Started by the Shams Sisters to bring the flavors of Afghanistan to Boise.
The Shams sisters, Homeyra, Bahar S. Amir, Khatera, and Narges (pic l. to r.), were born in Afghanistan. They spent their early childhood there as well as in Iran and Turkey. They eventually immigrated to the United States because their father wanted his daughters to be able to receive an education, something they couldn’t pursue under the Taliban in Afghanistan. They arrived here knowing virtually no English and had to learn that as well as life in the US.
The Shams dreamed of creating a place where they could highlight their individual talents and introduce the cultures they were raised in to the people in Idaho.
Bahar came up with an idea to create a cafe, but wanted to name it something unique, but that also had a connection with their home country. The spice, Saffron, originated in Afghanistan and remains the best quality source of saffron. There were many places named after saffron but Bahar realized that very few used its nickname, sunshine spice, thus the Sunshine Spice Bakery & Café was born.
After several years of planning and research, the Shams were able to open their café in December of 2019. There, each of the sisters contributes their own unique skills and talents to the success of the business. Bahar as the lead baker is creative force behind the food-she researches and creates the recipes, incorporating saffron for a unique experience not found in Boise. She is also the food photographer and manages most of the business aspects of the café. Khatera is the chef and assistant baker, taking Bahar’s creations and producing them for the café. She is also the chief barista creating the coffee and tea drinks for the patrons.
Narges & Homeyra use their talents creative visual art for the café as well as manage the gallery space where they showcase the work of local artists. Homeyra manages the front of house customer experience while Narges manages the kitchen.
The menu of Sunshine Spice Café uses saffron in many of their pastries, puddings, cookies, coffee and tea drinks. They have recently added soups to their ever-expanding menu that are a fusion of Middle Eastern and American cuisines.
Meet the Sisters
Meet Bahar Shams Amir, the founder, owner, and lead baker at Sunshine Spice Cafe. Bahar was born in Afghanistan and spent her early childhood there before moving to Iran and Turkey. In 2003, she came to the United States and attended High School. Following her graduation, she pursued her passion for cosmetology and obtained her certificate from a reputable cosmetology school. While Bahar initially aspired to become a filmmaker, creating impactful documentaries depicting the lives of Afghan women, her journey took a different turn. Undeterred by this shift, she conceived an alternative approach to aid single mothers in her homeland. Enrolling at Boise State University, Bahar pursued her studies in mass communication, with a specific focus on media production. Motivated by a deep desire to effect positive change, Bahar devised an innovative plan: establishing a cafe where she could serve delectable cuisine while channeling the profits to support women in need. Going a step further in her philanthropic endeavors, she launched her own brand, Sunshine Spice Saffron Tea, directly sourcing this aromatic spice from underprivileged farmers in Afghanistan. At Sunshine Spice Cafe, Bahar expertly blends this exceptional saffron tea, delighting the palates of her discerning clientele. With unwavering dedication and determination, Bahar transformed her vision into a tangible reality when Sunshine Spice Cafe opened its doors to patrons on December 12, 2019. Inspired by the impact she has already achieved, Bahar is now poised to open more locations and plans to create a chain of cafes across the United States. By expanding her business, she hopes to extend her empowering efforts to an even larger group of women, both in Afghanistan and beyond.
Khatera's journey is one of remarkable determination and achievement. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, she faced the hardships of war, spending her early years in Iran and Turkey before her family immigrated to the United States in 2003. At the age of sixteen, she embarked on a new chapter, arriving in a country where she didn't know how to read, write, or speak English. Despite these challenges, Khatera's drive was unyielding. Graduating from Centennial High School in Boise, Idaho, in 2007, she pursued a brighter future by enrolling at Milan Institute in July of the same year. Her goal was to earn a degree in the medical assistant program for improved job prospects. However, even with her medical assistant certificate in hand by April 2008, language barriers hindered her from working in her chosen field. Khatera's childhood dream of becoming a police officer persisted, leading her to Boise State University in 2016, where she pursued higher education in the criminal justice program. Her journey took a pivotal turn when her policing instructor recommended the Citizen Police Academy to gauge her commitment to law enforcement. Completing the program, Khatera gained insights into the challenges faced by non-native English speakers in the field. Her dedication earned her a certificate from the Citizen Police Academy at the Boise Police Department. In 2019, Khatera embarked on a new adventure, joining forces with her three sisters as a co-owner of the Sunshine Spice Bakery & Cafe. As the Kitchen Manager, she brings her passion to life by baking a variety of pastries and serving as the Head Barista. Her commitment to her craft and the culinary world was recognized when she became a semifinalist in the Outstanding Baker category at the James Beard Foundation Awards in 2022. Khatera's journey encapsulates the triumph of resilience and determination, from her early days in Afghanistan to her success as a co-owner and culinary artist. Her story is a testament to the power of pursuing dreams despite adversity.
