Working at The Spice House’s helpdesk, I spend each day answering calls, live chats, and emails from customers seeking spice suggestions, future customers tracking down that hard-to-find item, and Spice House fans relaying their experience shopping with us and enjoying our products.
One recent complimentary email read:
“Hello, I’m bringing my grandson and granddaughter to your store… They are 12 and 10 years old and love to cook/bake. It has been my tradition to take the grands, out to eat and shop for birthday gifts. Isaac, my grandson wants to go to a spice house and a nice restaurant…Just wanted you to know we LOVE your products. –Pamella”
This message struck me as unique, since I had worked on the sales floor of two of our stores for about 8 years. When I conjure up memories of children in our shops, I remember the 100-yard stares out the front window as they waited for their parents to finish shopping, the brewing of exasperated sighs that would build to plaintive expressions of “let’s go-o-o,” and the apogee of boring ol’ parental spice shopping intolerance: the pinched nose/wincing combination.
My curiosity was piqued when I heard that these children specifically requested to come to our shop. I replied and thanked Pamella for her kind compliment and inquired further to see which location they planned to visit. We exchanged some messages back and forth, weighing travel and parking convenience versus the best neighborhood for sightseeing and additional food shopping. The day of the trip, Pamella decided on spinning the roulette wheel of finding parking in Chicago, and concluded her 5-hour journey from central Illinois at our Old Town Chicago location.
Sadly, when the day of the big trip arrived, 10-year-old Chloe was unable to make the journey, but Isaac and Grandma hit the road and arrived at our store in the late morning. Our store staff rolled out the red carpet and put together some little samples and gift bags for Isaac and some to take home to Chloe. Stephanie, one of our standout spice merchants, asked Isaac a few questions about his interest in spices and cooking:
Stephanie: What is your favorite thing to cook?
Isaac: Blueberry tart.
Stephanie: What is your favorite spice?
Isaac: Apple Pie Spice.
Stephanie: Where does your drive for cooking come from?
Isaac: My mom. I want to learn to make her Christmas rolls one day.
Isaac first selected spices for others with his Christmas money, then he picked out some items for himself. Our staff later directed Pamella and Isaac to Old Town Oil (an olive oil and balsamic shop next door to our store), La Fournette (a neighborhood French bakery), and Lou Malnati’s pizzeria for a delicious way to spend the rest of their day in Chicago.
Upon arriving back home, Pamella wrote me with a recap of their trip:
“Isaac had such a great time and certainly appreciated all of the attention from the staff. The gift bags were also appreciated. As a teacher I believe it is so important to encourage young people in their interests and your shop was just the ticket. It was a perfect day. This young man is such a giver, he had some Christmas money and the first 2 items he purchased were for his parents, a steak spice for his dad and the cute mug with cocoa samples for his mom, proud grandma moment. We will be back. He asked on our journey home ‘can we come back?’ A good indicator that he enjoyed the day.“
A few days later Pamella touched base with Isaac to see how he liked his purchases and his trip. Isaac was still abuzz and recounted his birthday trip to Pamella and she passed this along:
“’They made me feel welcome. I loved all the different smells in the store. Oh and I love all the samples, you know what you are purchasing. The cocoa made amazing hot chocolate.’ One of the employees told us about Lou Malnati’s pizza, best advice we loved the pizza. Isaac said the French bakery, La Fournette had awesome pretzels and he’s already cooking with the oils he bought from Old Town Oil.”
Isaac’s late December trip to our store was a nice capper on a wonderful year here at The Spice House. We start off a new year filled with ideas and goals for the company to continue growing while still making fresh spices with excellent customer service our main objective. As we forge forward, it’s reassuring to know that we have a new generation of Spice House fans like Isaac and Chloe in the wings.
Joe Goltz has worked at The Spice House stores in Chicago and Evanston and at our fulfillment center in Skokie, IL. He currently is doing customer care and help desk work and is most likely the voice you hear when you give us a call. If you’ve seen a band playing New Orleans-style music in the Midwest in the past 20 years, there’s a great chance that Joe and his trombone were/are somehow involved.