Commercial Street is one of the oldest and busiest shopping areas of Bangalore. Known for its eclectic shopping destinations and food joints, Commercial Street is best explored by foot. Aptly located in the heart of the city with ample parking space, this area is the most sought after by youngsters and families alike.
With early monsoon setting in, don’t let your shopping spree be dampened by the rains. Opt for plastic jumper boots – they are in vogue this season and keep your feet clean. You can also opt for simple yet pretty plastic chappals in various colors. An umbrella is a must and so is a bottle of water.
With bright late afternoon sky to accompany, I started exploring Commercial Street from Safina Plaza. Known famously for heavily discounted outlets, and kitschy articles, Safina Plaza has more to offer than just low-priced items.
In a corner on the first floor, Neema Arts and Handicrafts is one small shop for all kinds of accessories. The articles in the shop are usually imported from Nepal, Delhi and Jaipur. Bangles, bracelets and other wrist wear are found in a range of sizes and shapes at this outlet. In addition to an eye for fashion one has to also master the art of bargaining – almost upto half of the article’s quoted price.
In addition to housing well known watch showrooms, the plaza shopping area is filled with shops for clothes, accessories and so on, not to forget the food outlets.
For ethnic and colourful Kutch designs one must visit Shrujan, my next stop. It is a non-profit organisation which showcases distinctive styles of hand embroidery practised by different communities of Kutch. It is located on the ground floor of the plaza.
The income generated by Shrujan is used to provide personal and economic support to the craftspersons. The designs like chopad, gotauvn, chekan and so on are a visual treat. When I entered this store, I was floored by the ethnic sari blouses and cholis with rich and intricate embroidery in vibrant colours. Shopping at Shrujan may not be a cheap affair but few designs here are worth buying.
Ahead of Safina Plaza is a subway and just after the subway is a boutique called Sanctuary. This boutique can be easily missed. Look out for the Zync Café board, just after you take a left from the subway.
Sanctuary has an ensemble of designer clothes and accessories. You will also find tiny designer shops inside the boutique. The boutique also has casual wear, sports wear, ethnic wear and accessories to name a few. Aptly named, this boutique also has a coffee shop and makes shopping a pleasurable experience. If you want to add a sequin or two to your dress, or snip off the length of a long gown, the in-house designers of the boutique will be more than willing to do so.
Further down, Safina Plaza connects to Commercial Street through Dispensary Road from a small by-lane of Narayana Pillai Road. These by-lanes of Commercial Street are generally occupied by many street vendors, small shacked outlets and a flurry of shoppers.
Shopping in Commercial Street is incomplete without a peek at these tiny places. The variety of items here is overwhelming and hence, for a newcomer shopping can be quite chaotic.
At the entrance of Narayana Pillai Road is a well known designer boutique called Tamanna. Famous for its Non-Resident Indian (NRI) clientele, this store has now expanded on either side of the road. They specialise in bridal wear and heavily embroidered ethnic wear like lehangas, ghagras, cholis and so on.
The by-lanes of Commercial Street are as populous and famous as the main street itself. The last few years have seen many malls and branded showrooms mushrooming in and around Commercial Street. But this has not dulled the spirit or sales of the older traditional shops here. That is the reason why this place attracts a people from different walks of life.
Along the Narayana Pillai Road on the other side of main Commercial Street one can find many small shops selling dress materials, shawls, stoles, sequins, bangles and accessories. This road has a famous tailor’s complex which houses easily 25 tailoring shops many of which claim to stitch dresses in matter of hours.
People come from all over the city to get clothes stitched here. There are shops here which specialise in sari zari stitching, to elaborate blouses, to ethnic and western dresses, to simple alterations and many more.
True to Bangalore style, the shopkeepers here are friendly and not very aggressive. They are aware of the current trends and are ready to assist. But don’t be fooled by their good nature. Bargaining is a must here.
The never-ending clothes shops here do make Commercial Street colourful but various jewellery shops most certainly add to the glitter. One must visit this street during diwali. The glitter of the shops and the decoration all along the road is stunning.
At Jeweller’s Street
I next headed to Jeweller’s Street which has many shops lined up on either sides selling mainly silver ware and silver jewellery. Even though this lane is quite popular, I always find it surprisingly less crowded than the other by-lanes. Silver rings, anklets and bracelets are famous here. The silver rings are also sold with precious and semi precious stones.
In addition to traditional and branded jewellery, the main market area shops also sell artistic silver jewellery. This can be found in one of the many Kashmiri emporiums and handicrafts stores here. As you enter Commercial Street from Jeweller’s Street toward Narayana Pillai Road, few Kashimiri emporiums can be found on either side of the road. Look out for the soft Pashmina shawls or carefully created fancy wooden or marble chess boards.
Even though most shops here accept credit cards, the by-lanes still run on cash transactions. Sadly, this area does not boast of many Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). The nearest one is located behind Safina Plaza. Hence, remember to carry some extra cash along.
Walking further toward the beginning of Commercial Street, I stop at Asiatic Arts and Crafts. This niche is simply enchanting. One could just spend enough time admiring old clocks, lamps and shades which are appealing and artistic. The clocks here are reminiscent of the times in 60’s, the time from when this shop has been around.
It is fascinating to see how everything that is available in a branded showroom in this area is available on the streets as well. The blend of brand loyalty and brand aversion is striking.
My shopping hunger always get satisfied with the sheer number and variety of the shops this place has to offer, but for those who still get hungry after a long walk around, a refreshing drink of badam milk with chaats at Anand or a dosa at Woody’s (one of the oldest restaurants in this area) is recommended.
I walked just across the road from Woody’s, and along Arihant Plaza and stopped at Naturals for an ice cream. By this time the dark clouds began to gather around and the hustle on the busy shopping street reduced slightly with the drizzle and imminent thundering rain. The by lanes of Commercial Street are the best part of this place. Even for the regulars here, the by-lanes offer something new to discover everytime. ⊕