A local shop owner has made supporting other Black entrepreneurs a center point of her business model.
Walking into The Spice Suite in the District's Takoma neighborhood, the smell of its unique blends like blood orange peel or edible rose buds takes the senses on a journey.
“I do not tell you what to put on your chicken, I just provide you with a bunch of dope options, and I think it started to catch on, and folks were like, OK, I’m willing to try it,” CEO Angel Gregorio said.
The vibe of the quaint space feels like trendy home. It's an extension of Gregorio, a former educator and assistant principal turned spice girl.
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“I don't know whether putting this honey jerked chipotle blend on lamb is going against everything you were ever taught in culinary school because I didn't go to culinary school, so here, you can do it,” she said.
She's expanded to include online sales and her own kitchenware.
In six-and-a-half years, her business now grosses seven figures annually.
“I literally went from having to mix, bottle and write on every single bottle in this store to finally being able to afford copackers,” Gregorio said. “Now, I send off my recipes for things.”
Since opening her doors, she's envisioned the shop being an incubator and shared space for other Black businesses
“We've hosted over 450 Black businesses here free of charge to pop up in our space,” Gregorio said. “So, that was like a no-brainer for me. Like, it's never been a question in my mind that this would be a space that would be for all of us.”
Women she lovingly refers to as spice girls help run the shop while selling their own goods.
“They make everything from beard oils and healing hardware to selling vintage clothing and accessories and body scrubs,” Gregorio said. “Like, literally, it's like the Amazon for Black women.”
When they're not working, they're learning together.
“We'll invite Black women experts to come in and teach us almost like a master class on everything we need to know to help run our businesses,” Gregorio said. “So, we've had accountants, we’ve had attorneys talk to us about IP and owning our intellectual property and our trademarks.”
It's an unconventional but intentional dream come true for Gregorio and the tribe she's created.
“I want success to be cyclical in the same ways that poverty has been cyclical for our communities for too long,” she said. “I want to change that for my immediate circle and I hope that they change it for their circle and it becomes this ripple effect.”
The Spice Suite is open Friday through Sunday. To try out some of Gregorio's delicious recipes, Nordstrom will feature some of her food through the month of February in its restaurants across the country and in Canada.