreciated to jokingly name his “mates.” He is remembered as a hardworking, loving and beneficiant individual.

“He had a coronary heart of gold … very caring,” mentioned Jay Thakor, who will proceed to run the shop.

Jay Thakor will continue to run his father's jewelry store SK Jewellers.
Jay Thakor will proceed to run his father’s retailer SK Jewellers. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Balu Thakor grew up in Gujarat, India and immigrated to Coventry, England as a young person in 1955. He labored in coal mines and served within the British Royal Air Pressure. He then moved to Vancouver within the early ’70s and opened his jewellery retailer amid the second wave of South Asian immigrants to B.C.

His enterprise was a central hub for Punjabi folks searching for weddings and even frequently drew clients from different provinces and the USA.

(Punjabi Market) grew to become a spot for us to really feel like we belongSatwinder Bains, South Asian Research Institute

“It was very nice for the South Asian neighborhood to have a retailer that they’ll belief and folks they’ll belief,” Gayatri Thakor mentioned.

Balu Thakor's family members stand in front of his store, which was under a different name in the '70s.
Balu Thakor’s members of the family stand in entrance of his retailer, which was beneath a distinct identify within the ’70s. (Submitted by Gayatri Thakor)

A spot ‘the place we belong’

Thakor’s retailer was one of many few companies on Important Road within the ’70s.

Satwinder Bains, director of the South Asian Research Institute on the College of the Fraser Valley, mentioned the neighborhood wanted a spot to collect and get merchandise from again house. The Punjabi Market additionally created pathways for South Asians in Vancouver to succeed.

“We’re who we’re due to the collections in Important Road,” she mentioned.

“This was a protected enclave the place folks went not only for enterprise however they really purchased properties within the close-by areas and it grew to become a spot for us to really feel like we belong.”

The Punjabi Market is taken into account North America’s oldest little India. It was an epicentre of the South Asian neighborhood within the ’70s however went into decline within the early 2000s. The Punjabi Market Collective (PMC) has been working to revitalize the neighbourhood since round 2018. 

Punjabi Market is considered to be the oldest Little India in North America.
Punjabi Market is taken into account North America’s oldest little India. (Kiran Singh/CBC)

Daljit Sidhu, a PMC trustee who knew Thakor and his store effectively, mentioned Thakor efficiently opened the enterprise at a time when it was tough for South Asians to try this. 

“I do not need to draw back from the notion that the discrimination was additionally on the peak.” 

Companies like Thakor’s signalled to people who the South Asian neighborhood was making Canada house, Sidhu mentioned.

“It despatched a robust message to Canadians and our younger technology that we’re half and parcel of this nice nation and this province and town,” he mentioned. 

Passing the baton 

Many individuals who began companies throughout Punjabi Market’s inception have sadly handed away, Sidhu mentioned.

“That may be a nice loss,” he mentioned, urging youthful generations to open their very own companies within the neighbourhood.

“We must always really feel pleased with our pioneers and … contribute again to the neighborhood.”

Jay and Gayatri Thakor mentioned they’re hopeful future generations will preserve the market alive as a result of Balu Thakor impressed many younger folks to protect tradition and traditions. 

“His legacy lives past that and it continues ahead,” Gayatri Thakor mentioned.