If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do these pictures of Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland, California tell you?
Are you thinking something like: They know spice. They know branding. They’re into it. And they know merchandising ?
Oaktown Spice Shop is the brainchild of John and Erica, who met in Wisconsin, and hearkens back to one of John’s early jobs at a spice shop. The duo help people like me choose between several cinnamon varieties for chai making, put together gifts in baskets they sell, and — if you can get into one of their rare workshops — learn stuff like how to make mustard as well as chai blends, taught by a botanist. While they sell mortars and pestles, John reminded me a simple rolling pin or wine bottle works wonders for grinding spices. How nice to hear a DIY ethos from a “sales” person!
John shared a fun history tutorial about the post-World War II State of Spice in the U.S.: Rudimentary. Remember those dusty old celery salt bottles in your parents’ cabinet? (If you’re from my generation anyway. Or maybe even if you aren’t, your mom has her mom’s 50 year old celery salt in the dark recesses of the corner cabinet.)
As the American palate invites more diverse foods and recipe websites and shows inspire more experimentation, spice shops have sprinkled the nation like a nutmeg-dusted latte, led by Penzey’s, with customers buying a wide variety of spices to try blending or simply using as sold.
A nice old fashioned feel, along with a cute retro logo, this new shop is a great destination for Bay Area spice lovers who prefer indi over cookie cutter (as well as interesting spices for your cut cookies) and for food entrepreneurs to look at for inspiration as a vibrant local business sprung from passion.
And now it’s tea time…off to crush my cinnamon and spices!
Find Oaktown Spice Shop at 530 Grand Ave, Oakland, Ca 94610 a 1 block walk from the Saturday farmers market across from Lake Merritt.