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Local Asian American and Pacific Islander business owners bring diversity and culture to Coachella Valley

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the perfect time to recognize the contributions and influence the community has made on the U.S., and here in the valley. Several local business owners say they are proud to share their rich history and traditions with those who may not have had the chance to encounter it otherwise.

That's one reason why Raychelle Devilla opened up Varraco Coffee Roasters, a Filipino coffee shop in Palm Desert.

"Varacco started when one of my partner is wanting to bring in this heirloom coffee from our country,” said Devilla. "There's not a lot here in California specifically. So that's what actually really drove us to open up the shop, bringing in that coffee from our country."

She says the coffee shop has brought her more than just a sense of pride for her culture, but a family.

"It's a sense of community," said Devilla. "A lot of our friends come here support us. And then a lot of them gather in and hang out, you know, enjoy a cup of coffee. It gives us pride and joy to actually share it to everyone. The pride of like bringing in the hometown, and then, you know, putting it here in Palm Desert makes it even more special."

All of the coffee is sourced from small farms in the Philippines, and Devilla makes sure to give back to them every chance that she can.

"When you buy a bag of coffee from us, we are actually profit sharing to our farmers," explained Devilla. "And that actually helps us help them grow more of the coffee."

Another business is filling a major need here in the valley as well; the need for a store that specializes in Indian groceries and Mediterranean British goods. That's what inspired Suki Singh to open Spice Rack.

“When I moved here in this valley, these kinds of flavors were missing," said Singh. "If anybody wanted to buy Indian groceries or Mediterranean groceries, the closest one was 80 miles away in Riverside. So that's why I took the initiative. Like, let's give it a shot and open a store.”

Singh says since opening, he's gotten a positive response from residents who may not have had access to Indian goods and spices otherwise. He also says plenty of folks who aren't part of the AAPI community are stopping by to try it out as well.

"I'm excited the people who have never experience Indian groceries earlier, are now trying it," said Singh. "They are liking it. And they are coming again and they are spreading the buzz also.”

Singh says he's proud to represent his Indian heritage here in the valley, and share it with everyone.

"If we use Indian spice in the right way, in the right combination, it has lots of health benefits," said Singh. "And Indian food is cooked from scratch. It's always a fresh food. So it's healthy. And with all my ingredients now easily available in the neighborhood market, now it's easy to cook Indian food at home."

Another store, Wabi Sabi Japan Living is also AAPI-owned. Partners Osamu "Sam" Sagara, and Darrell Baum opened up the store together to bring a small taste of Sam's home Hiroshima back to the valley.

"The Asian community here in Palm Springs, and around the Coachella Valley in general is small," said Sagara. "So I wanted to introduce beautiful things we have, and share our story to everyone, and with everyone.”  

The store sells a variety of Japanese good, and also offers Sake tastings throughout the day.

"We have everything from tableware to cookware," said Baum. "Obviously, we love chopsticks in the household, those are great gifts too. But then also we have over 250 knife and knife accessories. We are the biggest knife vendor in the valley. We sell more Shun knives than any other boutique in California.”

The pair also hosts cooking demonstrations on Saturdays, saying they truly find joy and honor in sharing Japanese recipes with locals.

"We have so many varieties of food, and Japanese food is so fantastic," said Sagara. "Very healthy cooking, and also easy cooking. So I wanted to share it with everybody.”

There are several dozen other wonderful AAPI-owned restaurants and businesses around the valley, so make sure to check them out and support them in the future.

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!


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Tori King


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