Recently, in the midst of my pursuit to discover new and exciting Sacramento businesses, I discovered Allspicery. a one-stop shop for spices and the only spice shop in Sacramento. Allspicery stocks everything from pantry staples like parsley and nutmeg, to more eclectic spices like Ethiopian Berbere and Licorice Root Powder. Thanks to the ethnic diversity of the Sacramento customer base, the shop has proven to be a success.
The shop is the dream child of Heather Wong, who used to chat with her friends about one day opening a little shop where people would come in and be part of a community. That desire to have something special turned into reality two years ago, when she took her idea and entered it into the business plan competition created by the Downtown Sacramento Foundation, “Calling All Dreamers.” The competition invites and provides entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their business plan to a panel of judges in hopes of making their business shop dreams a reality.
The winner of the contest receives a business start-up package that features a cash prize of $10,000. In addition, the prize includes 6 months of free rent, business planning and coaching, marketing, advertising, and accounting services to help execute their plan, as well as a general contractor and interior designer working at their side to help create the perfect fit and style for their storefront.
Wong’s idea impressed the judges and she was selected as the 2015 winner.
With the shop’s first anniversary quickly approaching, Wong explains what life has been like since winning: “There has been a lot of learning and sometimes I feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants. But the support from the community has been overwhelming. Customers seem genuinely excited to have something so unique in the area. And I am excited that they continue to come back for more!”
With my affection for local businesses that make our community stand out and my love to cook and taste new flavors, I walked into the storefront located on 11th and L not knowing what to expect, but excited to find out. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in. The spices were in jars lined up and organized by categories: blends, spices, herbs, chilies, salts, peppers, sugars, and teas. The combination of smells was inviting and familiar, almost like coming home to a dinner that has been sitting in the Crockpot for hours. My sentiment resonated with Wong, as she explained, “Food is personal, and flavors have the ability to take you back in time, anywhere from childhood to last night’s dinner.”
But even with the familiarity of smells and organization of spices, it can be overwhelming to understand where to start when it comes to finding the right spice for you.
Wong provided some insight on how some people attack it: “When it comes to spices it’s pretty easy, pick a spice and try it. But most people who are not naturally experimental like to start with our rubs. We have an amazing Espresso Spice Rub that you can put on all meats. Coffee on meat is a trend and our collaboration with Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters really helps elevate the meat that you put on the grill.”
In addition to working with Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters, she also works with V Miller Meats and Devil May Care Ice Cream. In the years to come she wants to expand her involvement with local stores and restaurants.
She goes on to add, “Collaborating with other local stores is a great way to introduce newcomers to the spice world. This year, I have also found that the desire to try spices is more seasonal than I had anticipated. While our rubs are most popular during the summer grilling season, we couldn’t keep our mulling spice mixes on the shelf over the holidays.”
In addition to mulling spices—a blend of spices that are often used in drinks and holiday recipes—customers have become quick fans of the variety of flavored sugars, salts, and spices that add heat to dishes. To keep the shelves stocked with flavors, she relies on an arsenal of specialty spice vendors, continuously striving to balance quality and price for her customers. And to not become complacent, she also attends trade shows like the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco to find new vendors and new flavors to bring into her shop.
With the first year nearly under her belt, she is taking all that she has learned to make the shop even better. Continuing to come up with ideas on how people can use spices, she has added recipes online for her customers to try out in their home kitchens.
“The excitement of spices is contagious”, Wong says, and she hopes to continue helping faithful customers discover new and exciting flavors for many years to come.