Spotlight: Shifting Sands—The New Face of Palm Springs

Photo: Bridget Fleming
Photo: Bridget Fleming

Jaime Kowal’s 14-year career as a freelancer photographer and multimedia producer has taken her to 23 countries spanning seven continents, providing travel and lifestyle imagery as a Creative Contributor for Getty Images, and to editorial magazines including Wallpaper, Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Adventure, the Oprah Winfrey Network, and She’s been a guest speaker on photography and sustainability at distinguished events including the 2010 Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver, the City of Vancouver Ideas Slam hosted by CBC Television and the Green Living Show, where she shared the stage with Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN Stephen Lewis. Jaime taught photography to students in the Himalayas on her global photography tour Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon in 2008. Her award-winning book, “Waking Up the West Coast: Healers and Visionaries,” had a foreword written by Dr Andrew Weil, who was named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Jaime visited Palm Springs over the holidays last year and fell in love.  She immediately applied for the O-1 Exceptional Artist Visa and moved full-time to Palm Springs where the young entrepreneur has already opened two new businesses, The Amado and Ernest Coffee, with a third, Bootlegger Tiki, soon to come. For this Spotlight, I invited Jaime to share her thoughts on “The New Face of Palm Springs”—why the Palm Springs renaissance is attracting a new kind of superstar: a younger, urbane crowd from larger metropolitan areas…not just to visit, but to live. ~Kate Buckley

Photo: Bridget Fleming
Photo: Bridget Fleming

Palm Springs is sexy. I can truly say I love living here. There is a dynamic, young creative culture and community that I am proud to be a part of. Over the years a few key institutions including The Coachella Music Festival, The Ace Hotel, and a collection of restaurants and bars including Birba, Cheeky’s, and more recently Workshop Kitchen & Bar and Appetito have popped up attracting a younger, more sophisticated crowd from major urban centers while simultaneously providing locals with a myriad of go-to options that simply didn’t exist a few years ago.

I think the demographic that is moving here now appreciates the lifestyle opportunities that exist in Palm Springs for young entrepreneurs and artisan brands, and can see how welcoming the community is. The City of Palm Springs is progressive and supportive of new business and it’s an affordable place to invest. There is a focus on sustainability. Things are happening—there is an energy and it’s palpable. People come for a weekend, fall in love and end up moving here!

Here’s what I’m excited about right now:

Ernest Coffee: This is a project I am personally involved in with my friend and developer/designer, Chris Pardo. There are so many people in the community who have supported us on so many levels which we’re appreciative of. We have enlisted a small army of friends to help make this happen including Calvin Dahlstrom and Jay Longtin who are building all the custom wood and metal furniture. We have the most amazing space in the Uptown Design District which used to be the original Don the Beachcomber’s restaurant. We named it Ernest Coffee after Don’s the Beachcomber’s given name, and Bootlegger Tiki because Don was a bootlegger in the war. We completely upgraded and converted the space to an bright, light and open space serving Stumptown Coffee and locally-made pastries. Our intention is that it will be a hub for the community in the Uptown Design District.

Bootlegger Tiki: In September when we receive our liquor license we will open Bootlegger Tiki which is located behind Ernest Coffee on Via Lola. It’s an intimate interior space with an outdoor patio serving craft cocktails and will be decorated in traditional kitschy decor. We are having a blast sourcing all the tiki paraphernalia and the idea definitely strikes an enthusiastic chord in the community. Who doesn’t love tiki?

Hacienda Cantina & Beach Club: This hot spot was also designed by Chris and boasts multiple bars and restaurants, bocce ball courts, poolside cabanas and an incredible line up of entertainment. It’s going to change the face of Palm Springs by providing us with one-stop destination to hang on the weekends and relax with friends offering great food, drinks and music. It’s opening in time for Splash House which leads me to my next point…

Splash House: The second annual Splash House lineup is super exciting featuring some of my favorite artists including Moby, Neon Indian, Poolside, Purity Ring and Toro y Moi performing poolside June 13-15 at three locations: The Saguaro, The Hard Rock Hotel, and Hacienda Cantina & Beach Club. Goldenvoice and LEDs have an incredible presence in the desert and consequently we are blessed with some amazing shows and artists.

Other hot spots I’m enjoying right now include:

Stay: The Sparrows, Arrive Hotel, and The Lautner Hotel.

Shop: Trina Turk, Pelago, Just Modern, Flow Modern Design, and Dazzles.

Cocktails: Bar, Melvyn’s, and Tuesday Karaoke at The Ace.

Eat: Birba, Cheeky’s, Jiao, Workshop Kitchen + Bar, Smoke Tree Supper Club, Mr. Parker, and Appetito.

Between the incredible community, creative energy, sense of momentum, opportunity, support, ideas, art, entertainment, sunshine and overall lifestyle, there is never a dull moment here in the desert…

Here are four images from my new portrait series inspired by the new young creative culture of Palm Springs. From top to bottom: Megan Waldbillig, Emily Surface, Donovan Funkey, and Molly Funkey.

About David J Castello

David J Castello is the Editor-in-Chief and Chief Operating Officer for the Castello Cities Internet Network (,,, etc). His debut novel, The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959) was published in 2016.

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