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Life Arts    H4'ed 2/11/15

Sights, Scents and Stories from a Spice Emporium

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Don't get me wrong, some of it gets very old. But those are all things on the administrative side. My husband and I did not go to college to learn marketing, human resources, all the complicated interactions between website business and SEO, CPC, conversion rates, ROAS, etc and it is often difficult for us to wear these hats.

Patty and Tom Erd, proprietors
Patty and Tom Erd, proprietors
(Image by The Spice House)
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I have no idea what any of those things are!

The spice part, that never gets old. We will forever love this part of our business. Getting in these products from all over the world and grinding them and mixing them into wonderful seasonings is our passion. When we get a new product for the very first time, we sometimes feel like a kid opening a Christmas gift. Sharing top quality products with the customers that appreciate them really is a wonderful daily experience. We have amazing customers, and the reason they shop with us is that they want to cook with top quality ingredients. It's like we have this super fun club where people who love to cook come in and become instant members. We share advice and suggestions, both ways. It's not at all uncommon for me to open our email and find a recipe that a customer wants to direct to a staff member that helped them because they were talking about making it. Even better, we often have customers bringing us goodies they made because they are so excited about how they turned out and want to share. How much more interactive and heartfelt could it get?

Fabulous! You started in the shop at age 8. I'd love to hear some childhood memories of those days. What do you remember?

On Saturdays, I had to go to the store to earn my allowance. Dad was an amazing man, and his ideas of spice studies were quite wide ranged and sometimes a little out there! One day, I had to open up a bunch of cardamom pods and count the number of seeds in each pod and record whether they were black or brown. Another time, he fell in love with this Russian cookbook and we made a really special spice gift box. I took Russian in grade school, and I had to draw the Russian names on the labels individually. Then, we got some pepper mills that had a top shaped like the onion tops of Russian orthodox churches. We painstakingly painted them to look like some of the domes of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

We chewed on a black peppercorn each day at work for "remembrance". Another thing we would do was eat a little ginger, as that another of Dad's saying was "a pinch of ginger keeps the heart warm." At the recent wedding of my niece Eva, the first of our next generation to get married, we put out a bowl of ginger with that saying written on a window behind it, encouraging everyone to have a piece. When we were sleepy in the afternoon, Dad made us drink a mixture of cayenne pepper in water to liven us up. Dad was often in the back, working on his various "projects" and spice studies, while Mom manned the floor. The customers just loved her, and still do, 57 years later, on the days she is still in her store. She never lost her love of taking care of our people.

Very popular Aleppo chile pepper
Very popular Aleppo chile pepper
(Image by The Spice House)
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What skills did you pick up from your parents? Have you found their strategies still useful in today's economy? Do you all get together and talk shop, swapping ideas?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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