About Bob and The Spice Merchant

BobMy wife and I opened The Spice Merchant in late November of 1980 in a 400 sq. ft. back end of a storefront. My dad cosigned a loan; we put up everything we had, including our three-legged dog and two St. Louis alley cats, plus a lot of sweat equity, and we began our new adventure. Our ideas for The Spice Merchant came from living 2 1/2 years in St. Louis while attending graduate school at St. Louis University. We spent weekends exploring the cities assorted ethnic groceries and the great Soulard Farmers Market. We looked at a lot of word combinations to develop a store name. We would be selling coffee, tea, and spices, we settled on The Spice Merchant & Company. In six months we moved into the front of the building adding coffee and tea accessories, some gourmet foods and it’s been upward from there. In 1984 we purchased a new location closer to downtown. With the help of my father and a fellow retiree from Boeing, we overhauled a 3000 sq. ft. former upholstery shop converting it into a retail store. Over the years we have been blessed with support from our community. One of our early angels was the food editor of our newspaper (Back then, called the Wichita Eagle and Beacon), Kathleen Kelly. She would call to ask about new products, or to borrow something for a photo.


For many years now we have supported Weekend Edition on KMUW our local National Public Radio station, the tag line used is: The Spice Merchant—Wichita’s Original Gourmet Coffee Roaster. (For any business folks out there, your public radio and television are great places to support your local community. Ours has been the only place we’ve advertised and had our customers tell us thanks – you just gotta know that makes an positive impression in your community.) In 1985 we installed our Sivetz coffee roaster, so I would have complete control over coffee quality and freshness. Within two months the coffee market went crazy because of a drought in Brazil, green coffee prices almost doubled, and I thought that I had really made the Big business mistake of our lives. We had made the commitment, by reassuring our customers that we would provide great coffee at fair prices, our customers always get the finest, freshly roasted coffee in the area. Many would say the contrary because we do lots of mail order for our customers that have moved from the area. I have always assumed that good coffee could be found in just about any large metro area, but many of our old customers just keep coming back for more, and they tell their friends, God love’ em.

The Spice Merchant BuildingIn 1994 we purchased an adjacent, 10,000sq. ft. building that was the original home of the Mentholatum Company. This great old building was built in 1908 as the manufacturing plant for Mentholatum, a product developed in Wichita, and still found in medicine cabinets around the world. The first steel reinforced poured concrete building (floor, walls, roof, etc.) in our city- -still stands and looks much as it did when it was new. Tough as nails, and upgraded to meet today’s codes, using old photographs we tried to keep as much of the original look as we could. We expanded our product lines to include more gift items, 220+ bulk teas, 80+ freshly roasted coffees, about 200 bulk herbs and spices plus additional gourmet foods.