Rediscovering my Bosnian heritage in Palm Springs’ Transilvania food market

Transilvania European Food Store owner Dorina Holban doesn’t mind going in the red for her customers, especially if it means it’ll bring a “sparkle in their eyes.”

There are no vampires lurking inside this market. But there isa vast spread of spices, dairy products and salami from the Balkans, a region of eastern Europe. The biggest hits are products that customers remember from their childhood, said Holban, who came to the United States from Romania more than two decades ago and has lived in the Coachella Valley for 10 years.

There’s Smoki, which is a puffed peanut snack, as well as chocolate bars with rice and mushroom-shaped chocolates scattered throughout the shop.

Customers will often let Holban know what items she’s missing, and she’ll write them down on a list to buy so she can surprise them when they return.

Smoki, a puffed peanut snack, at the Transilvania European Food Store in Palm Springs.

“They feel like a spoiled child,” Holban said. “Sometimes I’m losing money because they want something that is very expensive and I have to buy the whole box, but I want them to be happy. For them, it’s something.”

Holban estimates there are more than 2,000 families from the Balkan region in the Coachella Valley, including residents from countries including Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and more. Her store has become such a popular spot that she’s decided to open a second location this fall in Palm Desert, only this one will be called Balkan Food Store.

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