Mahesh Vyas Passes, Founded 1st Desi Grocery: “Jay Store” with Wife Rupa

Houston: The Indian community lost one of its founding members on Friday, August 14. After Mahesh Vyas had finished exercising, acute IPF flared up suddenly and quickly spread through his lungs. He was admitted to Memorial Hermann Hospital at Memorial City, but quickly succumbed to the disease.

Mahesh Prataprai Vyas, 83, a geophysicist, was the founder of Interra Technologies, a multinational oil services company and, with his wife Rupa who managed it, also was co-founder of Jay Store, the first Indian grocery store in the Houston area.

Mahesh was born in Talaja (across the Gulf of Khambhat from Surat), Gujarat, India on September 2, 1937. Guided by the belief that the key to prosperity and happiness came through a solid foundation built on education, he left Baroda College in 1959 to advance his studies in West Germany only 10 years after the end of World War II.

His focus on geophysics led him to continue his studies in Montreal, Canada. After the birth of two sons, he and his wife, Rupa Vyas, moved to Houston in 1969 with their young family, $200 in his pocket and a vision for a better life for his family. He also sought to have a major impact at work and his community.

He was a pioneer in so many ways. After working for Seiscom Delta for a few years, he ventured out to form his own company, Interra Technologies, an oil services company which led the effort to digitize seismic data for oil exploration. His company developed industry-leading technical innovations, which leveraged offices in India and close collaborations in Venezuela and Germany.

When the Vyas’ moved to Houston, there were only 30 to 50 Indian families. They saw that the growing South Asian population needed a connection back to India so they decided to open the community’s first desi grocery store – Jay Store — that brought essential Indian foods to Houston. Jay Store first opened in 1972 in the Rice Village on the northeast corner of Times and Kelvin. Ten years later, it was the first store to populate the Hillcroft and Highway 59 area, which has since become better known as Little India (and is also referred to as the Mahatma Gandhi District), a cultural hub for Indians locally and recognized nationally.

In the United States, Mahesh Vyas lived his entire life in Houston, mostly in the family home near Kirkwood and Memorial.  He loved the local sports scene, and was an avid fan of any team which could win. He was deeply interested in travel: spending time in Europe and Asia for both business and personal travel. Exposing his family to the diverse and wonderful cultures of the world was his passion. In retirement, he loved spending time with his family and friends. An avid Canasta player, he led his social group of friends in organizing matches.

He is survived by his loving wife of 55 years, Rupa, who is in infirm health and whom he was taking care of. He is also survived by his two sons, Jatin Vyas of Boston, and Sanjay Vyas of Cleveland, his daughters-in-law, Tammy Vyas and Neha Vyas; his grandsons, Austin, Ryan, Amar, and Ishan Vyas; his siblings, Vandana Khatodia, Mridu Vyas, and Jayesh Vyas; many beloved relatives; and his many dear friends.

Family photo with his wife Rupa, and son Sanjay (left) and Jatin (with goatee) and their families.