Gather Round the Table
with Kate Wheeler
Kate Wheeler started as a spice merchant with Savory around the time we first opened shop in 2004. A decade later, we are thrilled that she has embarked on the next leg of her journey as the owner of the Savory Spice Shop in Santa Fe, NM. Kate is not only a spice expert, she's also a fabulously creative chef.
My Journey Through Savory Spice Shop
I feel like I am a Senior in High School again. I am ready to graduate and move up to a new level in life. And to think, I started out just a wee-little thing in a tiny little spice shop on Platte Street.
It was 2005 and I was on my first date with my now husband, Drew. We were on our way to the aquarium, and we passed by this quaint little spice shop. I hadn’t seen a spice shop since France, four years prior, and I was so excited I almost caused a car accident. I ran into the shop, my date almost forgotten, and gazed in awe. I bought a Front Range gift set for my parents for Easter; that was all I could wrap my head around on the first visit! I spoke with Janet, the owner, and wouldn’t you know it, she asked if I was looking for a job. As fate would have it, I had just gotten off a job with Raytheon in Antarctica. In a weeks’ time I had a man and a job!
I started out as a Spice Merchant in the shop, but only for about a week. I remember my first day at the shop. I was asked to jar Hungarian paprika. I had a huge bowl of the bright red stuff and I just thought to myself “This is the coolest thing I have ever done in the food world!” Soon after I started there was a need for a Grinder/Blender and I expressed interest in learning the trade. Boy did Mike put me to the test! On the first day he had me blend and grind the three spicest and hardest blends (in my opinion): Harissa, Thai Green Curry, and Red Thai Curry. As I sneezed and coughed into my (at the time) under-equipped respirator, Mike patted me on the shoulder and deemed me worthy of my new title.
I continued to blend and grind for three years. During this time I also took up many other duties. I started doing the ordering for the store. When Mike and Janet realized it would be a healthy thing for their marriage if they had separate stores, Littleton was born. I became Assistant Manager at Denver. The stores were prosperous and we developed new ways to do things, and-oh, by the way, did I mention I was going to school too? Soon I became Manager of the Denver store. Boulder was born, and blending and grinding became more difficult. We hired another blender and grinder and co-manager, Aimee, who now runs production at our warehouse.
I loved this time at the store. I got to work side by side with Mike creating new exciting blends and discovering new products. I loved helping to create blends for Tikka Masala and Mexican Mole. I worked on Tikka Masala recipes for weeks, trying to come up with something that was perfect for Mike. I still have tons of notes in my spice books. And I STILL can’t find a mole as good as ours. Of course we ate mole for what felt like months trying to come up with the perfect blend. I couldn’t eat mole for years after that blend. And when Szechwan peppercorns were legal again? I remember trying those for the first time. We were all standing around a table and it was like we were all trying a drug or something: “Can you still FEEL that??” If you’ve ever tried one, you know what I’m talking about.
Then we started to franchise. Here’s where life took a big turn. Savory Spice Shop started expanding exponentially. We opened our franchise model store in Lowry, and after a while Mike and Janet approached me about a training position with the franchising team. I love to teach, and this was a great opportunity for me to share my love of this company and product. I transferred from the Platte Street Store to Lowry and started my new position. I trained the new franchisees on how to run their shops and on each and every product in the store. Then I would travel to their stores with them and help them open. What a cool gig, huh?
It turned out that I was travelling too much to run a store, so I stepped down as Manager. I started working a couple days a week in the test kitchen testing recipe submissions. The franchising team also narrowed my job down to training franchisees on product knowledge. Now I had my ultimate dream job. I was travelling, cooking, working in a store, teaching, but was it enough? Apparently not.
I just turned 28. I guess I just had my quarter-life crisis. I talked to my husband and said this was the year of change. We needed to do something: move, open a business, have a kid, something! We were in a rut. So I approached my in-laws who had been asking me for some time if I wanted to open a franchise and asked if they were ready. They were more than ready. I approached Mike and Janet and they said, “How soon do you want to open?” And just like that, in two days, my life had changed again. I get to own my very own Savory Spice Shop.
I cannot really express how much this means to me. Or how much Mike and Janet or Savory Spice Shop means to me. This is a company that really cares about its employees and customers, so that its employees and customers care back. I have met so many people and made many friends on this journey. They have all meant so much to me and I will sincerely miss everyone in Denver. There have also been bumps on my journey but I can truly say that they made me into a better more effective person. Mike especially has been a truly inspired teacher for me. He’s tough, but fair, and he’s taught me some extremely important life and business lessons. My life has certainly been enriched by these two lovely individuals.
So, my house is sold, I am in negotiations over a lease, and I am getting ready to move. And I feel like a Senior in High School again. Graduation day is just around the bend…