Knowing Your Neighbors: Spice & Tea Exchange

DULUTH, Minn — Dennis Thielke was a certified wine specialist for over 20 years and worked with a lot of chefs during that time. Then, on a trip to visit his daughter out west, the self-proclaimed food nerd experienced something that changed his life.

“Bozeman, Montana. My daughter lived there, and we went up to visit her and when we got off the airplane she said, ‘Dad, there’s a store you have to go see.’ And we walked in, and my immediate reaction was I couldn’t believe there wasn’t one in Duluth,” said owner Dennis Thielke.

After spending three and a half hours smelling the various teas and spices in that store, Dennis knew he had to bring that experience back to the Duluth community. Now, Dennis is the proud owner of his own Spice and Tea Exchange franchise where he gets to open up his customers olfactory senses every day.

“People come in and we open the jars for ‘em and they get to smell the teas. It’s the only place in the state you can smell the tea before you buy it,” said Thielke.

Teas only make up a portion of the over 1100 options available in store, many of which are blended in house. There is also a wide array of cooking spices available including international blends, BBQ spices, and blends for making dips.

“I think everybody likes a little more flavor in their spice, like to spice it up a little bit. We take the average person, and they leave here a chef,” said Thielke.

One local resident has already visited the store a few times since it opened mid-October.  He tells us he has purchased various spices to improve his beef stew and add some warmth to his Chili. For him though, it really comes down being able to know and smell what you are bringing home before you buy it.

“Having a place where you can, especially sample everything, even from their, just, raw blends to their custom blends is really beneficially for people that like to cook,” said Duluth resident Ian Kvale.

With how quickly the store has been catching on in the Lincoln Park Craft District community, the owner is already looking to expand to other parts of the state.

“People walk in the door, and they look at the tea and they smile.  I can’t believe that there was nowhere for them to get this type of tea before.  And we’re the only one in the state.  We’re going to open two more next year, one in Rochester and then another one in another location to be determined,” said Thielke.

In the meantime, they are open seven days a week for you to take your sense of smell for a ride.

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