Frugal food lovers looking to recreate the dishes they salivate over at local fine eateries and cooking-show fans looking to test out their favorite chef’s recipes can rejoice — not one, but two culinary spice stores have opened downtown.
Extraordinary Ingredients Gourmet Pantry owner Kerri Olivier unlocked her doors at 612 N. Tejon St. on Nov. 14, and Savory Spice Shop owners Dick and Mary Frieg raised the open sign outside their doors Nov. 23 at 110 N. Tejon St.
Olivier has spent much of her adult life as a medical-office financial consultant.
“I reached a point where I wanted to do something I’m passionate about,” she said. “I love food and these products, and my partner wanted to make these products available to more people, so it was a good fit.”
Extraordinary Ingredients Gourmet Pantry will offer what Olivier calls gourmet ingredients from around the world. The store will carry hundreds of items, including the store’s flagship products — Turkish olive oil and pomegranate reduction.
“The pomegranate reduction has been our No. 1 seller during the first four days we’ve been open,” Olivier said. “It has a wide variety of uses. People use it instead of balsamic vinegar. I use it on my yogurt, but people use it for finishing grilled meats, lamb and beef or in martinis and manhattans. Most of the products out there that are similar are made of molasses and they have a lot of sugar, but this is not. That’s our distinction.”
The key for Olivier stems from her partnership with David Nigh, a spice and ingredients wholesale importer from Denver.
Olivier said Nigh has supplied fine restaurants along the Front Range with spices and ingredients for the past 10 years, and counts many Colorado Springs restaurants among his clients, including the Margarita at Pine Creek, The Blue Star, The Craftwood Inn, The Cliff House, McKenzie’s Chop House and Nosh.
Dick Frieg’s story is a tad different, yet oddly similar.
After 19 years as a vice president for a local publishing company, he decided to take a severance package rather than lay off members of his staff.
A fan of food and cooking, Frieg used his severance, some personal savings and a Small Business Administration loan to purchase a Savory Spice Shop franchise from Mike and Janet Johnston, who started Savory Spice in Denver five years ago.
“My wife and I have been avid customers of theirs for years,” Frieg said. “Once you discover them, you don’t go back to supermarkets.”
With 1,800 square feet, the Friegs will stock more 400 hand-blended products. Their inventory is imported from places like the Middle East and Asia.
“We’re trying to replicate an old general-store feel, with hardwood floors and glass (spice filled) bottles lining the walls,” Frieg said. “Our taster bottles provide a wall of aroma as you enter the store and also provide accessibility to the spices.”
The Friegs product lines should appeal to both novice cooks and full-on gourmet chefs. They’ve even placed recipe cards throughout the store to give customers ideas about how they can use the spices and what they can buy to make the recipes.
Another advantage of the store is it allows customers to buy varying amounts of spices.
“Spices lose their flavor after six months or so, so you’re better off buying smaller amounts and we’re trying to price our products below the grocery stores,” Frieg said.
He has no qualms about starting a business during the midst of the worst recession in decades.
“All of those Denver stores have seen growth even in this down economy,” Frieg said. “More people are cooking at home, but they want the flavor of eating out, so they want the good ingredients.”
As for locating downtown, Frieg likes the central location and the foot traffic that comes with the area.
“This is the type of retail environment we wanted for this concept,” he said. “It’s centrally located, very accessible and had the feel we’re looking for.”
Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.