Narges Shams (Number 3 sister) was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. She began drawing as a child in Iran and Turkey after her family fled Afghanistan. The family immigrated to the United States in 2003, where she started seventh grade without knowing how to read, write or speak English. Even with the language difficulties in school, Narges did not give up on her passion for art. She started taking art classes in middle school, and continued through high school and college. She found her passion in ceramics and painting with acrylics on canvas as well as graphic design. Narges loves painting landscapes and animals, especially horses and pets. She has created many commissioned pet portraits for friends and clients. She also enjoys still life painting. She is currently double-majoring in visual arts and graphic design at Boise State University. Due to Covid-19, her education is paused, but as soon as everything goes back to normal, she will complete her degrees in both majors. In the meantime, Narges is one of the four owners/sisters who run Sunshine Spice Cafe. Narges has passion for cooking, and she is the person who cooks and prepares every item in the breakfast and lunch menus (like the dumplings pictured). She also assists with baking, serving customers, taking orders and many of the other day to day duties in the cafe. Stop by and say hello or see some of her art that is displayed in the cafe. Photo by Katilyn Turner Photography
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Homeyra's life story weaves resilience and determination into a remarkable journey. Her early years were shaped by the impact of war, leading her to spend her formative time in Iran and Turkey. The year 2003 marked a significant chapter as Homeyra and her family embarked on a journey of immigration, seeking a new beginning in the United States. Arriving in an unfamiliar land, Homeyra faced an extraordinary challenge: she commenced her formal education in the 6th grade with no prior knowledge of English. Undeterred by this hurdle, she embraced the opportunity with determination, ultimately flourishing in her new environment. In 2017, she proudly graduated from Boise State University, holding a B.S. in Criminal Justice and a B.A. in Visual Arts, where her focus lay in drawing and painting. While her initial aspirations leaned towards becoming a criminal lawyer to support her passion for art, Homeyra's journey took an unexpected turn. Embracing change, she embarked on a new path, becoming a cafe owner alongside her sisters. This unique direction allowed her to blend entrepreneurship with her innate creativity. Art remains a central theme in Homeyra's life, with her creations adorning the walls of Sunshine Spice Cafe, including a distinctive mural that stands as a testament to her passion. Her artistic endeavors encompass various paintings, art pieces, and jewelry. While oil on canvas is her primary medium, she also finds joy in crafting sculptures from copper, brass, and silver. This affinity for metalsmithing is a legacy from her father, a car mechanic who worked with similar materials. At Sunshine Spice Cafe, Homeyra's role encompasses diverse responsibilities. She adeptly manages paperwork, payroll, AP, and inventory, all while curating local art displays and overseeing the front-of-house operations. As a versatile presence, she also serves as a barista and cashier, providing valuable support in the kitchen alongside her three sisters. Additionally, her creativity extends to crafting earrings and necklaces for sale at the cafe. Beyond her entrepreneurial and creative pursuits, Homeyra's altruism shines. She dedicates her free time to teaching art to newly arrived refugees, using the therapeutic power of creativity to inspire and uplift. Her generosity also extends to teaching art classes at the Watershed. Adding another layer to her impactful journey, Homeyra engages in giving inspirational speeches in public and private schools, sharing her story and motivating others. Her multifaceted approach to life and the arts is a beacon of inspiration. For updates on Homeyra's artistic endeavors and journey, you can follow her at @instagram.com/homeyra_shams_art/.
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