Modern “Silk Road” Brings Spice Trade to Ann Arbor

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Customers entering Spice Merchants are greeted by a sign advertising products before entering the cozy store.

Eva Hattie L. Schueler and Gabrielle Vuylsteke

Customers entering Spice Merchants are greeted by a sign advertising products before entering the cozy store.
Customers entering Spice Merchants are greeted by a sign advertising products before entering the cozy store.

Some stores entice customers with eye-catching window displays, intriguing products, or exotic aromas: Spice Merchants uses all three. The vintage wood and classic feel of the large spice jars in combination with the promise of flavorful food and smells draw patrons into the shop.

The Michigan-based franchise has been in business for about nine years. Since the opening of their original store in Sagautuck, Michigan, six more locations have opened around the country, as near as Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown and as far as Colorado and California.

The spices come from all over the world. Quentin Mindel, an employee, said that while customers certainly come to Spice Merchants in search of spices that are unavailable in other places, they also come because “the spices themselves are a lot fresher than what you would get in Meijers or Kroger or some other place like that. The freshness of the spice [affects] the flavor of the dishes…” Mindel speaks from personal experience. “I use spices from [Spice Merchants]. It certainly has improved the quality of the food that I make over the years.” In addition to spices, the shop sells teas, hot cocoa mixes, salt and spice accessories, among other things.

While Mindel was unable to give an estimate for how many people come into the store every day, he said it was definitely “a lot.” As Mindel spoke, a couple entered the store in search of a particular spice. Such fans of flavorful food, coupled with the growing franchise, help Spice Merchants continue to flourish.