Jigme Norbu (d. February 14, 2011), nephew to the Dalai Lama, was most famous for owning and operating the Snow Lion Tibetan restaurant on Grant Street. His father, Thubten Norbu (Taktser Rinpoche), moved his young family to Bloomington in 1965 to join the Indiana University department of Uralic and Altaic studies, and Jigme spent many of his formative years in town before heading for Japan to study international law. Later he returned to Bloomington and started the Snow Lion in 1987.
The success of that restaurant encouraged him, and he entered into several other entrepreneurial ventures including the Golden Dragon in Bedford and the Diamond Inn motel. In 1991 he purchased the former Schmalz's Department Store on North Walnut and extensively renovated it, creating the Shangri-La oriental grocery, Passage to India restaurant, and the Mirage nightclub. But these ventures proved less than successful and he was forced to file bankruptcy in 1994.
In 2001, HBO sent him on a trip to India in hopes he could gain an interview with the then-17-year old Karmapa Lama, at which task he was successful.
The Norbu family established the Tibetan Cultural Center, and Jigme, his father, his wife Yaling Huang Norbu, and his mother Kunyang Norbu, were all board members until the center ran into financial difficulties in 2005, at which time a new director of the center was named and all but Thubten Norbu resigned.
Jigme Norbu later formed N&N Enterprises LLC with Clayton Nunes, which is planning on renovating the Home Laundry Building on East 3rd Street into the Plaza at Third and Lincoln, consisting of commercial space and high-end lofts. The corporation also owns Fourth Street Plaza, the former license branch building.
He also managed Fortune Properties and operated the Bazaar Cafe on 6th Street, at the current location of Boxcar Books. His father Thubten Norbu died in Bloomington September 5, 2008. Jigme's mother Kunyang Norbu sold her restaurant Cafe Django and moved to Seattle in 2010.
In February 2011, Norbu was struck and killed by an SUV while participating in a "Walk For Tibet" from St. Augustine, Florida, to Palm Beach.
Video Interview with Jigme Norbu, July, 2011