What's the best way to make sure a new business has a chance to thrive? Give the people what they want and don't have. When Amy MacCabe and her husband Scott left the Windy City in 2001, a search for milder weather brought them to Charlotte, where they settled down with jobs at Bank of America. Itching to open her own business and noticing an absence of the spice houses she frequented in Chicago and Milwaukee, Amy, along with Scott, opened Savory Spice Shop in the Atherton Mill and Market (2000 South Blvd., Suite 150 ) just a few weeks ago. "It's always nerve-wracking to start something new," says Amy, "but I know that Charlotte's ready."
Creative Loafing: You went from working in the corporate world to opening up a "mom and pop" shop. What was the transition like for you?
Amy MacCabe: I've actually done a couple of things since I've been in Charlotte. I worked at Bank of America, I got my masters in library and information science, and I worked at Johnson and Wales library for a couple of years. Working with my husband is really fun. He still has his day job but he comes in on weekends or late in the evenings to help. He's very passionate about talking with folks about how to use spices. He has really creative ideas, like how to fancy up your martinis or Bloody Mary's with them. It doesn't feel like it's a job when we're together.
What's the difference between shopping at your store and picking up some spices at the local grocery store?
There's a big difference. All of our product is imported weekly from our warehouse in Denver, where it's been ground down to a powder or spice or hand-blended. We order small batches, five to 10 pounds of product each week. We want to make sure the product is as fresh as possible. Customers can come in and buy as little or as much as they want, so they're not paying six or seven dollars for spices that are going to sit on their shelves for years and never be used.
We have over 400 spices and herbs and we have an exotic selection; one of the fun ones that I like to sample with the customers is the pure wasabi root. At sushi places, what you usually get is horseradish, mustard and green food coloring, but the pure root is interesting because it's a much more subtle flavor.
Some people may say it's too risky to open a new business in this economy. What helps keep you optimistic?
We've had such a great response. We looked all over Charlotte for our location and we felt that there was a really strong sense of community in South End, and a strong focus on local foods. I hope we're the primary destination in Charlotte for folks wanting to learn how to use spices, whether they're just starting out putting spices in their cabinet for the first time or if they own a restaurant and want to buy really fresh product.