Words & Deeds

’The time is right’: After watching Boise grow, four sisters to open new Afghan cafe

Homeyra Shams first experienced change at 3 years old.

The youngest of four siblings, she left Afghanistan in 1996. The refugee family lived in Iran. Then Turkey.

They arrived in Boise on June 24, 2003. Since then, the close-knit Idaho family has seen more change. It’s the kind, she says, that makes it exciting to start a business with her sisters Bahar, Narges and Khatera.

Sunshine Spice Cafe is slated to open in December at 6911 W. Fairview Ave. The former Daylight Donuts space is being remodeled into a fresh international eatery filled with baklava and breads, teas and coffees.

Growing, evolving Boise is ready, she says.

“It’s so different now,” Shams, 27, says. “We had this idea before, but the time was not right. Now the time is right. Because it’s becoming more diverse, and this is a good thing.”

Afghan bread will be on the menu at Sunshine Spice Cafe. Bahar Shams-Amir

“Sunshine spice” is a nickname for saffron, an exquisite ingredient in Iranian, Afghan and other cuisines. Sunshine Spice Cafe’s menu will highlight saffron, also drawing influences from South and Central Asia and the Middle East, Shams says.

“My mother kept cooking all the Afghani food no matter where we were,” she says. “... So we will have that focus, mixing in some Asian, Turkish — Iran, Iraq. Turkish coffee, for example, is going to be along with our saffron tea. That area of the world.”

The small restaurant will have about 18 to 20 seats, she says. It will be open seven days a week.

“We will function primarily as a bakery where people can come in, buy baked goods and leave,” Shams says. “But also stay there to have a nice time in the cafe.

“We will also have things like soup, especially in the colder months. Maybe some cold soups in the summer. We’ll have things that are traditionally Afghani soup and something more American like pumpkin soup — but maybe with saffron.”

The sisters are artists — visual arts for Homeyra, Bahar and Narges, culinary arts for Khatera — so local artwork will be showcased on the walls. “Our life is art,” Homeyra Shams says.

Homeyra and Narges Shams are the artists behind this custom coffee table, which will be inside Sunshine Spice Cafe.

Their combined vision will permeate Sunshine Spice Cafe. Homeyra Shams, who works at Lowes, is building and painting tables. “Khatera,” she adds, “we had her get a job at Starbucks, so she now knows how to be our barista. Everybody in the family is working very hard.”

The sisters have enlisted team members from outside, too. They planned the cafe with input from Kim Sherman-Labrum at the Idaho Small Development Center at Boise State. Rob Thornton at CTY Design is providing architectural expertise.

“Everybody is helping us,” Shams says. “We’re very excited. It’s been a dream for us for a very long time, and we’re all four sisters working together.”

Online: Facebook.com/SunshineSpiceCafe.

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Michael Deeds is an entertainment reporter and columnist at the Idaho Statesman, where he also has been a sportswriter, entertainment editor and features editor. Deeds co-hosts “The Other Studio,” a one-hour music show, at 8 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.