Walking into Old Town Spice Shop is like stepping into grandmaâ€™s kitchen â€“in heaven. The walls are painted a warm-welcome gold and wooden shelves extend their arms, begging you to try a taste from their bright red â€œtesterâ€ bottles.
Sean Godbey, along with his brother, mother and father, acted on an impulse last October when they opened the shopâ€”and nearly a year later, they couldnâ€™t be happier with the results.
Q: How did you get the idea for the shop?
A: It was actually my brotherâ€™s idea. He had been to a couple spice shops before and thought that Fort Collins would just thrive with it. He did some of the research and decided yes, letâ€™s go look at it. He discussed it with my parents and the three of them did the research and decided that it was a viable concept.
Q: This only took 65 days to get up and running?
A: From when we decided yes, letâ€™s move forward and do this, this space was coming up for rent. We decided we liked the space so we put in an application. It ended up that was late October, so we thought if we were going to be in the space we might as well be open for December. We opened in 60-some days.
Q: It looks like you have a large selection. How did you get all of the supplies that you needed in that short amount of time?
A: A lot of research. We all had our areas that we were working toward. My brother focused on the build out, my parents focused on finding wholesalers for the jars and tins, spices and everything like that, and I worried more about pricing structure, labeling, branding the company and marketing. My dad and mom owned a retail store in Phoenix before the kids were born. They both have retail experience and business-ownership experience. My brother has started businesses and he has more of the entrepreneurial spirit. I worked for a church for eight years and was more of the operations side of it. It really worked out wellâ€”each of us having our own emphasis.
Q: How has this shop impacted your life?
A: Owning a shop is different. Being a business owner is about being able to take on whatever role is needed.
Q: You didnâ€™t want to go into franchise?
A: We actually looked at numerous franchises all over the United States and what it boiled down to is that we didnâ€™t want to have to be told what to do. We wanted to be able to have somebody come in and say, â€œI have this great idea for this blend!â€ And then we can say, â€œAwesome, letâ€™s see how it turns out!â€
Q: How does it feel to be locally owned and in Fort Collins?
A: People love it. Fort Collins is very much about locally owned businesses. Itâ€™s nice to be that independent, family-owned business. My brother and I were born in Phoenix, but we were brought here when we were infants, essentially. Weâ€™re about as local as you can get without being a local. Weâ€™ve been here since 1985.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about the spices and products you have to offer?
A: Yes! We have probably upward of 170 spices, most of which we try to get whole and then we break them down fresh in-store. That allows for more freshness. That also allows us to mix our own blends. Our list of blends is always growingâ€”we probably add five to 10 a month. Some of them are customer-initiated. We did a contest where we had people input their blends and we had a couple winners there.
Q: Do you have any crazy/exotic blends?
A: Exotic to me means international. Iâ€™ve traveled quite a bit and there are definitely blends that Iâ€™ve never experienced before. There is one blend that we came up with ourselves that is sort of unique. Itâ€™s a steak rub that has chicory, cinnamon and chili powders, so you get the coffee flavors and then the heat from the chili.
Q: What is your favorite?
A: For me, it really depends on what Iâ€™m cooking. My wife and I, we grill a lot so I love a lot of our grilling blends, I love our salts and I love making my own blends. At home, I like heat, so I love our chilies. And we carry the whole range of chilies, everything from Anaheim, which are not very hot, to ghost chilies which are the hottest chilies of all.
Q: How does fresh compare to whatever else you can find?
A: You will really notice a difference. If you were to open up your spice cabinet and grab any spice, there is a good chance that if you were to compare it side-to-side with what I can give you, there would be a huge difference. There are a lot of reasons for that. I only buy from high-quality vendors and growers and importers. Thereâ€™s quality there initially. If you buy at one of the grocery stores, it gets ground down, broken down, shipped to a warehouse, sits in the warehouse, shipped to a store, sits in a store and then finally gets to your table. By then itâ€™s been four or five months. Most ground spices, theyâ€™re best when used within six months. When itâ€™s a ground spice like that, of course you can still use it for longer than that, but itâ€™s not going to have the same amount of flavor.
Q: If someone were totally new to your shop, what would you say they have to see first?
A: I think what sets us apart from a lot of spice shops are three things. That is the amount of salt we have. Most spice shops will have a dozen or so salts. We have over 50. The next would be the gourmet sugars. Most spice shops have one or two, like vanilla sugar and that kind of thing. We have sweet onion sugar, raspberry sugar, dark cocoa sugar and thereâ€™s just such a large variety, and theyâ€™re just fun to taste because you get a lot of flavor. And the teasâ€”we have a large selection of teas from black, green, herbals, chai, rooibos, mate, etc. So those are all really fantastic.
**Correction: All photos on page 20 of the magazine are courtesy of Harper Point Photography