HOLIDAY HANDBOOK 2013

Walking into Jai Yen in Kings Beach is like stepping into a cozy shop in a foreign land — colorful scarves adorn the walls, cast iron tea pots sit next to Asian statues, pieces of unique jewelry are stashed in dishes nestled in corners, a fire warms the small cabin, and the owner offers you a cup of tea. With all the products coming directly from Thailand, Nepal, and Bali, owner Christy Lee Smith offers customers unique products rarely found locally.

Smith, who has owned Jai Yen for nine years, works directly with artists and small businesses in Thailand and Laos, and hand selects high quality clothing, jewelry, home décor items, handicrafts, and spa products, all shipped directly to Tahoe. Incline-based nonprofit Changing Lives Nepal provides jewelry from Nepal, while Smith’s friend sources stonework from Bali. Smith and her husband, Mai, have a home in Nonthaburi, Thailand, where Smith spends five months out of the year. This allows her to work with small clothing and leather companies to produce Jai Yen and Thai Artist Collective products. Working directly with the artists also allows Smith to keep her costs down for customers.

“I try to keep it simple in life and business, while having a very hands-on approach to Jai Yen,” Smith said. “We carry many products, like our flying pigs, which support a small village and help rice farmers get through the dry season, and another that helps women’s causes like the Borderline Collective on the Burmese border, improving the lives of refugee women through the sales of tea and textiles.”

Smith’s fascination with Asia, especially Thailand, began when she was a representative for a junior clothing line and had to travel for work. She gained experience in fashion and textiles, and learned firsthand how the industry works.

“During that time I traveled to Thailand and was instantly intrigued by the people and culture,” she said. “I started bringing in treasures and textiles to sell, and [to] fund trips back to visit Southeast Asia.”

In 2005, she spotted a For Rent sign on a log cabin tucked away on North Lake Boulevard in Kings Beach. Smith jumped at the chance to move in and open her business to share her love of Asian culture with others.

“I was thrilled to move into a blank canvas where I could start building on my ideas,” Smith said. “First step was to build a perennial tea garden and pond, then continue my love for all things wooden, artisan-created, inspirational, natural, intricate, eclectically wonderful, and fashion fabulous.”

In addition to unique Asian goods, Jai Yen also carries natural products from small U.S. businesses, as well as cards by local artist Sara Smith, accessories by Bree, and books by local writers Dee Dee Boies and Dr. La-Erd Chong.

Smith notes that Jai Yen means “calm or cool heart” in Thai. She hopes this translates into a peaceful and positive experience for her customers.

“We hope people stop by for a calm shopping experience and enjoy a cup of tea by the fire,” Smith said. “It’s been a real pleasure to watch the shop, garden, and community grow over the nine years we’ve been in business, and get to know so many of the locals and their families.”

Info: Jai Yen, open for holiday season 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Jan. 10; open for spring and summer May 1 to Oct. 1, 8723 North Lake Blvd., Kings Beach, jaiyenshop@gmail.com, (530) 546-7775, jaiyenshop.com