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COLUMBIA - After 32 years of offering upscale fashion to customers from across the country, Exotica International Inc. will close its doors on May 31.

The founders and owners, Dr. Ajit S. and Raj K. Randhawa are retiring.

The Randhawas’ story is that of the American dream accomplished. Raj came from India with a law degree from Delhi University. She earned her master’s degree in education and taught in the Bamberg public school system for seven years. In 1969, after Ajit earned his Ph.D from the University of British Columbia, the family moved to South Carolina. Ajit joined Voorhees College as the professor of biology and taught for 29 years and retired as chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences, Math and Computer Sciences in 1998.

In 1976, Raj started Exotica International Inc. in Bamberg as a unique gift boutique housing a selection from many countries around the world. Apparel was added in 1980 upon the company’s first expansion. After first expanding to Orangeburg, the company eight years ago relocated in Columbia to a 10,000-square-foot facility on Highway 378.

Exotica quickly earned a “must shop” reputation and attracted customers from as far away as California. One of the oldest family-owned businesses in the Midlands, Exotica provided its fashion-savvy customers with unique styles and quality attire.

For their business success and commitment to community service, the Randhawas have earned numerous awards and accolades. Mrs. Randhawa was honored for her business contributions and awarded as a runner-up for the 2002 S.C. Business Woman of the year. Dr. Randhawa also received the “Governor’s Distinguished Professor Award” from Gov. Carroll Campbell.

Ultimately three generations of the Randhawas worked at Exotica and each gave back to the community through Exotica. The Randhawas have four children, a son-in-law, Michael Haley, who was the men’s wear manager at Exotica and a daughter-in-law, Sonya Randhawa, who is the current ladies fine wear assistant manager, and Alyssa Randhawa, one of six grandchildren who currently serves as a wardrobe consultant.

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