Savory Spice adds flavor to Birkdale
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – If there were Ten Commandments for cooking, one of them would surely be, “Thou shalt always use fresh herbs and spices.”
If you share that philosophy, there’s now a store in Huntersville specializing in top-quality fresh ingredients.
Savory Spice Shop, now open in Birkdale Village, offers spices flown in weekly from the company’s Colorado headquarters which are prepared and packaged on site.
Craig Van Laanen, owner of Savory Spice Shop, said running the shop has been a lifelong dream.
A Wisconsin native, Van Laanen has long had a love of fresh spices, so when the opportunity came to buy a Savory Spice Shop franchise, he knew it was the right choice.
Van Laanen said herbs and spices blend in Denver, Co., shipped in small quantities to ensure freshness, and bottled in-store upon arrival.
Since the store opened in November, Van Laanen said calls come in every week from people trying to find ingredients that are hard to find elsewhere.
One man drove all the way from Hickory to find Grains of Paradise, a spice made from seeds similar to peppercorns, often grown in Africa.
Van Laanen has also had calls for sumac, a Middle Eastern ingredient, which he also carries. The store even carries Epazote, used in Mexican and South American cuisine, which can serve as “a sort of natural Beano,” Van Laanen said.
Van Laanen also carries six different kinds of paprika, four different cinnamons, sea salt, salt blends, truffle-infused salts and more.
In addition to its wide variety, Savory Spice Shop also offers plenty of knowledge on its products.
“We learn from our customers as much as they learn from us,” Van Laanen said.
Reuben Hawkins, a native of Charlotte, and one of the store’s spice merchants, said the store offers customers a chance to experience spices many only read about or see on TV.
“It’s a great place to get lost for a while,” Hawkins said.
Fellow spice merchant Gerri Crifasi said she gets excitement just from walking into the store each day.
“Just getting to bottle them, to smell them,” she said, smiling at the thought.
But no matter the level of knowledge or excitement, the key to Savory Spice’s survival in the current economy is its location, Van Laanen said.
He said locating in Birkdale has allowed him to network with other shop owners and build relationships with chefs at area restaurants in an effort to become their spice source.
Van Laanen said the increased emphasis on healthful living and natural medicine has also contributed to his success. The store carries the book “Healing Spices” and other resources, which Van Lannen said health coaches rely on.
“I couldn’t be more happy. This truly has been a dream I’ve been gearing up for, for years,” Van Laanen said. “We’re glad to be part of the Birkdale community.”