With the rains playing hide and seek, people are acquiring umbrellas in different shapes, sizes and colours. A peek at Ebrahim Currim and Sons, Parry’s which has been in the business for over 150 years
Ebrahim Currim and Sons enjoys a steady stream of customers, as its manager, Suresh M. Shah, prepares for the monsoon season. The exclusive umbrella store situated right in the heart of noisy NSC Bose Road, boasts a 152-year-old legacy.
Started in 1860 in Mumbai by Ebrahim Currim and his family, the business is now handled by the fourth generation. “It began as a small shop for repairing umbrellas and then got into the business of making them as well,” says Suresh. “After all, making an umbrella simply involved assembling all the parts, cutting the cloth to shape and fixing it. They started a unit to manufacture the ‘Stag’ brand of umbrellas.”
They set up shop in Madras’ thriving business district, Parry’s, 70-80 years ago. “We’re not sure exactly when they started but this is the shop where it all began,” Suresh explains, “But we know that it’s been here all along. The reason the brand is called Stag is because the animal, the deer, runs swiftly, and we’ve grown at that pace.” True to his word, the 2,400 sq. ft. shop is stacked from ceiling to floor with umbrellas. “We’ve also brought out our brand of raincoats,” he says, pointing to a stack of black coats in a corner. “This is our prime season and it lasts till the end of November but, these days, we have customers throughout the year. Now, we get about 500 to 600 customers a day.”
Umbrellas vary from black to every possible colour, size and pattern. “People don’t just buy them for protection from the rain but also from the sun, and women like fashionable umbrellas,” says Suresh, “In the old days, umbrellas were a sign of luxury and grandeur. Only kings and rich men owned them. But now, they’ve become a necessity for everyone.”
This year, the shop has introduced plastic patterned umbrellas, a walking stick-cum-umbrella, fibre umbrellas (which can bend but don’t break) and more. “For children, we’ve launched the Chota Bheem series and for elders an umbrella that has an in-built walking stick. They can unfurl the umbrella in the rain or use it as a walking stick whenever needed. We also have umbrellas that show patterns only when they’re wet and others with a silver coating to absorb the heat,” he says.
Their trademark design, however, is what is popularly called ‘Thatha kodai’ in Chennai. “Do you remember those old umbrellas with a wooden handle curved like a walking stick at the end? That’s a design we made popular. In Chennai, we still sell a lot of those umbrellas even though they’re not as popular in the North.”
Suresh says that umbrellas have now become a gifting option. “From birthdays to corporate events, our umbrellas are given away as souvenirs.”