Cindy Jones remembers a time when families didn’t grab food from the nearest take-out windows. Instead, they cooked at home where food and fellowship were part of a single tradition.
Jones grew up in a tight-knit Italian family where food was always part of a central bond. Today, there’s a trend again towards preparing food in the home as a way of reclaiming both family ties and improving health.
It may be bad news for some restaurateurs, but not so much for Jones and her husband Bob’s latest venture. The couple opened a franchise of the Savory Spice Shop  in Raleigh, N.C. in April 2011. The store is part of a brand launched by entrepreneurs Mike and Janet Johnston  of Denver, Col. specializing in offering customers 400 different kinds of spices and 160 custom blends.
Freshness is the cornerstone of the brand with a focus on those passionate about using spices in their own cooking. People Jones calls serious “foodies.”
In fact, Jones says the shop receives spices freshly ground in five pound batches delivered from the franchise headquarters in Denver weekly and tries not to order more than they expect to sell.
She says the distinction from spices sold at grocery stores that may have been on the shelf for weeks isn’t lost on customers. Jones laughs:
“We’ll have customers come up to us and say ‘I never knew cinnamon was supposed to smell like that.'”
Jones and her husband are more than just connoisseurs of their product and of great cooking. They also happen to be trained professionals. As part of the buying of their franchise, the couple also traveled to Denver to spend six weeks of intensive training in what Savory Spice Shop calls its “Spice University.”
Today, the business includes three full-time employees, Jones, her husband and a full-time manager, as well as four part-time employees. They are in the process of hiring a fifth.
Of course, there’s more to running their business than knowing how to order the right spices, opening the doors each day and taking money at the cash register. Jones says a key part of making the local shop a success is the outreach to customers. That involves commitment to constantly learning and helping customers with questions.
For example, Jones says, if a customer has been told to cut salt out of his or her diet, staff at the shop work to find potential replacement. Alternatives include spices like wasabi or pepper.
The shop also conducts regular cooking classes which also raise money for a local rescue mission.
Customers are also offered recipes supplied by the franchise chain and the Raleigh store also submits its own recipes to the company’s test kitchen in Denver for possible sharing with other franchise shops.
When asked why they started their new venture, entrepreneurs frequently give many different answers. For Jones and her husband, while both have an avid interest in home cooking and a passion for all things culinary, the answer was clearly – necessity.
After a career in corporate IT, Bob found himself with shrinking opportunities after turning 50. With one child still college bound and a desire to find a business that would require less travel for him, the couple settled on the Savory Spice Shop option.
Not only did Cindy and Bob Jones pick the right business model. They seem to have chosen the right location, too.
Raleigh, N.C. is at the center of the Research Triangle , an area of the state known as a major hot bed of high tech startups. The area draws a highly educated and affluent workforce. Jones also insists the area’s thriving foodie culture has hugely contributed to the shop’s success.
Finally, Jones said a strong Shop Local Raleigh  program has been a huge boost. Jones said:
“We were probably one of the earliest businesses in the Shop Local movement [in Raleigh]. What we’re seeing is a real renaissance.”
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iCIMS , a leading provider of talent acquisition solutions for growing businesses, is proud to be the official sponsor of Small Business Trend’s “Small Biz Spotlight” of Savory Spice Shop. Like iCIMS, Savory Spice Shop understands the value of providing quality products to meet their customer’s needs. iCIMS is delighted to have the opportunity to support the passionate drive and dedication of companies like Savory Spice Shop through the sponsorship of the “Small Biz Spotlight .” (Visit the “Small Biz Spotlight” series archives  and stay tuned for more small business stories there.)
Images: Savory Spice Shop