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Feeling Spicy

January 6, 2012

Maybe you heard that Albany is getting a retail location for Penzeys Spices. It’s coming to Crossgates Mall (maybe in early March), so now there will be a good wine store and a good spice store under one very large glass roof.

I got the word on Thursday morning when I received an email asking if I’d like to work for them.

No, I didn’t. I got a bulk email that announced Penzeys is hiring in Albany. But I guess they thought I might be interested as someone who had ordered their spices online in the past. What’s funny is that I might be. It doesn’t come up very often on the blog, but I don’t actually have any kind of meaningful income (besides the occasional check I get for my posts on All Over Albany). And while most of the time I’m okay with being a kept man, sometimes I have a desire to contribute more to the GNP.

Plus selling some outstanding spices to the people of the Capital District does help bring me closer to my ultimate goal of improving the overall level of food in the region. In many ways, I’m exactly the kind of person Penzeys needs. But I’m totally not what they want.

Really, they don’t need someone like me. Penzeys has established their own down-home vibe. And it’s reflected in the text of their email. Try not to laugh as you picture me trying to fit into this role: Penzeys is looking for someone who will make their “customers feel good about who they are and what they are cooking.”

Oh no.

I can just imagine someone coming in looking for advice on how to make their farmed Atlantic salmon filets into something amazing. Or the regular customer who comes in week after week to buy more bottles of Raspberry Enlightenment and wants to share the recipe for making the best pork loin I’ve ever tasted with this slurry of raspberries, sugar, water and tapioca starch.

This may surprise you, but try as I may, I’ve never been able to suppress my true feelings. I swear my brow has a mind of its own. It just furrows at will. And I have this vein in my forehead that starts throbbing when I get especially irritated.

So, yeah. I don’t think I could do it.

What I could be is the crazy obsessive spice guy who walks you through all the different cinnamon options including Penzeys true Ceylon cinnamon, opening jars and insisting that you smell the difference for yourself, while at the same time explaining what you are smelling. I’d delight in exposing people to the differences in varieties of oregano and suggesting appropriate occasions for using each one. I would listen to what people were looking for and try to elevate their dishes by suggesting different techniques to build flavor in addition to various seasonings.

But I would have a hard time getting excited by the spice blends or cheese sprinkles.

My spice shop would be focused on geography. Spices come from far away places, and often times those are the only places they will grow. And sure, not everyone would be interested in hearing about the differences in how Muntok and Sarawak white peppercorns are processed, but I would make sure they knew before making their decision.

It will be really interesting to see this place when it opens up. I’ve never been to a Penzeys retail store before, and I’m looking forward to being freed from having to place orders online and continually buying more than I need. It could also be fun to put their values to the test and see how good the Albany hires are at making customers feel good about who they are and what they are cooking.

Although people who can sell Raspberry Enlightenment and cheese sprinkles like this with a straight face might be totally unflappable.

Penzeys exists at the intersection of two worlds, and they are really smart about how they handle them. People like me will put up with the folksy side of things in order to get some special seasonings. But I suspect the home cooks would be less comfortable shopping at a place that was more focused on the obsessive foodies.

It’s who they are, and I love them. But it doesn’t look like I’ll be working for them anytime soon.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2012 10:36 am

    Ha ha. We can go obsess over cinnamon and cheese sprinkle (more me than you on that one) when they open.

  2. January 6, 2012 11:36 am

    You?! Unable to hold back thoughts and emotions? Shocker. If it makes you feel any better, I also have an uncontrollable eyebrow. Unfortunately, it makes me a horrible poker player. Maybe we should start a Furlers Anonymous or something.

    I’ve never bought spices from this company, but I am looking forward to checking it out.

  3. January 6, 2012 12:30 pm

    It’s kind of clear you’ve never been into a Penzy’s, since the vibe you describe pretty neatly sums up the Penzy’s that I frequent. In fact, my father and I typically go into the store to bond over obsessive foodiedom, taste test the differences in genres of spices, and so on. All with the gleeful participation of the folks who work there.

  4. January 6, 2012 12:54 pm

    Wonderful Company, Penzey’s. I’ve used them for many years, buying almost all of my spices through their on line site. They had a retail store in the Grand Central Market, but it was shuttered when I was there last month. Too Bad. So DB – seriously, you don’t think you’re cut out for retail sales. Really? Maybe a tanning salon first.

  5. Kerosena permalink
    January 6, 2012 1:27 pm

    Maybe you’ll put in a good word for me. I saw the post on Table Hopping and am presently working on my application for part time employment.

    I love the application. There are items like, “What is your favorite spice or seasoning, and how do you use it?” and “Share a story about cooking from your childhood.”

  6. January 6, 2012 2:58 pm

    We’re getting a Penzey’s??? The more I think about this, the more excited I get. Woo-hoo! I have a feeling that once it opens, I’ll be there way too often and for way too long. We’re getting a Penzey’s!!!!! *hops up and down like the food nerd I am*

  7. January 6, 2012 3:19 pm

    its nice that were getting one but in the mall? it wont be any different than me ordering from them once or twice a year.

  8. eluvera permalink
    January 6, 2012 7:42 pm

    I like the retail stores because they have all products available for sniffing! I had debated about the different curry blends and powders for quite some time and wasn’t willing to lay down the cash for something that might not work for me, but I recently visited a location while on vacation and put together a nice little shopping basket. I can’t wait for the next time we make chickpea curry to try out my new blends.

  9. Kate H permalink
    January 6, 2012 8:07 pm

    I love Penzey’s. The store in Grand Central had a really small selection (I think it closed). I can’t wait to see what a full size store is like. BTW Daniel, maybe you can get a job at TJ’s! ;)

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