By Henri Migala
December 4, 2021 (El Cajon) – Within a couple of blocks in downtown El Cajon, you’ll find an array of new boutiques, a salon, galleries, gift stores, a pastry shop and a coffee shop – all brand new.
For your holiday shopping needs, consider supporting our local economy and these new small businesses, many offering unique goods from around the world reflecting the owners’ multicultural backgrounds.
This is part 2 in our series on new local retailers in East County.
165 E. Main Street, El Cajon
This woman-owned family coffee/baklava shop in downtown El Cajon is likely the most elegant place for coffee and pastries in East County. Sultan Baklava enjoys perfect 5-star reviews on Yelp.
Owner Berivan Bicimli moved to El Cajon from Turkey in 2004. “Everything is made in-house,” said Bicimli. “We make our own dough. Nothing is prepackaged or frozen. We prioritize clean and wholesome ingredients. And all our equipment is important from Turkey.”
Sultan Baklava (not to be confused with Al Sultan Baklava), opened in October 2021. In addition to sumptuous baklava, they also make beautiful and delicious pastries, cakes, and offer premium loose-leaf teas and coffee.
Sophie’s Gallery and Gift Shop
140 E. Main Street, El Cajon
Sophie’s Gallery and Gift shop opened a newer, larger location on Main Street in downtown El Cajon in June 2021. A portion of all sales goes to providing the artist with a paycheck and the rest supports the mission of Sophie’s Center to serve developmentally disabled events.
Available for sale are creative and unique artworks made by adult artists with disabilities. For sale are paintings, weavings, wearable art, jewelry, clothing, ceramics, mosaics and smaller hand-made gifts. Also available are plants from their organic garden at their main center. All plants are propagated by their students and program participants.
Sophie’s Gallery will hold a special reception for their holiday event called “Winged Wonderland,” on Friday, December 10, from 5-8 pm. The event will present winter-inspired woodland and songbird seasonal paintings from Sophie’s Gallery classes, and feature live music.
East County Art Association Gallery
124 East Main Street, El Cajon
East County Art Association’s new gallery displays fine arts by local artists, all available for sale. Designed especially for members and the local community, the gallery hosts a juried show each month that provides a quality exhibition to support local these talented local artists.
What could be finer than to receive the gift of award-winning local artwork? You’ll find a wide variety of styles and themes in this delightful addition to El Cajon’s vibrant downtown district.
The nonprofit organization originally planned to open in March 2020, but the pandemic delayed the opening until 2021 says Linda Baltonado, president.
Maali Salon & Spa
123 E Main Street, El Cajon
Co-owned by Maheieh “Rose” Meimali and Mike Maali, both from Iran, Maali Salon and Spa opened in October 2021. Many of Maali’s customers, both men and women, followed Rose from her previous salon in Forrest Ranch.
Consider a gift certificate for pampering services, or some personal care products.
Rose, as well as the other stylists, are all fully-licensed cosmetologists, offering a full range of beauty services – shampoo, hair coloring, facials, nails, make-up, haircuts, and even hot-towel straight-edged shaves for men. Rose started learning to be a stylist at 15, when she worked for her aunt, who was a well-known stylist in Iran. After moving to the US, Rose retrained to obtain recertification in the US.
“Maali offers specialized services and styles for all people,” said Rose. “We have styles for Chaldeans, Persians, Afghanistanis and Americans. We make everyone feel happy and comfortable.”
Rose recommends that first-time customers should allow for enough time to experience their full treatment, which includes a wash, scalp treatment and massage, hot towel, rinse, cute, dry and style. “We try to make the experience special for each person,” said Rose. “Everyone is happy when they leave here because our clients become our friends.”
SD Unique Boutique
162 E Main Street, El Cajon
Probably the most fascinating new store in El Cajon is Unique Boutique, which offers special traditional Afghan clothes, shoes, purses, wallets, jewelry and more for both men and women. All items are either imported from Afghanistan or made by owner Sayed Hashimi, who moved to San Diego in 2016.
Hashimi came to the US with a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) after working as a cultural and logistics advisor for the U.S. military in Afghanistan for 12 years. He arrived with his wife and 3 children. Hashimi started learning to make clothes when he was only 6 years old, when he would spend half of his day at school and the other half at a local tailor.
“For someone who has never been here,” said Hashimi, “they will see things they cannot see anywhere in San Diego, or even in California.” Hashimi makes and offers attire for weddings, parties, New Year, proms, homecomings and other special occasions, such as Eid, after Ramadan. Some of the very exquisitely made and beautiful jewelry that Hashimi has for sale is over 100 years old.
Unique Boutique also sells rugs from Turkey and Afghanistan. The rugs are all handmade, using only natural colors and local wool. They even have high quality silk rugs. Rugs can also be special ordered according to color, style and size.
153 E Main Street, El Cajon
Owner Rob Chapman worked in Starbucks management for 18 years until he decided he wanted to open a “specialty coffee” shop that focused on quality coffee and community.
“We work only with small-batch roasters who roast our coffee only when we order it,” said Chapman. “So, it’s always fresh. We focus more on the origin of the coffee. It’s called 3rd wave coffee.”
“Our roasters have global connections and so our coffee comes fresh, from all over the world,” continued Chapman. “It’s farm-to-cup.”
In addition to fresh specialty coffees and many unique, tasty seasonal offerings, Rob’s Brewpoint also sells pastries and a variety of coffee brewing equipment.
“A lot of our regular customers just like to hang out,” said Chapman. “We care a lot about community, especially after COVID. Come out and get a coffee. We’re looking to connect with people because we want to get to know our community. We care about your experience.”
Know of a new retail business in East County that we missed? Please post information in our comments section below.