'The most important thing is your family': Community mourns father and son
Dhruva Chellani opened Classic Carolina, a UNC apparel shop on Franklin Street, in 1993 with his family in mind.
Thirty years later, Dhruva — with help from his son, Kris Chellani — planned a reopening of Classic Carolina for Sept. 9, 2023, to celebrate the renovations and updates the pair had done for the store.
Kris, who was living in New York, visited North Carolina regularly to help Dhruva renovate the store, and eventually planned to take over.
"Kris always just looked up to my dad and wanted to be just like him," Krystal Chellani, Kris' sister, said.
Just three days before the planned reopening of Classic Carolina, while Kris and Dhruva were on the way home from a community event on Sept. 6, a high-speed driver swerved into their lane, killing Kris and Dhruva and injuring Nina Chellani — Dhruva's wife and Kris' mother.
Nina was transported to a nearby hospital to undergo surgery and is in stable condition.
"They'll be with me every day in my heart," Krystal said. "They'll be with me every day in spirit."
When he was in second grade, Kris Chellani met Elijah Moracco-Schelp. The two instantly became friends and Moracco-Schelp began walking to the Chellani's home every day after school to spend time with Kris.
Moracco-Schelp and Kris grew up together. Both attended Chapel Hill High School, where Kris was the student body president — one of his big campaign promises was to put walls in between the urinals in the men's bathrooms.
One time, Dhruva made a dish that Moracco-Schelp found too spicy. Each time Moracco-Schelp ate at the Chellani home afterward, he said Dhruva would always ask, "Was that too spicy?"
"They were just the most generous, loving people that I've ever known,"Moracco-Schelp said.
Both Moracco-Schelp and Kris went on to study at UNC. The spring before they started, in 2017, they celebrated UNC men's basketball's national championship win on Franklin Street together.
While at the University, Kris won the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School's Deloitte Consulting Undergraduate Case Competition. After graduating in 2020, he moved to New York City and worked in consulting with companies like Deloitte and IBM.
"It was just so amazing to watch him grow into somebody who was a leader," Krystal said. "He was the type of person where he could just walk into a room and everybody would just look at him and value his presence there."
Kris eventually decided he wanted to return often to help his father with Classic Carolina — and eventually take over the store.
Tanvi Bhandary, Kris' girlfriend, said he would spend weeks in North Carolina working with Dhruva on improving Classic Carolina and preparing for the reopening.
"In the Indian culture, everything that we do is for our parents," she said. "We want to make them proud — and not just proud, we want to give them a good, fulfilling life."
Bhandary said Kris wanted his parents to be able to retire and travel the world once he took over Classic Carolina. Bhandary was planning on flying to North Carolina to celebrate the reopening.
"He was so excited about it," she said. "And his dad and his mom, that's all they were talking about, that's all Kris was talking about."
Every member of the Chellani family — Kris, his siblings and Nina — worked at Classic Carolina in some capacity while Dhruva coordinated store operations. Nina also owns Love & Peace Boutique at Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro.
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Krystal said she was planning on joining Kris when he took over and that the two of them would run Classic Carolina.
Now, after the loss of Kris and Dhruva, Krystal said that when she is ready, she still wants to reopen the store.
"I would love to continue that legacy of giving back to the community, helping people, continuing to get to know the community and putting smiles on people's faces," she said.
Moracco-Schelp said Dhruva got to know other vendors and businesses on Franklin Street. He said — beyond UNC sports and the merchandise the store sold — the Chellani family loved the community. Many people looked up to Dhruva for being able to create a good life for himself and his family, Moracco-Schelp said.
Krystal said she wants the community to remember Kris and Dhruva as kind, hard-working and passionate. She said they could both run into people on the street and make easy conversation.
"[Kris] wanted people to know who he was and know who my dad was, and have an entire experience with the store and he wanted a relationship with the community," she said. "That's really what it was all about."
Moracco-Schelp said he asked Kris about six months ago why he was committing so much time and energy to renovate Classic Carolina with Dhruva.
"You're not making any money," Moracco-Schelp said.
"The most important thing to me right now is my family and making sure that they can retire," Kris told Moracco-Schelp. "I've kind of realized recently — you can be successful, you can make money, but the thing that's always going to be the most important thing is your family. They're always going to be there."
Walker Livingston is a 2023-24 assistant city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer city & state editor. Walker is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and American studies, with a minor in data science.