MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (KMSP) - Ten years ago, the first refugees from camps in Nepal began arriving in the Twin Cities. Now, a community of about 1,200 has settled mostly in and around St. Paul.
Monday marked the grand opening of a grocery store to serve the community in a space that was once a troubled nightclub.
Based in Maplewood, the new space will serve a growing Nepalese and Bhutanese community.
The store not only gives new life to a long-troubled location, but a second chance to a Nepalese-Bhutanese immigrant who owned another store years ago.
“I personally stayed in a Nepal refugee camp for 18 years,” Tilak Pokwal said.
In 2015, Fox 9 reported on a robbery at Pokwal’s store. When the store was robbed at gunpoint, the suspects stole money meant for victims of the Nepal earthquake.
After the robbery, Pokwal said the crimes became too much.
“We thought it’s not a good place for us to do the business, so we sold that one,” he said.
In the meantime, repeated problems for the Stargate nightclub forced it to close.
Pokwal and his partners hadn’t planned on another grocery - just a restaurant. But, when they saw the size of this former Stargate club, it made sense.
“I believe the city is happy with us because this is a pure grocery store, and it’s going to be a family restaurant,” he said.
The grocery features a cross section of food, some of it as American as it gets, but catering to the tastes and traditions of the community’s former home.