Nestled in the heart of downtown Saint Paul is possibly the oldest minority owned retail business in the downtown area, Maharaja’s. The business was buzzing during the Red Bull Crushed Ice tournament with scores of young people stopping in to see the eclectic products in the store. Across the street are major developments occurring that will transform that section of downtown when the construction is completed. This wave of revival of the downtown might soon get a unique cultural twist if Maharaja’s owner JB’s vision materializes. JB becomes very animated when he talks about the future of Maharaja’s.
One would be able to walk through an archway that would connect both sides of the building. As a customer enters the building through the archway they will have the choice of entering two worlds. On one side will be the “Temple to Rock and Roll” one of the core existing business of Maharaja’s who claims the most extensive collection of Americana memorabilia, evidence of which can be seen in the store and a huge warehouse. “I want to create a safe place where young people can come and enjoy the offerings of the Temple to Rock and Roll,” said, JB.
On the other side will be “Little India” – an opportunity for the customer to experience the rich cultural traditions of India in its art, painting and jewelry. People will get an experience of living for a brief moment how the famed Maharajas of India lived – in opulent splendor. There will also be a center for Yoga and meditation for those who want to attain spiritual freedom. For those who want take a piece of India home they could purchase a wide collection of cultural items. “I want people to experience and enjoy the rich cultural heritage of India – they do not have to travel 10,000 miles to do so and can find that in their own backyard in the heart of Saint Paul,” said JB.
At the back the parking lot will be transformed into a multi-used space with opportunities for outdoor events.
On the second floor he plans transform the apartments or office space to a unique living experience for people who like to walk to the Wild game or concert or work, take the LRT to explore the metro area or meditate at the spiritual center.
“I have been at this location for over three decades and did not receive any hand-outs from the government. I want to give back to the community in some way,” said JB. “These are exciting times – developers are approaching us and we will be hosting some major auctioneers who want to take a look at our Americana collection.” Working with their father are his son Inder and daughter Ena, millennial young entrepreneurs. They bring through their circle of friends the young people who add a lot of life and fun to the store. A symbol of that youthful mischief was a sign on their cat, written in a very twenty-something way, encouraging people to look and not touch the cat….
If JB has its way, the art and cultural developments along University Avenue such as Little Mekong and Little Africa would find another cultural space in downtown Saint Paul. Adding a little spice to the downtown area might just be what the Maharaja offers!