One Store. Four Generations. At Essajees, History Comes Alive Every Day!Creators And Collectors
It’s like stepping through the looking glass into wonderland. In the world of Essajees, you never know what will delight you. The store is a treasure trove filled with the rarest of collectibles, the finest of furniture and the most exquisite pieces of art, waiting to be discovered by the discerning eye.
(The Essajees Store in Mumbai)
A Tale of Four Generations
“Our family has been involved with arts, antiques and fine things for a very long time,” says Sarah Sham who’s at the helm of the business today, along with her father Mohamedi Sham. “My great grandfather, Abdul Kadir Essajee Sham, started out by trading in expensive art tapestries from Iran, more than 100 years ago.”
(Mr. Abdul Kadir Essajee Sham, whose legacy continues till date)
It was in 1890 that he started his store in Mumbai called ‘A K Essajee’. Then the mantle passed to his son Saifuddin Sham, and ever since the 1920’s, ‘Essajee & Sons’ has been a ‘purveyor of fine things’, widely famed amongst connoisseurs. The legacy of the brand is steeped in history, and continues to flourish today, under the fourth generation of the family.
From Maharajas to Venture Capitalists
In its early days under A K Essajee, the store provided an avenue for Maharajas to privately browse the finest and rarest goods collected from all over the world. Royal families from India, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have been patrons of Essajees. “During Grandpa’s time, our clients expanded beyond royalty to include people with old money; business families who grew up with antiques,” says Sarah, a graduate of Art History from Duke and Oxford.
(Father-Daughter Duo - Mr. Mohamedi and Ms. Sarah Sham)
“Today, our customers also include young couples in the service sector, such as venture capitalists, consultants, and bankers, who are first-generation buyers and don’t always have a frame of reference”, she continues. And this is why she feels the online space is important. “Many younger people are comfortable buying online if the source is reliable, but even with those that may not make a purchase on the internet, a lot of discovery and exploration is now taking place on the web. It’s a world that can no longer be ignored even by traditional family businesses like ours.”
(Left to Right - Wooden Standing Ganesha, Ormulu European Candle Stand, and Burmese Dancers are some of the beautiful pieces from Essajees, available to shop on Artisera)
Labours of Love
Over the years, Essajees has grown beyond just retailing old antique collectibles, largely due to the efforts of Sarah’s father. Today, they handcraft custom-made objets d’art, and also work on customized projects for interior designers and architects.
A project that Sarah holds dear, is the Starbucks outlet at Horniman Circle in Mumbai, for which the procurement and customization of all items was done by Essajees. Restoring the iconic Taj Mahal hotel after the 2008 Mumbai attacks was another labour of love for Essajees, where they completely redid the Tata Suite for President Barack Obama’s visit.
(The Luxurious Tata Suite at Taj Mahal hotel, restored by Essajees for President Obama's Visit)
Keeping Traditions Alive
With a lasting passion to offer clients a piece of times gone by, it’s no surprise that the Sham family is deeply committed to restoring dying crafts. “Dying arts and handcrafting techniques require reviving,” says Sarah. “We work closely with both our artisans and interior designers to constantly create new samples and combinations of different age-old forms and techniques.”
(A Beautiful Panoramic Shot of the Treasure Filled Essajees Store)
An Emotional Connect
Sarah’s deep emotional connect to every piece at Essajees is evident in the way she speaks about their collection. She laughs and says, “Sometimes, we get so attached to a piece that we don’t want to sell it. For instance, we have these two stone elephants that flank the store entrance, which dad and I love, and don’t want to let go. So we’ve created a game – if a client is interested in buying them, they have to be able to pick them up (they weigh over 400 kilos each)! Much to my surprise, there was a German body builder who managed to lift one up, but not all the way – so fortunately for us, we haven’t had to part with them yet. ”
(Sarah Sham as a child, sitting on one of the stone elephants!)
In spite of this little separation anxiety, Sarah still gets excited when she sees customers fall in love with a piece and invest their energies in acquiring them. “It’s wonderful when you can be associated with someone’s memories,” says Sarah. Many customers come back to the store, recounting their stories and the deep love associated with objects purchased with the help of her grandfather and father. And it’s this connect, that makes her so passionate about continuing the legacy of Essajees, with their promise of genuine goods, honesty and delighted customers.
Explore a beautiful selection of curios, accent pieces and collectibles from Essajees on Artisera.