AAPI heritage month is over, but you can still support local Asian American and Pacific Islander makers, designers, and entrepreneurs. These AAPI-owned businesses are stylish, environmentally conscious, hyperlocal, and community-focused, and more than one that is a family affair. From meticulously curated goods to lifestyle brands to sports and recreation, there’s something on this list for everyone.
Husband-and-wife team Kaz and Yuka Morihata met as students at the Rhode Island School of Design before launching careers in interior design and architecture. The couple opened Rikumo in 2009 to connect Philly shoppers to modern Japanese designers and artisans. Stalwart fans may remember the small boutique in Callowhill before the company opened its concept store in Center City. Since the pandemic, Rikumo has gone entirely online. Some highlights: the extensive Binchotan Charcoal line, including $12 potting charcoal for house plants and terrariums and $10-$40 face products; the large writing and paper goods section, with notebooks, pencils, and brush pens; and luxurious Japanese towels.
Owners Jeannie Wong and Edward Garcia had a long history working on social causes before opening up their inclusive game store. “As POC, we know what discrimination feels like, what not being included feels like,” Garcia says. “The stereotypical gamer is a cis-het white male,” Wong says. “But in reality, especially nerdy geeky things like cosplay and fandom, [there are] so many women and queer people.” They have a trans-inclusive work environment, including all-gender bathrooms and pronouns on staff badges, and carry games made by local, female, LGBTQ and POC makers and designers. Some examples: Capital Punishment: The Party Argument Game, made by a Philly-based, Black-owned company, and Trading Races, a card game about Black history and culture. Their menu also supports community vendors. “We don’t exist in a void,” Wong says. “It’s important to really be part of this community and survive.”
Inked Vintage is an online shop of bold, unisex ’80′s and ’90′s streetwear and goods curated by Laura Kao. Kao upcycles select pieces by hand-painting, dyeing, and screen printing, in a variety of textures and colors. An avid thrifter with a background in garment design, Kao opened Inked during the pandemic to combine her passion for design with a desire to promote environmental consciousness. Kao has a wide range of creative businesses outside of Inked, including as creative director of boutique web design agency The 215 Guys and as co-owner (with her sister) of Old City art gallery and event space Room 244. She also does branding and logos: You can see her design work at Banh Mi & Bottles and Nam Vietnamese Kitchen. Inked ships free in the continental United States, and Philadelphians can find the brand at the Punk Rock Flea Market.
Fishadelphia is Philadelphia’s first community supported fishery, connecting customers with fresh fish and shellfish from the Jersey Shore. The student-run group operates out of Simon Gratz in North Philly and Mastery Thomas in South Philly, led by Talia Young, a former South Philly science teacher and Princeton postdoc fellow. Like with a CSA, members pay upfront to support local fisheries, and pick up from coolers at churches, schools, parks, and other locations throughout the city and suburbs. As part of the mission to make sustainable seafood affordable and accessible, they offer an incremental payment plan as well as a community rate. A group of students is currently collecting recipes for a community-sourced cookbook, and also developed the Great Philly Fish-Off, a citywide seafood-cooking competition with weekly reveals (timed to pickups) featuring local chefs and community partners as judges. Follow #fishadelphiacooks for the drama and seafood dish submissions. The Summer 2021 season, with pickups at four farmers markets (FDR Park, Bethel AME Church of Ardmore, Mifflin Square, and Urban Creators Life Do Grow Farm) starts July 10.
Adeline Koh’s small-batch, handcrafted, Korean-inspired beauty and skin-care products have amassed a deeply loyal following. “Adeline is a bit of a mad scientist,” says Poi Dog owner Kiki Aranita, whose Hawaiian dishes inspired Kiki’s Seaweed & Coconut Mask. Products are “never tested on animals, just Adeline and Sabbatical Beauty employees.” Several products are named after customers, like Piper’s Peat Serum (named after friend Valette Piper-Bledsoe). Koh, who’s also the director of the Digital Humanities Center at Stockton University, has built a digital community around the products, including a private Facebook group where thousands of members swap tips. Aranita recommends the redness-soothing CALM Cream ($75 / 2.3 oz), skin brightening Sakekasu Mask($95 / 2.3 oz.), and Gua Sha crystal tools ($25-$30).
