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Food frustrations led John Moberly and Pat Garety on a mission to spice up Memphis. Having trouble finding ingredients they prefer, they decided to start their own business from scratch.
Moberly and Garety opened John’s Pantry, a specialty spice store and bakery near Germantown Parkway in the Cordova area on Sept. 14.
“I’m a frustrated cook,” Moberly said. “I got very, very tired of having to go to four or five different places to find what I need or find it in useable quantities.”
He got the idea for the store while visiting the Soulard Market in St. Louis, where the Soulard Spice Market does a brisk business.
“There was a line out the door at 10 o’clock in the morning on a Wednesday,” said Moberly, who used to work for a home improvement center. “I said they’re making a killing off of this and I think I want to cash in on it.
“I saw this lady who had about 900 square feet and sells between 600 to 800 pounds of spice every week and she’s only open four days a week.”
Moberly and Garety, a practicing CPA who handles the store’s books, discussed the idea over Christmas dinner last year and in June found their current location.
Now the place is stocked with everyday and hard-to-find spices such as Indonesian and Saigon cinnamon, whole fenugreek, curry powder and whole allspice.
“The ground cloves were so fresh that (the clove oil) actually ate through the bottom of the plastic container,” said Moberly. “I had to do some reshuffling.”
Now the cloves are in glass.
The store also offers hard-to-find products such as gluten-free Sam’s 100% Corn Pasta, tuxedo orzo and Bob’s Redmill Quick Cooking Oats. It also stocks one of Moberly’s favorites, Pappardelle’s Pasta, which he found in a farmers market in Denver. The chocolate pasta, he said, makes a great dessert when served with red currant and raspberry puree and whipped cream.
“I want people to come in here and see this stuff and think ‘what can I do with this?’”
Local items like McCarter’s Coffee, which is micro-roasted in Millington, are also on the menu and every day a variety of homemade cookies, danishes, scones, brownies, cinnamon rolls, and mini-bundt cakes are served. Flavors and varieties change daily. Moberly uses the pastries to showcase uses for various spices sold in the store.
Their target customers are mainly food enthusiasts and hobbyists, but Moberly said he hopes to offer convenience to restaurateurs as well.
“I’m set up for chefs or owner/operators who can’t really afford to buy a full pound of pink peppercorns when they only need a few ounces.”
But then some customers look only to satisfy a sweet tooth.
“You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate what they have,” said Terry Christian, who’s made a regular practice of stopping by after lunch.
“I really love the madeleines,” Christian said. “They did lemon ones and then chocolate ones and both are really, really good.”