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A Slice of Tibet in Raleigh: Dechen Collections

With all of the new restaurants and bars opening up around Fayetteville, Hargett, and Wilmington Streets, it’s easy to overlook some of the businesses that have been downtown long before the area’s resurgence. One such example is Dechen Collections, a family-run operation on Blake Street in City Market specializing in hand-made goods crafted by Tibetan refugees located in Nepal, India, and Thailand.

The store is run by Dechen Paldon and her husband Karma Tashi, both Tibetan nationals. Operating a business selling hand-made items wasn’t something she decided to do on after moving to the United States, however. Her parents ran a similar store outside the refugee camps in Nepal, and she ran one of her own for 18 years before emigrating to the United States over 10 years ago. They have operated out of City Market for about 8 years.

The first place Dechen lived after emigrating was Illinois. A mild climate and growing population lured her to Raleigh, a place with a tiny Tibetan exile population. She first tested the waters of the area by selling items at the NC State Fairgrounds. Although interest in her items for sale was high, she wanted a more permanent location and a more comfortable atmosphere (indoors). She opened up shop on the Blount Street side of City Market in a space with less than 1,000 square feet.

After two years, the store relocated to the current location on Blake Street to accomodate a growing inventory and a burgeoning customer base. At that time the Greenshields Brewpub was in operation which brought in a good amount of foot traffic, and the location wasn’t far from the old Convention Center. It was during the first few years in operation that a very loyal customer base began to grow.

Dechen Collections has customers that live across the country that continue to buy goods, after only a single visit to the area for business or to see relatives during the holidays. Dechen made a point to state that the construction of the new Convention Center has greatly improved business and has created more long-term customers.

One of the signature items here is the assortment of traditional Tibetan carpets. Dechen explained to me that this is the fabric of Tibetan culture. Even when working a full-time job, many or most spend time their time at home making them. She was one of those who spent her mornings drying colors and working the looms in the evening after work. It’s a terribly painstaking process. She said that if one person was working on one for 10 hours a day, it would be well over a month before it would be complete.

If you haven’t yet visited this charming little store, I highly recommend it. From clothing, to books, carpets, artwork, antiques, and the melodic and hypnotizing singing bowls pictured above, you will be fascinated by the selection of out of the ordinary items for sale. I had originally recorded the singing bowls with the intent of embedding it within this post, but the depth and range of the sound exceeded the recording capabilities of the device. Instead, you should pay Dechen and Karma a visit to hear it for yourself.

You can stop by on Sundays and Mondays from 10:30 until 4:00, and Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 until 6:00. They are also open late every First Friday.

Dechen Collections
307 Blake Street

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