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A touch of the Far East

A miniature Southeast Asia folded neatly into shelves, packed tightly into corners and displayed aesthetically on the walls – that’s what the inside of Spirithouse on Commercial Street in Nevada City looks like.

From marble carvings, to silver ornaments, to silken textiles, to handmade paper – all items in the store are imported personally by Janah Campbell, the owner, from her trips to Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

She travels there twice a year.



“It started very small, almost as a hobby,” Campbell said. “I brought things back (from abroad) and sold them to friends. It just grew from there.

“It took me a lot of time to get started. I just spent a lot of time looking (for the right things). Now, I have definite people I go and see. It’s good for me because they count on me to come, and I count on them to supply me.”




No hurry for business

Over eight years of doing business, Campbell has developed emotional ties with those whose goods she imports.

“There’s a family outside of Chiangmai in Thailand who make paper products for me,” Campbell said. “Everybody in the village knows when I’m coming. If I don’t meet everyone, they feel bad. People come with their new babies and spouses to show me. And sometimes, we can’t even speak with each other (due to language differences). So we just look at each other, smile and drink tea.”

Deferring to the etiquette of different cultures has played a key role in Campbell’s business success overseas.

“A big thing I’ve learned is not to be in a hurry – that maybe we’ll do business, but first we need to have some tea, eat some food, and talk for a while,” Campbell said. “I’ve learned to be patient and go with the flow.”

Mingling with people from diverse backgrounds has changed Campbell, she said.

“I’m not into any particular religion, but being around so many Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims has completely changed my view on world religion and spirituality,” Campbell said. “Asian ways are very different from western ways. I think I’ve become more tolerant, more accepting of differences and more curious.

“It’s always interesting to me, no matter how many times I go to Southeast Asia, something always surprises me and keeps me interested.”

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To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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