10 vintage Bombay brands we can't help but love

10 vintage Bombay brands we can't help but love

From Chimanlals to Chunilal Mulchand -- CNNGo pays homage to a set of old brands that for decades already, and potentially for decades more, have contributed so significantly to Mumbai life and culture

Testament to their quality and customer loyalty, is the fact that many of these renowned Mumbai brands, some of which go back a century or more, are still making a pretty penny. Now that the big international brands are losing their pre-liberalization novelty, we thought it time to celebrate 10 traditional local brands that Mumbaikers have loved and trusted for decades. Because they are who we are.

Camy wafersThe Camy wafers logo has never changed. 1. Camy Wafers snacks

South-Bombay's oldest chip factory, Camy Wafers, has been meeting the needs of the most compulsive nibblers for more than 20 years. If you can make it past the neighboring Colaba Sweet Mart and Celejor's cake shop, you can get savory tea-time snacks, perfect for when you are visiting aunties or naanis who like to sit and chat for hours. Their best-selling products are, obviously, the wafers but they also have other popular salted snacks such as Navratan crisps (in a variety of flavors), and lots of mixes including Jaipuri, Khathor and Dal Moth for all of Rs 35. Camy is also a bakery, so you can come here to pick up warm pav and sliced bread, and even pita bread. They have a range of diet snacks too, which include wholewheat versions of their most popular products, like meth purrs and roasted samosas. 

5-6, Oxford House, Near Colaba Market, Colaba Causeway, Colaba; tel. +91 (0) 22 2372 0521

Parsi Dairy kulfiA circle of Parsi Dairy kulfi is always served cut up in triangles.2. Parsi Dairy Farm kulfi

The subtle sweet lactic whiff that welcomes you when you step into the Parsi Dairy Farm's retro flagship shop in Princess Street is all it takes to spark a munchies trip down memory lane. Despite Ben and Jerry's and Amore Gelato sprouting up across the city, the appeal of Parsi Dairy Farm ice cream seems to be undying. The best kulfis in town can be bought here, which get served everywhere from five-star hotels to train stations, and come in all the classic flavors. Parsi Dairy Farm also serves a sublime rendition of Maharastran specialities like Shrikhand, which are supremely creamy and aromatic. The Mawa Barfi, Rajkoti Peda, Kesari Peda and lassis no doubt all benefit from the company's long experience with Mumbai's sweet tooth, which it has been pandering to since it arrived in the city in 1916. 

261-3, Princess Street, Near Marine Lines Station, Kalbadevi; tel. +91 (0) 22 22013633

Mucchad paan wallaThe throne from which Mucchad paan walla runs his paan empire.3. Mucchad Pan Walla

Judging by the frequent jets of red liquid squirted out at traffic-lights, and the red stains in public stairwells and lobbies, paan chewing is one of Mumbai's favorite pastimes. The digestive concoction wrapped in betel leaf is sold on street corners across the city. Arguably the most famous paan walla (paan maker) in Mumbai is Mucchad Paan Walla. The owner is as famous for his mustach (mucch) as his paans and has had a landmark stall on a corner of Breach Candy for the last 30 years. This third generation paan walla's products are in such high demand that he had to set up a website so that they can be ordered online. "We believe and treat our customers like God", says the website. Legends about this man's wealth abound. There are stories that private jets fly his paans around the world, while he still sits, albeit with the air of a king, on a couple square feet of space on a Mumbai sidewalk.

Opposite Dhun-Abad Restaurant, Junction of Warden Road & Napeansea Road. www.mucchadpanwale.com

Aarey milk centres don't have addresses, but they're everywhere.4. Aarey Milk Center's Energee drink

An old-school favorite, Energee is sold in the 1,800 Aarey milk booths that dot the city, making it an inextricable part of the visual landscape of Mumbai. The only marketing behind this much-loved drink is the quaint slogan: "Have Energee -- It's Healthee and Tastee", painted in cursive script onto the little wooden milk booths. The drink comes in several flavors including pineapple, elaichi, cardamom and strawberry and is made in the Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon East. Aarey claims to run one of the most advanced milk colonies in the world, which may explain the high quality of the product. Due to mismanagement the milk centers are losing millions of rupees a year, so a big question mark hangs over their future. Enjoyee now!

Keep an eye out for Aarey milk booths all across Mumbai, you are bound to find one near to work or home. Look for the tell-tale crowd around the booth, as the return-bottle policy means everyone drinks their Energee at the booth making them a mini-hangout on the street. Join the Save Aarey Milk Colony Facebook group.

Bombay Dyeing advertisementA vintage Bombay Dyeing advertisement featuring Amitabh Bachchan.5. Chunilal Mulchand & Co and Bombay Dyeing fabrics

Opposite the National Gallery of Modern Art lives Chunilal's. Opened in 1925 it is one of the city's most respected and well-loved home furnishing companies and offers made-to-order curtain material, upholstery services, bed linen and table spreads. It even sells madras cotton hammocks and large garden parasols, proudly displayed in its very traditional-looking shop window. Bombay Dyeing, owned by the powerful Wadia family, is more in tune with modern India than Chunilal's, but they are actually older. The Parsi clan, who are related to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, opened the company in 1879 and has now grown to become a multi-national brand which includes a domestic airline aswell. The Bomay Dyeing company began as a small operation, hand-dying all of its products in one of three colours: red, green or orange. Now they sell towels in every color under the sun and are still the go to for all the city's cotton-lovers. 

