The Spice Suite – More than Meets the Eye

Takoma, a neighbourhood in Washington, is an ethnically diverse, very environmentally conscious area. It has a main street, a historic district, and has lots of single-family homes. Takoma has a small town feel despite being inside Washington, and would easily make my top choices of best neighbourhoods to live in here. You can find all kinds of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and unique shops, just like the Spice Suite. Opened since 2015, this special shop is proudly owned by a black woman.

When you first walk into this cozy space, you immediately smell the aroma of fresh spices, inviting adults and children alike, to settle in.

The Spice Suite definitely has a different feel than other larger spice shops in the area but there is so much more there than what meets the eye, I discovered.

There were only two women in the store and it was very quiet. In the front was a rack of African garments that immediately caught my eye. There’s also a nice little sitting area in the centre of the shop where you can play a game of tick-tac-toe or browse the owner’s cookbook.

The owner, Angel Anderson, who grew up just around the corner from the shop, was formerly an assistant principal at a local school. Her story is not one of someone struggling to escape a job she hates. She loved her job and the children she taught.

She had a habit of just checking out commercial spaces from time to time. When she came across the building she asked the owner about the rent. He asked her what she had in mind for the space. Out of nowhere, she responded, “a spice shop”. She said didn’t have a clue about a spice shop before that moment but once she put it out into the universe she felt she had to make it happen.

Three and a half weeks later she opened with an inventory of about twelve spices. Things just came together organically after that. Most of the art on the walls was gifted to her by different local artists.

Angel is also a personal chef who takes food adventures to another level. She travels abroad 6-7 times per year to seek exciting and authentic flavours to bring back to the shop. She doesn’t have particular commercial suppliers, she just explores and lets her journeys unwind.

While I browsed the spices and the handcrafted balsamic vinegar she sells, a couple more black women came into the store. One was Miss Vicki, the owner of a 5 a Day CSA who came to deliver a bag of fresh fragrant herbs for Angel. It turns out that the Spice Suite is a regular drop off point for her organic produce. She invited me to visit the farm and see the different produce, which are mostly difficult to find African produce items.

Then her volunteer clerk stopped by to check out the African outfits and she and several other women turned the shop into an impromptu fashion show. It was a warm sense of community as everyone was a participant. The owner of the clothing business was running back and forth to her car with additional sizes for us to try on. I ended up buying a blazer myself!

Talking to Angel revealed that the shop operates like a cooperative where a different pop-up shop is scheduled each week and they often act as the storekeeper while she is out.

I could have easily lingered all day long in the Spice Suite. My visit gave me an important reminder of how we as black women all over the world manage to thrive no matter what happens. I would definitely recommend visitors to Washington DC to check out the Spice Suite.

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