BY SARA SHEIKH
Himalayan Handicrafts, a small shop in Fountain Square Mall, brings a sampling of the art and culture of Pakistan to Bloomington.
“Most items in this store come from rural cities in Pakistan where people and families have been making these arts for decades, if not centuries,” says owner Rafi M. Sheikh.
Customers will find a variety of handcrafted gifts, including jewelry and jewelry boxes, clocks, nested tables, coffee tables, and even a sitar. Many of the objects feature intricate woodcarving or inlaid wood decoration.
Sheikh says he is particularly fond of his collection of Himalayan salt goods. Mined in the Punjabi region of Pakistan near the Himalayas, he points out both the ancient and modern beliefs associated with the salts. “For centuries, people have recognized the health benefits of Himalayan salts,” Sheikh says. “People have used Himalayan salts to help build saunas and lamps. Now Himalayan salts are even used as table and cooking salt.”
Sheikh was born in Pakistan and lived there until he moved to the United States to study at Indiana State University (ISU) in Terre Haute. He earned a degree in business administration from ISU in 1974 before returning home to help run his family’s business.
He traveled back to Terre Haute with the hope of earning a master’s degree at ISU, but the death of his father cut his studies short, and Sheikh was once again called home to Pakistan. He says that when his business ethics did not align with those of his siblings, he moved back to the United States, where he briefly spent time in New York City. He then moved to Vermont, where he bought and ran a hotel in Ferrisburgh. In 2010, he moved to Bloomington to be close to his son, daughter, and grandchildren.
Himalayan Handicrafts, Suite 105, Fountain Square Mall, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sara Sheikh is of no relation to the shop owner.