As the owners of The Spice House, my husband Tom and I often wrestle with time management issues, there simply is not enough time in the day for all of the hats we must wear. We have learned that, while painful, you can delegate chores. They might not be done to the standard to which we aspire, but they can come close enough. I personally answer the company email for hours every day, and we have discussed whether this is something that could be given to one of our staff members. Many of these emails are very simple, but others are quite complex. Often times, simply out of politeness, unless my box has over 200 emails to get through, I will seek out an answer for someone who is looking to find a product we do not carry, or a recipe. I sometimes wonder if it is possible that so many people out there have no idea how to google the information they need. Or perhaps I have unwittingly turned myself into a Ready Reference resource. Growing up, before the days of computers, we used libraries and reference books. The families that could afford encyclopedias invested serious money in these books which their children could use as a valuable resource for schoolwork. Tom even sold encyclopedias on the road awhile in his youth, if you want a good laugh ask him about those ?good old days?! If you were not lucky enough to have some serious reference books at home, the library had a Ready Reference number you called for help. The person who answered was not hooked into any computer, she would leave the desk, go get a book, and look up the answer for you. So, on the most generic level, I may now be this person. HOWEVER, on the most valuable level, I can?t tell you how many emails I read that are written by remarkable people.
Everyone is familiar with the excitement of opening beautifully wrapped presents during the holidays. What lovely treasure might be discovered in the box? Maybe a beautiful jewel of a gift, sometimes a dud. We are fortunate to experience that anticipation year round, here at The Spice House, when we open our bulk packages of spices, that come to us from exotic ports all over the Earth. Some hand picked cloves come to us in beautiful wooden crates, stamped with a colored ink design of a ship sailing the ocean. The wooden box is necessary to keep the hand select cloves in perfect condition. Cinnamon from Ceylon comes in five foot tall bundles, the long quills are carefully wrapped and then burlap is sewn around them. Saffron comes from Spain in decorated tins, depicting the harvesting of saffron. Cardamom comes from India, in a box stamped with an elephant, and even through the box, the heady aroma emerges. My favorite box to open is those filled with vanilla bean. We just received a shipment this last week.
It occurs to me that anticipation might be one of the most wonderful things in life. Anticipation is a positive energy of its own volition. Currently we are anticipating Thanksgiving dinner, as the host, my brother, is a fantastic cook! He makes three or four different turkeys, and then packs everyone a leftover care package. We also have business anticipations for the holidays. We are in a nice position, because of the uniqueness of our business, that PR really just floats in to us, usually via email these days. Each holiday season, we get some press for our spice themed gift boxes . We never know where these mentions will come from, and it is always with great anticipation that we look forward to them, whatever the venue. This year we are excited to have several connections working for us, including Saveur Magazine and a new television show about comfort food hosted by Art Smith.
It occurs to me that anticipation might be one of the most wonderful things in life. Anticipation is different from expectations. order viagra 100mg
s=”asset asset-image at-xid-6a00e552094ec88834012875b8d50f970c ” style=”margin: 1px; border: #bf5f00 3px solid;” title=”11-21-08 years photos 457″ src=”/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/postimages/6a00e552094ec88834012875697dc5970c-320pi.jpg” alt=”11-21-08 years photos 457″ /> Expectations can be fulfilled or not fulfilled, and leave you disappointed, while anticipation is always something you look forward to. No one anticipates a trip to the dentist, for example. Anticipation is a positive energy of its own volition. Currently we are anitipating Thanksgiving dinner, as the host, my brother, Bill Penzey Jr., is a fantastic cook! He makes three different turkeys, and then packs everyone a leftover care package. We also have business anticipations for the holidays. We are in such a nice position to have this unique business, that PR really just floats into us, usually via email these days. Each holiday season, we get some press for our spice themed gift boxes . We never know where these will come from, and it is always with great anticipation that we look forward to these press mentions. This year we are excited to have several connections working with us, including Saveur Magazine! and a new television show about comfort food hosted by Art Smith.
We sent gift boxes to the editorial staff of Saveur magazine, and have recently had word that we have been selected to be in their gift guide. We have also sent boxes to be considered for the USA today.com gift guide. In addition, a new show on The Learning Channel, that is doing a show about comfort food, has asked if they can come in with Art Smith on December 19th to film our Chinese 5 Spice being created. Paula Haney, of Hoosier Mama Pie Company uses this blend to create an amazing apple pie. That Saturday is the busiest Saturday of the year, but who says no to a television spot?! One of my alltime favorite anticipations of the year is an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown which is about free range fruitcake, where Alton filmed a segment in our Evanston shop. The first year it aired, the Food Network had not yet been picked up in Chicago. Much to my surprise, the following year the episode aired again. And it has aired ever since. My hope is that it will continue to air until something about fruitcake changes! Will it air again this year? Is my anticipation warrented? Since I just put in the above link, all I can say it HOORAY, we love you Alton Brown!
