Scrappy New Orleans entrepreneur Kishore “Mike” Motwani’s $8.175 million purchase this week of Oz, New Orleans premiere gay dance club, this week is another sign that this often-despised self-made millionaire puts his money where his mouth is. Much to the dismay of ardent preservationists, Motwani is living the American Dream by remaking downtown New Orleans in his own image.
In the mid 1970’s, established French Quarter merchants who were trying to uplift the French Quarter’s business profile often called Motwani an outsider, a contrarian rascal who operated low-end but profitable t-shirt shops in the French Quarter. Forty years later, Motwani is still an outsider but has grown into a well-established real estate mogul and diversified entrepreneur with a long list of French Quarter and Canal Street properties.
The Motwani brand, Magnolia Enterprises, still operates T-shirt shops but also offers a wide variety of other Chinese-made merchandise that tourists love to take home. In addition, his chain of So Good jewelry stores has established a strong niche in this marketplace as affordable and attractive alternative to high-end jewels.
Throughout the years, city officials have chided Motwani for flouting regulations and especially his laid back approach to property maintenance. Although Motwani’s plans to demolish an historic Tchoupitoulas Street warehouse to make room for a new mega Canal Street hotel were strongly rebuffed by the City Council and preservation leaders, Motwani is sure to come back to the table soon with another concept. This guy never quits, kind of like Trump.
Also like Trump, Motwani can fool people. He just completed a first-class renovation of 600 Canal Street (at Camp) where Magnolia Enterprises has a first-floor retail business with mixed use on the upper floors.
The Motwani family lives large in Kenner and plays large too with lavish family gatherings and celebrations. Like many other members of New Orleans entrepreneurial class, the Motwanis truly enjoy the good life business success has brought them, but in their own eclectic style.
Motwani will pay the $8.175 million for the Oz night club entirely in cash. Motwani says he won’t be changing the successful Oz business model, but he probably will be making new T-shirts. Come what may, we’ll be looking for Motwani on Oz’s balcony during the upcoming Southern Decadence weekend and watching closely for his next new venture.
LANDRIEU TO ADDRESS MEDIA AT NATIONAL PRESS CLUB IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
As part of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and probably also to keep up his national profile, Mayor Mitch Landrieu will make a presentation of New Orleans’ success since Katrina’s devastation on August 18. This will be a great opportunity for national media to get some good sound bites and encourage additional coverage of the anniversary.
DEMO CONTENDER BERNIE SANDERS PLANS CAMPAIGN STOPS IN NEW ORLEANS THIS WEEKEND
Maverick Democratic presidential contender and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has surprised even us with his surge in the polls and big crowds he is drawing at every stop. Louisiana residents have the opportunity to hear Bernie first hand Saturday evening at the Louisiana Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner or free on Sunday evening at the Pontchartrain Center. Doors open at 6 p.m. and registration is suggested at Bernie Sanders.com.
ARKANSAS AUTHOR WEBB HUBBELL TO SIGN ‘GINGER SPAPS’ AT GARDEN DISTRICT BOOKSTORE
Webb Hubbell, one of Danae’s favorite former Arkansas politicians from the Bill Clinton era, will be signing his new book “Ginger Snaps” at the Garden District Bookstore on Friday, July 24. A former mayor of Little Rock and Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Hubbell is now a successful author who is introducing New Orleans readers to his second book, an intriguing Arkansas-set crime mystery.
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several television programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.
I worked for “Motwani America” in the early 80’s, at a shop called “The Holy Cow”, selling frozen yogurt, soft pretzels and packaged sandwiches, in the French Quarter. There were two of us in the shop, and I was often pulled to go to one of the tshirt shops to cover for someone on a break. I’ve never forgotten the “right” way to fold a tshirt.
The thing I remember most about the Motwani brothers was how tough and scary they seemed to me as a teen. They was no discussing anything, you did as you were told. We were issued a paper check in payday, which we were required to collect in person, sign, and hand back over. We were them given cash. I pleaded to be able to take my check to the bank, fearful of carrying any cash beyond bus fare in downtown N.O., but I was harshly refused. It made the business seem pretty shady and I was glad when there was finally a federal job opening for me at Navalex.
I’ve always wondered where they went from there. Achieving the American Dream, I see. Hats off to you, Sir.