Chunilal Muchchand & Co: Indian Mercantile Mansion, opposite the Museum, near Regal Cinema, Madam Cama Road, Colaba; tel. +91 (0) 22 2202 0494, 6504 2129. Daily 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Bombay Dyeing showroom, A/O Building, Ground Floor, P B Marg, Worli; tel. +91 (0) 22 6619 3240

A crystal studded traditional kohlapuri chappal. 6. Joy Shoes footwear

Whether you are going to a Bollywood gala event or a wedding Joy Shoes has been the traditional port of call for Mumbai's well-heeled women of all ages. Joy Shoes was started by the Zaveri brothers more than 65 years ago, and offers hand-made Kholapuri chappals, mojris, and slippers in the widest range of colors using high quality leather. The shoes are up-market avatars of the chappals on sale in markets across the city, and many have been made glamorous by studding them with Swarowski crystals or faux-crocodile leather. The store was redesigned in 2004 by M. F. Hussain, who left his footprint in the store (still visible today), and the modernization of the shop suggests that Joy Shoes is one Mumbai institution that is here to stay. 

Taj Mahal Palace & Tower shopping arcade, Apollo Bunder; tel. +91 (0) 22 2202 86 96

Charagh DinCharagh Din's flagship Colaba store.7. Charagh Din shirts and suits 

In a city like Mumbai, where road names change at a dizzying speed, it is the landmarks and well-known institutions that help cabbies and postmen know where they need to go. Charagh Din, which is on a little street that runs between Cuffe Parade and Colaba Causeway, is one such sure-fire landmark. Established in 1947, CD (as it is affectionately known) is an institution that that has suited and booted Mumbai's dapper men in the days before Zegna and Boss. Having started off as a small boutique, the emporium now covers an area of 10,000 square feet, spanning four floors and claiming to offer 25,000 unique shirts at its store at any given time. Even the most style-conscious Indian man can be sure to find the right shirt in CD's large selection.

64 Wodehouse Road, Colaba; +91 (0) 22 2218 1375

Madhubala Indian actress Madhubala in 1958. 8. Hamilton Studios passport photos

India's bureaucracy can require hundreds of passport photos in a single lifetime, and so a good photo portrait is essential to avoid years of cringing at that unflattering photo on your driver's license. Enter Hamilton Studio's, the oldest operational studio in the city, established in 1928. Their photos have a painterly quality about them, and the sheer breadth of photographer Ranjit Madhavji's experience -- he has photographed the Gandhis, the Tatas and other titled gentry -- means you are in very good hands. The studio feels like a museum, with portraits of his star clients on view and old-fashioned cameras that stand in the corners. 

NTC House, Narottam Morarjee Marg, Ballard Estate. Call in advance for an appointment. +91 (0) 22 2262 0485

Chimanlals Paper CompanyHandmade paper featuring Indian motifs. 9. Chimanlals Paper Company stationery

Colaba Causeway has plenty of stalls selling letter-writing sets printed with flowery, mughal-era motifs and intricate gold borders but a true Mumbaikar knows there is only one place to go for artisanal paper. Back in the 1950s, the Chimanlals started their paper products business that blended the best of traditional and contemporary designs and patterns and applied them on high-quality paper made from the best raw products. Known for their hand-made paper, for which they use materials such as tree bark, jute, grass, wild flowers and even silk thread, they are collected and used the world over. Despite exporting internationally, they have retained their local client base, who are intensely loyal and trust only them for their children's wedding invitations and other important correspondence. The old world splendor of the shop continues to introduce Mumbaikars to paper needs they never knew they had.

A-2 Taj Building, 210 D.N. Road, Wallace Street, Fort, Close to New Excelsior Cinema; tel. +91 (0) 22 2207 7717, enquiries@chimanlals.com

Furtados MumbaiThe original Furtados store at Metro Junction.10. Furtados music

For musical types in Mumbai, there has been a single one-stop-shop since 1865 -- Furtados. This music house, located in the heart of the city, imports the best Western instruments on the market, and has music books from all over the world. They also offer a small selection of Indian instruments like anklet bells (Rs 125) and traditional wooden flutes (Rs 30). Furtados is more than just a music shop though. The shop is committed to supporting local musicians by showcasing their talents -- it is the only music house that actively promotes up-and-coming rock-bands from the city, through Furtados Records compilations. For those who still buy hard copy, Furtados, along with Rhythm House in Kala Ghoda, are the two indispensable brands.

Furtado & Co, 540/4 Kalbadevi Rd (opposite Metro), Kalbadevi; tel. +91 (0) 22 2201 31 63. Rhythm House, 40 K Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort; tel. +91 (0) 22 2284 28 35 

Amana is a freelance feature writer based in Mumbai.
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