Two summers ago I fell in love with the city of Madison, Wisconsin, while attending a governor’s conference for Slow Food. While Chicago hosts no shortage of fine farmer’s markets, I was blown away by the Madison farmer’s market, held in a square anchored by the glorious capitol building. One of my twin nieces is attending college there and she has a strong interest in environmental sciences. While we had lunch, I tried my best to coerce her into joining the University of Wisconsin chapter of Slow Food. We had all agreed at the conference meetings that it is extremely important to the future of the Slow Food movement that its vision is embraced by these young students, whose vibrancy and energy will lead to the dedication to continue the cause. At the time I tried to view my suggestions through her eyes, the intellectual college student listing to her aunt, most likely humoring her. I figured that my suggestion probably got lumped into one of those categories of helpful advice like ?If your room was neat and organized, you would not believe how much easier it would be to concentrate on your homework!? So I was delighted to receive an email the following year (a seed takes awhile to sprout) saying she was going to a Slow Food potluck that night.
The folks in this photo are waiting in line at the Milwaukee Public Market to have authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg autograph a copy of The Flavor Bible. This was about a year ago when the book was first out. We were lucky enough to have this dedicated couple do book signings for us in not just one, but THREE different Spice House locations!
Since we are a spice store, not a book store, we are extremely selective about which books we carry. We choose only four titles a year, as the books will use up valuable shelf space that is very necessary to showcase our 400 plus spice products in our tiny shops. We usually swap out books from year to year, yet The Flavor Bible remains on the first string roster. Simply put, this is an AMAZING book. It is a classic reference guide that is a must for any kitchen, from the uninitiated cook to the most seasoned veteran. When I need a thank-you or hostess gifts for chef friends who already possess all things culinary, this is what I bring. All the chefs I have given it to loved it, with the exception of Carrie Nahabedian. I tried to give the book to her before I read it; it ends up that she is one of the experts quoted in the book and naturally she had her own supply of the book! EVERYONE loves this book. Why does The Flavor Bible earn such high praise and accolades, enough to keep it a hot seller even after a year on the market?
Three Spice House staffers (myself, Desi, and Roxanne) took last Sunday off to drive up to Door Couny for a day of cherry picking. This is an annual trip for me, to stock my freezer for winter pie making, but it was fun to have company this year. We left right after work Saturday, still smelling of spices, and spent the night in Manitowoc before driving into Door County to look for orchards. I’ve gone to Choice Orchards in Sturgeon Bay before, so we headed in that direction, but we found Cherry Lane Orchard just over the Door County line and went there instead. It’s a gorgeous little orchard run by a friendly, helpful gentleman who set us up with pails and belt clips and sent us out into the trees.
We have followed the take off in organic and sustainable food products with great interest over the last ten years. We have been unsure of what our role should be here. We are big proponents of shopping locally whenever possible and it is one of our great weekly pleasures to shop at our local farmer’s market.
Yet if you were only to cook with locally grown products, your food would be sadly lacking, as you would be spiceless. The climate in this country simply allows for the growth of herbs, but never spices. The third world countries that spices grow in, are not necessarily on the organic band wagon yet, and in some scenarios, we feel it is not our place to force our American demands upon these poor farmers. We have also made it our lifelong mission to bring you the highest level of quality in our spices, would we find organic spices with our desired level of quality?
I am not sure if it is the case for all small business owners, but for us there just are not enough hours in the day to get our work done. It might be that we have more work than most in that we source,
purchase, warehouse, grind, blend, mix and package our of our 400
products in house primarily by hand. Many days we struggle against the clock to get our work done, and we don’t sit down to dinner at home too many nights because we don’t actually even GET home until 8 or 9. However, in spite of this, every once in awhile you have just the best day where you just can’t believe how lucky we are to have such a great way to make our living. Saturday, in the Old Town Chicago shop was just such a day. As owners, with many, many behinds the scenes things we must do, we don’t work the floor as often as we would like. Note to self – work the floor on Saturdays, it is the most fulfilling way to remember how much you love this business! Pictured here, a very enthusiastic chef Jeff Mauro buying all sorts of spices for his new restaurant Jam, which will be at 937 North Damen. While we can not tell you about the food, as it is just about to open, Jeff is using top notch spices so we certainly foresee a commitment to quality! Can’t wait to check it out. Next, we are thrilled to wait on several International customers.
As small business owners, there are things that frustrate us on a regular basis. Mostly wearing too many hats and not having enough time to fulfill all of our jobs in a timely manner. The rewards, however, at the end of the day, far outweigh the negatives. If you are very lucky, you get a crew that clicks and becomes its own family. This photo was taken at a baby shower for one of our Old Town crew, Madeline. The fact that even the male co-workers are in attendance genuinely show their affection for our new Mom, her baby Madison was born yesterday. (Although free drinks probably helped insure their presence!) When you have a crew that enjoys and looks out for one another, they are truly a pleasure to be around. Laughter in the workplace among employees that like each other is music to our ears. Again, like Mom and Dad, when laughter turns to silliness, we have to step in and gets the kids back to focus on work. Don’t tell our staff, but this is the scolding that makes us feel like we really are a family!