COLUMBIA, S.C. — May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and for the first time, the City of Columbia has officially recognized the occasion, too.
It's a time to celebrate diversity in the Capital City and support Asian-owned businesses. News19 spoke with a couple business owners about their culture and why it's important to them.
Camon Japanese Restaurant is owned by the Bowen family, and they celebrate their culture by keeping their menu as "authentic as we can,” said father Calvin Bowen.
Eric Bowen is the sushi chef, while his brothers and parents work in the kitchen and operations. “We are the most traditional restaurant in Columbia, we don’t have no white sauce, we don't carry no fried rice,” Eric said.
It’s important to the Bowens to stay authentic, as an ode to their culture, and the family that owned the restaurant before them.
Eric shared that the previous owner and chef was his mentor. “I always liked his cooking because it always felt like home, when I worked with him it was like home."
Now, he hopes to pass on that feeling of "home" to his customers so they can celebrate food, and get that sense of belonging in the community.
News19 also caught up with Rita Patel, the co-owner of Hotel Trundle in Downtown Columbia.
“Growing up, being so different-- it was not always fun,” shared Patel. As an Indian girl growing up in Orangeburg, Patel said that she and her siblings, "had to break through a lot of barriers.”
Now, she’s a successful business owner and welcomes all into her boutique hotel. "Being a minority-owned business, a woman-owned business, there has been such tremendous support,” said Patel.
As support grows, so does diversity in South Carolina.
According to the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs, there are more than 24 Asian American identities in the state, and South Carolina's AAPI population has more than doubled in the last 20 years, with nearly 95,000 Asian Americans living here today.
For Patel, AAPI Heritage Month is a chance to honor those people and their influence on Columbia. “Celebrating other cultures, traditions, and people inspires that travel, cooking, what you wear, just the appreciation of our differences which is what makes us special,” said Patel.
She encourages others to ask questions and learn more about different cultures, not just this month, but year-round.
In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, the Governor proclaimed May 27 is Asian American and Pacific Islander Business Day in South Carolina.