****feature story written for North Texas Daily at UNT****
The shop is covered wall-to-wall in banners, posters and dyed fabrics. The smell of incense burning hits the senses as the door to the store opens while the music playing in the background helps keep the atmosphere calm.
Angela Dawa Juliet Sangmu sits in the sun on the little deck behind the store, drinking a glass of water. Outdoor string lights and banners hanging overhead.
Sangmu’s store, Juliet’s Jewels, is nestled away on West Sycamore, welcoming in customers and items from all over the world. She travels all over the world, gathering together trinkets, accessories and more to share with the Denton community.
Sangmu grew up in a Scottish Missionary boarding school from ages 1 to 17. In that time, she didn’t have much growing up, never traveled and was away from her home of Calcutta, India, throughout those years.
“It was my home, I had no other home,” Sangmu said.
Now, Juliet’s Jewels, is her other home.
Every five years, Sangmu, 49, meets up with her friends from the boarding school and for one week they play games, party, and catch up with each other.
She has sponsored two kids from the school, one is now 25 years-old. “I’m their other mother,” Sangmu said lightly.
Growing up in the missionary school meant Juliet was raised Catholic her whole life. She wanted a new and different name, she then found herself and name Buddhism — Kagyu tradition to be exact.
She met her family in India and was given a new name, Dawa Juliet Sangmu. Dawa meaning moon, Sangmu meaning kind hearted. Juliet said she has a name to live up to.
Juliet only traveled after opening her store, before that she lived in Canada after leaving the boarding school.
“Her energy is very present [when she’s here],” said in-person and online sales associate Zarina Kay, 23.
Marina said that working for Juliet has been super fun and a growing experience. Kay also works with Sangmu designing jewelry that they sell in the store.
“Juliet is very generous, she takes care of all [her] employees and customers on a personal level.”
Juliet is Tibetan Buddhist, which is something that influences what she buys and brings back to the store. Behind the store is a small temple-like space that she helps teach Buddhism in.
There is no advertising for the Buddhism classes, attendance is completely by word of mouth. Sangmu is one of the senior students and helps teach classes, she prefers to be called an instructor – not a teacher.
She travels three-to-four times a year, mainly to India, Thailand, and Nepal – everything in her store is bought from these countries.
Sangmu missed India, being away from it for such a long time, and saw it as an opportunity to go back home. It also makes things a little more fun and unique for the store.
Juliet mostly buys her items, jewelry or clothes from women vendors in the countries and likes to pick everything herself. Her coming back is much anticipated by frequent buyers.
“Everyone knows when she travels,” said store manager Austin Heitkamp, 25.
Before having the shop, Juliet was working at a First State Bank and wanted to find a way back home. She was sent jewelry by a relative and started to sell some to the other women that worked at the bank. Later, she started to sell the jewelry on weekends at a Mexican restaurant.
Juliet’s Jewels has been open since 2001, and opened right after 9/11. For the first five years, she couldn’t afford to even travel once throughout the year, but she had to. She was running the business herself and closing the store for just one week meant she was losing money.
“The first couple years were very hard,” Sangmu said. “Very hard.”
Everything Juliet brings back from her trips is very different and very spiritual – while some things are always changing, a lot is pretty consistent.
People close to Sangmu have suggested she open another store or two, saying she’d make more money or that she should also sell online and not just in store. Sangmu instists that having more than one shop would take away from the uniqueness that Juliet’s Jewels has and that it would be difficult for her to sell online.
“It’s not all about money, it’s about every moment we have,” Sangmu said.
Sangmu has sponsored children in the past, she likes sharing her wealth and continuing to help children that don’t have a lot. Recently she sponsored one child for Christmas, giving six or seven hundred dollars so that they were able to get the clothes and supplies they needed.
“When you grow up having nothing, you know what it’s like,” Juliet said.
She doesn’t know how long she’ll keep the business open and doesn’t want to pass it down to an employee because they wouldn’t know where to go. What she does in the future all depends on what advice her teacher gives.