By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
‘Tis the season for giving and there have been several new Asian-owned businesses that have opened this past year. Here are some ideas for this holiday season:
Adia Mei Jun Bobo, owner and curator of CITRINE design shop in Issaquah, opened her business last November to share carefully curated collections of thoughtfully designed and small batch goods with the community.
Born and raised in the Seattle area, Bobo was always more creatively inclined. Having almost always worked in retail or wholesale, she also started her own jewelry line, Rain City Forge, in 2010. Bobo also taught in the jewelry studio at Pratt Fine Arts Center for about seven years.
With the focus on her shop, Bobo works with small independent designers and makers from around the world, alongside select pieces from larger brands that reflect their values and aesthetic. She aims to share little bits of happiness and elevate everyday experiences in an approachable and accessible way for customers.
Citrine is one of Bobo’s favorite stones because it has really positive energies, good fortune and it’s overall bright, colorful, and fun.
Some of the popular items include cloud sunset ceramics from a woman-owned line out of Portugal, as well as cute keychains, enamel pins, and high-quality bluetooth speakers.
In addition, the shop also offers corporate gifts, such as engraved leather notebooks, personalized bon bons, and even speakers. Bobo and her team can put together custom and ideal solutions to fit different timelines and budgets.
CITRINE design shop is located at 317 NW Gilman Blvd, Suite 25 in Issaquah.
Avid traveler Diem Nguyen recently launched Litibu Collective, which is a subscription-based box aimed to share cultural experiences with people through food, travel, arts, and more.
Born and raised in Seattle, Nguyen is a lover of travel and wanted to share her experiences.
Litibu means songbird in an indigenous Mexican language. The idea for the subscription boxes came to her about 15 years ago while she was traveling in a small town in Mexico during a really memorable time for her.
“I want the world to be softer, with more loving people. How do I do that through fun and adventure? I try to be kind in life, how do I expand that beyond my reach so people can have their own journey?” Nguyen said of the idea behind the boxes.
Each box contains six to eight cultural ingredients with four recipe cards and, every week, the recipient would receive digital cultural content as a way to take a deeper dive into each country’s culture.
The first four countries featured will be Vietnam, Peru, Korea, and Spain. The first box will be shipped immediately and the subsequent boxes will be shipped every quarter after that. Each country will have their unique box design created by local artists from that country.
The subscription is perfect for anyone who is interested in travel, whether or not they’ve visited the country. It’s for people who can appreciate and want to learn about other cultures, and teach their children, too.
To give a cultural experience, visit litibucollective.com.
Takeshi (or TAK) Kunimune moved to the United States from Nara, Japan in 2000.
Obsessed with food, he studied food science and food logistics.
He wanted to do something he was passionate about. He opened Mixed Pantry in downtown Seattle near the Pike Place Market this November. After running a pop-up through the Seattle Restored program, he realized it was exactly what he wanted to do so he signed a lease and that’s how everything came together.
“I love food. I studied food and I wanted to create a place and platform for people to explore different Asian cultures through food. There are so many kinds of foods and I wanted to learn about other Asian cultures as well. We’re using this opportunity to learn about and discover new flavors with our customers,” Kunimune said.
Mixed Pantry is a specialty food store that only carries items imported from Asia or produced by Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across the country.
“Our store celebrates AAPI month every day,” he said.
In general, chili crisp is one of the biggest movers, Kunimune said.
Some of the top sellers include local brands KariKari, Hotpot Queen, as well as Oakland’s Mama Teav’s.
Chili crisp can be spread on eggs, toast, and even soft serve ice cream, Kunimune said.
For those with more of a sweet tooth, he recommends the miso potato chip chocolates or the calamansi marmalade, which are very Asian and have unique flavors to expand people’s experience with Asian food culture.
In addition to sharing unique Asian food items with his customers, Kunimune uses the space to activate community events and programs, including Belltown Art Walk and hosting a variety of local AAPI artists to showcase their work.
Mixed Pantry is located at 2233 1st Avenue in Seattle.
Emily Lee and husband George Tsasinksi opened Republic of Cider in SoDo just a few months before the pandemic, but they continue to serve their delicious cider to the community.
“We survived the pandemic because we have a strong product that sells by itself,” Lee said.
Their ciders feature unique cultural flavors as an ode to Emily’s Taiwanese and George’s Hispanic backgrounds.