Tokyo-born potter Shinobu Habauchi makes each piece by hand using traditional methods and local resources, sourcing wild clay from Maryland, and makes glazes with ash from wood, rice straw, and rice husks. The pieces are created on a Japanese kick wheel crafted by a Pittsburgh woodworker, and fired in wood kilns. Habauchi’s work is inspired by wabi-sabi, “a Japanese philosophy that suggests that there is a unique beauty found within imperfect or nonconventional forms” and people in her life, including her Japanese tea-master grandmother and her former teacher, a world-renowned floral designer. She adheres to the traditional process, including wood firing, which “brings new life to the pottery,” and kintsugi, where broken pottery is repaired with gold leaf to highlight the beauty of imperfections. Habauchi sells her work on Etsy, and soon at pop-ups at Philly Japanese restaurants and Asian markets.
Brothers Ky and Rick Cao are behind the heritage streetwear shop P’s & Q’s. Building on the sorely missed Abakus Takeout, a boutique sneaker consignment shop in Chinatown, P’s & Q’s now has a worldwide following. “We carry a lot of independent brands that we personally love,” says Ky. “It’s kind of like the Philadelphia story of being the underdog: We like to rep the little guys.” Their designs emulate classic style and skateboard culture from both coasts, as well as draw from both high-fashion and local designers. Look for sneakers, boots, backpacks, incense and candles, and grooming products, as well as art pop-ups and talks from local creatives. “P’s & Q’s is all about the community,” says Ky. The P’s & Q’s private label is locally made, and includes local collaborations for a cause, such as their partnership with chef Cristina Martinez, where 100% of proceeds went to support People’s Kitchen Philly. It sold out in two days.
Henry Sam started fixing and thrifting bikes when he was 14 because “as a first-generation immigrant living in poverty, I didn’t have money to spend at the bike shop to get my bike repaired anyways.” At 17, he got started in the bike industry at Kayuh in Francisville, quickly rising to head mechanic, and then taking over the reins in 2109 when the owner moved back to Malaysia. The community-minded space offers affordable bike repairs, free repair clinics, and group rides, as well as events featuring local comedians, musicians, and poets. It also hosts political candidates to connect with residents of a rapidly changing neighborhood. The bike shop is now fully open; you can also order from the cafe online for pickup. He hopes to relaunch events for small groups soon.
Peicha Chang expanded her first business, Falls Flowers, into a cafe, greenhouse, and gift shop with a focus on hyperlocal and seasonal goods. “During the pandemic, we finally were able to transition away from the traditional model of relying heavily on imported flowers to selling exclusively local and domestic flowers,” says Chang. She also transitioned her gift selection to feature only local vendors, and allows them to rent space in the shop and sell on consignment. “This allows us to provide a great selection of gifts while also being able to pay our vendors higher-than-wholesale rates for their products,” Chang explains. Chang’s vision is “to create a space to encourage folks to get to know one another and discover new things.”
Cesar Gonzales, co-owner of The Gables Bed & Breakfast in West Philly and the historic Stirling Guest Hotel in Reading, opened two restaurants during the pandemic: The Gables Café and Kusina Philly, both offering Filipino food. Now he’s launching a soup kitchen community pantry, which will offer fresh produce, as well as personal supplies and toiletries. “Given we grew up poor, my view is that everyone needs help. It doesn’t matter if you’re wealthy, poor, or in between,” says Gonzales. “There are times when you just need help.” Gonzales hopes people who can afford to will extend a helping hand, either by donating supplies or by volunteering a few hours a month.
Today, cricket is the second largest sport in the world, with 2.5 billion global followers (the sport is most popular in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Australia) and more than 200,000 registered American players. Our local minor league team, the Philadelphians, was founded by local entrepreneurs Murali Kailashnath, Santhosh Kandasamy, Mayurnath Sankar Rao, Sathya Narayana C.V., Jaisri Murahari, and Ernie Precious. The team is currently drafting players and choosing a team captain. Narayana says the group wants to promote cricket in the region and create a pool of talent. Watch and cheer as they take on teams like the New England Eagles, DC Hawks, New Jersey Stallions, and New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers Cricket Club. Find the matches on Willow TV (available on Fios and Xfinity).
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