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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Two sisters open Elz Tastes and Tea in Spokane Valley

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Elz Tastes & Tea Market is forging ahead with a new name and new owners, adding to its offerings of balsamic vinegars, oils, spices and loose-leaf tea blends.

The market, formerly known as Spice and Vine Mercantile, is at 328 N. Sullivan Road , tucked into a strip mall behind Shari’s Restaurant. The shop used to be owned by Bill Coyle and Jan Love and sisters Shelly and Kelly Stanley bought the shop last year after Love died .

“We’re just having fun going into business in the middle of COVID,” Kelly Stanley said.

The shop has an entire wall of loose-leaf tea blends, more than 100 of them. The opposite wall is all spices, dozens of individual spices and blends in glass jars.

“We’ve got it in bottles so people can smell it,” said Shelly Stanley.

The spices are typically sold in 1-ounce packages once the customer makes a selection.

The center of the store is shelves of 40 different flavors of balsamic vinegars and more than two dozen varieties of oils. The flavors can be somewhat unexpected. Vanilla. Peach basil. Chocolate. Butter pecan. Jalapeno lime. Cherry. Black Walnut. Lavender. Cranberry pear.

There are so many varieties that the sisters have to be careful how many they order. “We don’t even have half the ones we can get from our vendor,” said Shelly Stanley. “There are just so many possibilities.”

The vinegars, spices, oils and teas may be the focus of the shop, but there are plenty of other things too. There are barbecue gift baskets, coffee cups, tea towels, barbecue sauces, pasta, pasta sauce and soup mixes from Rill’s Specialty Foods in Thorpe, Washington. The focus is on small batch and, if possible, local foods.

Change was coming last year for the sisters, who had long dreamed of going into business together, so much so that they took a few business classes years ago. Shelly Stanley was working as a purchasing manager and her job was moving to Seattle. Kelly Stanley, who has worked in the technology industry for years, was wrapping up a three-year contract and considering what was next.

The sisters had discovered the shop years ago and were frequent customers. Then, about the time they were both considering what to do with their jobs, a for-sale sign went up in the shop window. Now they’re focused on getting their website at tastesandtea.com up and running, with online ordering options and recipes.

Kelly Stanley said she believes their shop is unique in all that it offers. Their offerings are great for people who are good cooks, but also good for people who aren’t as experienced in the kitchen, she said. To that end, there are recipe cards and use suggestions scattered throughout the shop. Some cards even come with prepackaged spices called for in the recipe.

“We’ve had people come in looking for a spice that no one else has,” Kelly Stanley said. “They don’t have to go buy 8 ounces on Amazon. They can come in and get the spoonful that they need.”

Their oils and vinegars come in three main sizes, a 50-milliliter sample size, 100 ml or 375 ml, which Kelly Stanley calls the “addiction size.” However, some of their more popular blends come in an even larger size – a 750 ml wine bottle.

Their top seller is garlic olive oil. “It’s crazy how much of that we sell,” Kelly Stanley said.

An Italian herb balsamic vinegar is also popular, along with a house blend anti-inflammatory tea and several barbecue rubs. Sometimes customers bring in recipes to share or samples of what they’ve made with the market’s products.

“It’s fun to learn how people are using stuff,” Shelly Stanley said.

The products they sell are versatile, Kelly Stanley said. The butter pecan balsamic vinegar can be used instead of maple syrup on pancakes and in oatmeal. “We have a dill pickle balsamic that is really great in potato salad, pretty much anywhere you’d use a pickle,” she said. “We have all sorts of fun things.”

Nina Culver can be reached at nculver47@gmail.com.

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