Winter melon is the star fat Republic of Cider. They previously partnered with Din Tai Fung to serve a winter melon ginger cider, and they have also infused durian with winter melon to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Their Sun Wu Kong-line (also known as the Monkey King) currently has popular flavors like winter melon with caramelized pineapple and winter melon and Szechuan peppercorn.
In addition to ciders, they also feature a sparkling chardonnay called George’s SodoSecco that comes in a beautiful bottle perfect for the holidays.
Republic of Cider is located at 2960 4th Avenue South in Seattle.
Marlo Miyashiro, co-owner and managing director of The Handmade Showroom and Bezel & Kiln, moved to Seattle from Los Angeles in 1997.
Miyashiro had her own jewelry line at the time, but her life changed and she pivoted to help emerging artists. That led to organizing Etsy Rain in 2007 and did that for about a decade until she had an opportunity to open a holiday pop-up at Pacific Place.
After that, there was a quiet period where Miyashiro thought she had to give up her dream until Pacific Place called saying they had a vacancy. She shared her business plan with the building owners—The Handmade Showroom moved into the building in 2015 and the rest is history.
“The whole idea is to elevate handmade to show people that handmade can just be as well made as anything they’d buy off the shelf,” Miyashiro said.
With the mall’s renovations and changes through the pandemic, The Handmade Showroom has moved four times within the Pacific Place building, but they are now in their biggest space yet. They started with 35 Pacific Northwest artists and now they have a little under 200 artists from all over the country, with the majority of them being local.
The store also has lots of great gifts for children and pets, such as clothing and plushies. There’s something to be found for anyone, including coffee connoisseurs, plant parents, and even mushroom lovers.
Bezel & Kiln was started in 2019—the intention was to have a beautiful, high-end art jewelry fine housewares gallery made by independent artists from all over the world.
Miyashiro said that they are in the process of winding down the storefront for Bezel & Kiln and moving those items into The Handmade Showroom since it’s a much larger space and there’s a lot of crossover of fine jewelry items.
“For us, it’s all about supporting artists and their success. It’s our main focus, to introduce people to the artists to their work and intentions, we’re always sharing stories about everything we have. We’re educating and helping people understand the value of all of these things,” she said.
The Handmade Showroom is located on the 3rd floor of Pacific Place in downtown Seattle.
“The best gifts make people feel seen—a gift that will remind someone of a place, person, or feeling,” Jane Park, CEO and founder of Tokki, said.
The idea is that you can put a note in it on the digital QR card and the person who receives it can scan to open up the digital message. The QR card can also be used multiple times.
The gift giver scans the QR code with their phone and in 30 seconds, they can create a card with a personalized note like you would with a physical greeting card.
Everybody can add their own card, kind of like the sisterhood of the traveling gift bag (referencing the book/movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). In addition, all of the gift bags and holders are made from recycled water bottles.
“If I give it to you, you can add your own card, it’s endlessly reusable. You can track your tokki in your account to see where it’s gone geographically and you can also make the message private,” Park said.
Tokki is the Korean word for rabbit.
“That’s where the inspiration came from, but a more modern Americanized version of it,” Park added.
You can order Tokki gift bags and cards at Target.com.
Something worth reading
Sokha Danh and his family recently opened the first Asian American bookstore, Mam’s Bookstore, in the entire Pacific Northwest, located in the Chinatown-International District.
Their goal is to share Asian American stories and also be in charge of the narrative in the Asian American community. The bookstore focuses on providing books and titles by AAPI authors and writers, as well as creating a physical space that uplifts AAPI voices and perspectives.
Danh was inspired to open the bookstore because he grew up in a family that cherished education and the love for books.
“We didn’t grow up with a lot of money, but that didn’t stop my parents from taking us to the library. Being surrounded by resources like books, this neighborhood has given me so much. If I could do something to pay back the neighborhood, it would be this bookstore,” Danh shared.
Mam’s Bookstore carries a wide selection of children’s books because it’s important to create a space for AAPI families to come in and use the space.
Danh emphasized the importance of supporting local authors and writers in the Seattle region. He’s excited to feature retired KING 5 anchor Lori Matsukawa’s book, Brave Mrs. Sato, in the coming days.
He also recommends two other locally-authored books, Where’s Joon by Julie Kim as well as StarHug by Cindy Wong.
Since they have limited weekend store hours, folks can also buy the books online. Mam’s Bookstore is located at 608 Maynard Avenue South in Seattle.
Nina can be reached at email@example.com.