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Fall 2010 Zesty Sales

A new store at the International Plaza in Tampa, FL, might be just the “zing” for food gourmands everywhere.

Perhaps because of the truly wide variety of spices and teas it offers, The Spice & Tea Exchange has acquired quite a following among gourmet cooks and dabblers alike. The store stocks over 160 fresh spices and spice mixes. Included in this lineup are six different varieties of paprika alone and a large variety of peppers. Twenty-one teas including Almond Cookie and Cranberry Apple are also part of the offerings. Jeffrey Davis, managing partner for the company, says there’s enough variety among the products to keep even the most demanding cook busy and happy.

The company was launched in 2003 under the name Old Florida Spice Traders, and has had business success in many stores in historical, outdoor shopping districts in Florida.

Taking it inside

For the first time, the company recently opened an indoor location in the state—at the International Plaza in Tampa. Paulette Callender, owner of the new franchise location, says the move just makes business sense. After all, the new mall location offers the same factors that the other locations have—more affluent clientele and high traffic volume. Davis is confident that the upscale mall environment of the International Plaza is a good move. “And since it’s our first time, it certainly will serve as a benchmark for us,” he says.

“International Plaza attracts a large number of repeat customers, tourists and seasonal residents,” adds Callender. “Going inside a mall environment is something very exciting and new for this company.”

Franchising details

The Spice & Tea Exchange began offering franchise ownership in 2007, and since then, has opened stores in not only Florida, but also Texas, South Carolina, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia. Before the end of the year, Davis says he hopes to open an additional six stores, including ones in Louisiana, Texas and Washington, D.C.

“I look for franchise owners who not only have a passion for cooking, but also a true desire to interact with their customers,” says Davis.

Franchise pricing ranges from $160,000 to $275,000 and includes decorations, displays, work areas, product equipment and over 1,000 lbs. of spices.

All franchise owners go through a multi-day training course, complete with manuals outlining strategies for creating a successful business. One of the company’s founders will spend a week with new franchisees before the opening of any Spice and Tea Exchange store to make sure they have everything they need.

Spicing up sales

Demonstration is of high value in these stores. Each Spice and Tea Exchange store has a work area which is a mixing table with bowls, spoons, scale, sink, shelves, spices and jars. “This work area is used by employees to mix our custom in-house recipe blends and rubs and to demonstrate our preparation techniques,” Davis explains. “We never approach a customer with the customary ‘Can I help you?’” explains Davis. “Instead, we encourage employees to pick up a jar of spices or sugars and encourage a customer to go ahead and smell it. It’s all about engaging a customer in a very methodical way.”

As for Paulette Callender, she says that customer reaction to the store has been very positive. “Our customers constantly tell us how they have never seen a concept such as this,” says Callender, who also owns The Spice & Tea Exchange stores in Sarasota’s St. Armands Circle and Boca Raton. “People love to use our blends and have a gourmet meal at their own home.”

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Tricia Despres

Freelance writer Tricia Despres resides in the Chicago suburbs with her husband Paul and daughters Taylor and Amanda. Her work has been published in a number of magazines, including Hemispheres, Advertising Age, Shopper Marketing and Today's Chicago Woman.

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