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Barri Leiner Grant | Photo: Katrina Wittkamp | January 10, 2013
An age-old Indian art translates into a bustling American-bred business.
Long before her year-old family pillow business, Pyar & Co. (pyarandco.com), was gaining serious yardage, Paula Queen was busy climbing the corporate ladder at a large commercial construction company. But as she began a family plan post-nuptials in early 2011, she began to consider a career plan with less out-of-suitcase living and ’round-the-clock working and a bit more flexibility. She was leaving for the office one morning (trying desperately not to wake her sleeping 22-month-old son Ojas in the process) when inspiration struck.
Her husband’s family roots are in Kanpur, the northern region of India, where the two celebrated one of their many wedding receptions more than three years ago. Fascinated by the colors and craftsmanship of the traditional strip of cloth worn by Indian women, Queen wanted to bring this art form to the American market. “I love wearing a sari, and was so impressed and amazed at the artistry that I wanted to incorporate the culture and fabric into our own home,” she says.
Unsure if her flight of fancy would flourish, she decided to vet the Pyar & Co. business plan (Pyar means “love” in Hindi) with her straight-shooting in-laws. After getting the green light, Queen hit the books. “I did research on mills in India that met my qualifications for fair trade and that were financially sound,” she explains. “I found a family-owned firm in Calcutta—one of the top three silk producers in the country—where everything is done by hand.”
The business expanded from a few reworked saris to Pyar & Co. in just a few months. Silks, velvets and jacquards are hand-dyed in a selection of more than 1,400 colors and customized with hand-beading, studs and even monograms. The pillow line has expanded to include table runners, bedding sets and poufs—as well as raw fabric available by the yard in an array of impeccable prints and a debut line of wool and cashmere throws with artisan details come this winter. Her wares are all gorgeously displayed on her fully functional e-commerce site and at select high-end boutiques around town (try Buckingham Interiors, Classic Remix, Comfort Me and Shop 1021). In other news, Queen was recently commissioned to design the accessories for an under-wraps high-end spa project later this year—after which, perhaps she can put her feet up for a spell!
Hair blowouts, chai lattes, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Nebraska football, a new colored pencil set with a large eraser, the color orange, PowerSculpt Fitness
Parking meter rates, no shows after RSVPing “yes,” local store closings, extra air in potato chip bags