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Enjoying a more flavorful life

BUSINESS PROFILE: The Spice and Tea Exchange, Alexandria

Couple brings The Spice and Tea Exchange to Alex

By Jim Palmer


Dionne and Paul Peterson of Alexandria are the owners of The Spice and Tea Exchange location in downtown Alexandria. The two were inspired to bring the chain store to Alexandria after visiting a shop in Duluth about a year ago. The Spice and Tea Exchange offers a wide selection of teas, spices, salts, sugars and more. Photo by Jeff Roste

When you walk into The Spice and Tea Exchange in downtown Alexandria,  your senses will come alive by the sights, smells and taste of fine spices, handcrafted seasonings, loose-leaf teas, salts, sugars, Italian-fused olive oils, flavored honey and maple syrup. The shop carries all these products along with candles and a good assortment of accessories and gift items.


The Spice and Tea Exchange is a small, woman-owned franchise with more than 90 locations in the United States, many of which are located in Florida and the east coast.  The Alexandria location opened on Dec. 2, 2023, by Dionne Peterson, who was inspired to open up her shop after visiting the Duluth store about a year ago. The Duluth store is the only other franchise location in Minnesota. 


“When I first saw The Spice & Tea Exchange shop in Duluth I told the salesperson, ‘You need to bring this to Alexandria’ and my husband said, ‘You need to be quiet,’” Dionne smiled. “I just felt like this was the type of store that Alexandria needed. It was something unique and I really enjoyed the experience.  The mission of this store is creating and sharing the experience of a more flavorful life, and that was very evident when we entered that store.”


After she and her husband, Paul, left the store, their wheels kept turning and the conversation got more serious. Since their visit to the Duluth shop, Dionne and Paul started doing their research on the franchise and explored financing options. They decided to go for it --  secured funding, locked in the franchise and found a location. 


All of the spices are stored in jars and guests are encouraged to smell them. The spices are available to purchase in small quantities, like shown above. Photo by Jeff Roste

Dionne and Paul have lived in Alexandria for 27 years and raised their two children here. Dionne’s background is education, with more recent experiences in customer service, primarily in retail. She also helped with husband’s business, Tile Horizons. Because of the tile business, they had business experience, but they lacked experience or knowledge in owning a retail business. 


“We put a lot of effort in finding people to educate and mentor us,” she said. “We had help from some really great people.”


In November, Dionne and her new team of employees started training with the franchise.

“We had a very intensive training program,” she said. “It was quite a learning curve. A corporate group came to Alexandria for 10 days and then we went to Florida to do four more days of intensive trainings after that. Because of that training, my staff is very knowledgeable of what is in the store.”


Dionne said she shares the goal of the The Spice & Tea Exchange franchise, which is to “create a welcoming experience, filled with the aromas of fresh spices and fragrant teas.” 


To-go cups of tea, both hot and cold, are available. Photo by Jeff Roste

“We want to treat our guests to feel at home,” she said. “We want them to know where they are, and feel like they belong. We introduce them to the products and let them know what we do and see what we can do. We bring the jars to them so they can see and smell them. On the weekends, we have samples so we can feed our guests as well.  And we really try to give our guests that customer service that has kinda gone by the wayside over the years... and our team is really, really good at that.”



Since first launching the franchise in 2008, a key component in the success of The Spice and Tea Exchange has been quality and freshness.


“We definitely offer a high quality, fresh product,” said Dionne. ”We order product regularly and are making fresh batches often.”


The spices are hand-picked from sources across the globe, and guests are able to smell the ingredients and watch as blends are made. More than 80 custom blends are mixed at the Alexandria location.


“When one of our employees is showing the guest what we have, he likes to say, ‘Let me show you around the world,” said Dionne.  “The experience is definitely there and my staff is very eager to try new things and share their experiences with our guests.”


Prior to committing to this new venture, Dionne’s knowledge of the spices was much like most people... she enjoyed trying new spices now and then when she cooked.


Guests at The Spice and Tea Exchange check out some spices during a recent visit to the new shop in Alexandria. Photo by Jeff Roste

“We love cooking, so like most people who likes spices, we would buy the big bottle of blends and try them,” she said. “What we loved about the concept here is you can buy the spices in small quantities and can also smell them first. People who love to cook will just really love it.”


The Spice and Tea Exchange has a wholesale program, which allows it to partner with restaurants, breweries and other food-related businesses.  They can host little girl tea parties, and offer a tea school, which educates people on the origins of tea, types of tea and how to properly steep tea, among other things. And guests can also enjoy a freshly brewed tea during their stop. 


“We have a tea bar that  you can buy hot or cold tea to go,” she said. “We don’t have a place to sit and drink tea in the store, but we will have some tables outside in nicer weather.”

Drinking tea is a fairly new routine in Dionne’s life. 


“I was definitely not a tea drinker before we got started with this,” she said. “But now I have completely changed from coffee to tea. And it wasn’t hard. It didn’t take long. For me, it was a matter of feeling better and the caffeine in tea affects you differently than other drinks. And the flavor profiles are really nice.”


A wall of spices at the shop. Photo by Jeff Roste

Since opening the shop in December, The Spice and Tea Exchange has been well received, said Dionne. 


“The community of Alexandria has really embraced it,” she said. “It has brought something to downtown that many people have said is needed. It is something that is unique and is liked by people of all different ages.”


A grand opening is scheduled for The Spice and Tea Exchange on  March 22, 23, and 24. During these three days, there will be music, prizes, special samples and drawings. There will also be a fundraiser for The Shelf, which provides food, hygiene products, financial help and school supplies to students at Alexandria High School. 


“We want to collaborate with downtown businesses and like partnering with the community,” said Dionne. “And we currently partner with the high school. Every Sunday we donate $1 from every to-go cup of tea to The Shelf.”


Exterior of The Spice & Tea Exchange in Alexandria. Photo by Jeff Roste

The Spice and Tea Exchange is located at 604 Broadway in downtown Alexandria. It is open on Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Their phone number is 320-219-7400, email is alexandria.mn@spiceandtea.com and web site is www.spiceandtea.com (click on store locator to find Alexandria location). They are also on Instagram and Facebook. 


“We would love to have people come in, check out the store, and let us share with them what we know, and also let us create and share the experience for them,” said Dionne.


This is a paid business profile. If you would like to learn more about promoting your business in the Sr. Perspective with a business profile, call Jim at 320-334-3344.


 



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