Savory Spice Shop: Taking Advantage of the Latest Trend

savory spice shop

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.

savory spice shop

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.

savory spice shop

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


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Executive Editor for Small Business Trends and a professional journalist with more than 20 years experience in traditional and digital media for trade publications and news sites. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has served as a beat reporter, columnist, editorial writer, bureau chief and managing editor for the Berks Mont Newspapers.

11 Reactions
  1. This is an interesting franchise concept.

    I’d like to see what their 5-year plan is, though.

    For example, what do they have planned? What’s in the pipeline? What types of add-on products/services are in store?

    Thanks for the info, Shawn.

    The Franchise King®

    • Good question, Joel. And it’s one I don’t frankly have the answer to. Perhaps we’ll get some comments here from some more directly involved with the franchise to help us address this.

  2. I’m a decent cook, but I’ll admit that seasoning is one of the weaknesses in my cooking abilities. I’d love having a source of quality spices like this nearby.

  3. Hi Robert,
    If you check the main site’s location guide to local franchises, you’ll see there are plenty of opportunities still available, although I’m thinking being selective about location would be very important with this franchise.

  4. Well defined post to upgrade us on what is essential to stay competitive & in control. As franchise business is really blossoming under the current state. That is why it has become evident to go for random change in planning to stay upbeat & work as per market demand.

  5. I like this business concept. I love spices, and am always hunting for great combinations of spices.

    For some kinds of foods and tastes, you just NEED great spices. Consider an Italian olive oil dip with spices, for bread or crudites. Without great spices it’s not half as good.

    Or in some cultures, the spices are everything, such as Indian food. What’s a good curry dish without good curry spices?

    – Anita

  6. Really interesting. It might work as they are filling in a really decent need. It also opens people’s palates to the natural taste of spices. That is something that I am personally interested in.

  7. Wendy@ideasremixed

    So glad to see that they are adding recipes and education types of things for their marketing. I’m a foodie and this is an area a lot of people would love to explore.

  8. It’s interesting the niche they chose to go into. I’m not really into spices, but if I saw a spice shop such as theirs, I’d probably go in and have a meander round out of curiosity.

    I like that they called the place they studied “Spice University”! 🙂

    Good on them for making a success of it.

  9. Such an interesting read. I like how they are able to amend recipes with herbs and spices instead of salt. Much healthier.