Building a dream: Virk turns a blighted area into plush international plaza

Ringing cellphone in hand, Sam Virk sat at a corner table in his newly opened restaurant, answering questions from his kitchen staff and others from contractors who were scrambling to apply last-minute touches to the lobby and banquet hall upstairs.

Sam Virk

Sam Virk

Ringing cellphone in hand, Sam Virk sat at a corner table in his newly opened restaurant, answering questions from his kitchen staff and others from contractors who were scrambling to apply last-minute touches to the lobby and banquet hall upstairs.

Always on the go, the 41-year-old businessman refuses to waste time, not with so much to do, not with his labor of love nearly in full bloom.

East Hill’s burgeoning two-story Kent International Plaza – the C-shaped house that Virk built – accommodates 12 retail shops below and 15 offices above.

Such a development has brought life to a blighted area.

“Work is my passion, business is my passion, and I enjoy it more and more,” said Virk, a self-made man from humble beginnings who steadily worked his way to prosperity. “When I see the plaza, I know I gained something. I did something for the Kent community. I did something for the community I love.”

The one-stop shopping plaza is Virk’s dream venture in the making. The longtime Kent resident is a family man, restaurateur, real estate broker and investor who immigrated from India about 25 years ago. He decided to go big when he bought what was little more than a shell of an empty building and the 2.35-acre property back in October 2014 for $3.5 million.

Since then, he has invested $2.5 million in remodeling the plaza, a nearly 50,000-square-foot building that accommodates corporate offices and small businesses. The plaza includes an Indian grocery store, a fresh meat shop, an Indian fashion boutique, beauty and nail salons, jewelry and cellphone stops and a soon-to-be-opened Mediterranean restaurant. Virk plans to add a deli that sells sweet favorites and baked goods.

“It’s not just for the Indian community,” Virk said, “but for all of Kent.”

The centerpiece of the plaza is the Maharaja, an 85-seat, 5,000-square-foot restaurant that specializes in authentic Indian cuisine. Experienced chefs and staff man two large kitchens. An imported tandoori oven is available to quickly bake up to 12 kinds of fresh breads, as well as chicken and vegetable kabobs.

The back kitchen serves a 500-capacity ballroom that can be rented for community events.

From the carpet to cutlery, everything is first class, just the way the no-nonsense owner wants it.

“My parents always taught me, ‘Don’t compromise quality,’ ” Virk said. “Quality is always payback.”

Virk says hard work and perseverance have rewarded him.

He started with little but worked his way up. He cleaned houses, managed 7-Elevens, bussed tables, delivered pizzas and drove limousines. He generated enough money to buy and renovate restaurants, sports bars, and now a plaza.

He and his younger brother, Gary, are family men who share ideas, businesses and a home.

“I came to this country with American dreams and started my life from scratch,” Virk said. “And I did very hard work in my life, and I still do.”

Virk wanted something that would cater to Kent’s large Indian population but also appeal to others.

“International market demand is high today,” he said, pointing out other successful ones, including Seattle and Renton.

City leaders have welcomed the change.

“Sam is helping many immigrants build prosperity here,” Mayor Suzette Cooke said in her State of the City address earlier this year.

Added City Councilwoman Dana Ralph: “Sam has made a significant investment on the East Hill. He has brought a great variety of services, retail and restaurants to Kent. I am grateful for his investment and believe it will be the catalyst for exciting redevelopment of the East Hill.”

Virk has drawn encouragement from his backers.

“I got this opportunity,” he said. “My dream has come true, with the blessing of God and good wishes from friends and local community support today, the plaza is successful.

“I wanted to do something here only in Kent because I love Kent. I lived the most important part of my life here. I have an attachment of my heart to Kent. This is my home.”

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For more information about the restaurant, at 10120 SE 260th St, Suite 121, visit maharajakent.com.

 


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