How Boise’s refugee community is changing the face of the local food scene

Photo courtesy of Katilyn Turner

Sunshine Spice Cafe, Boise’s first Afghani bakery, is opening a second location in Downtown Boise. Currently in the process of working with architect Rob Thornton, the cafe is hoping to get their building permit approved by the end of September. 

Sunshine Spice Cafe is run by sisters Homeyra, Bahar S. Amir, Khatera and Narges Shams. Born in Afghanistan, they came to Boise with hardly any English experience and quickly had to learn what life looked like in the United States. 

The Sham sisters knew they wanted to share their love of Afghani culture with Boise but were initially met with distrust. 

“Finding a space was really difficult,” Homeyra Shams said. “First we were from a different country and secondly we were women, and everywhere we went people wouldn’t trust us and didn’t believe that we could do it and thought we would fail, so no one would give us space to rent.” 

The Shams sisters opened their primary location off of Fairview Avenue in Boise in December of 2019 before the height of COVID, but despite pandemic barriers, they were met with an outpour of support from the Boise community. 

“We had a lot of customers … We opened through the pandemic, and when we closed for five months, we got messages from people telling us how much they loved our pastries and giving us encouragement to reopen,” Homeyra Shams said. “When we reopened, the support was even greater.”

In addition to coffee, Sunshine Spice offers saffron puddings, dumplings, stuffed breads and other items close to the Shams sisters’ hearts. 

Through opening a business, Homeyra Shams shared that she wanted to encourage other new Americans.  

“…We want to tell them that we got this business open and it’s been successful, it kinda gives encouragement to other new Americans in Idaho,” Shams said.

The Shams sisters are adamant that food is an important source to bring a community together.

As new Americans share their experiences and stories in Boise, the taste of the city is diversifying, and Sunshine Spices’ second location is a testament to the importance of sharing food and culture. 

“If new refugees open restaurants it will have an impact, I believe people will want to try new foods,” Homeyra Shams said. 

Sunshine and Spice Cafe’s second location will be opening at the end of the year on 10th Street between Bannock and Idaho and will be providing student discounts to Boise State students with proof of ID. 

Photo courtesy of Katilyn Turner

Leave a Reply