Why this former assistant principal calls opening a spice shop 'one of the most serendipitous things I've ever done'

Meet self-described Spice Girl Angel Gregorio. Five years ago, a routine visit to her favorite neighborhood nail salon led to the Howard University alum giving up a steady gig in education to tap into her entrepreneurial spirit.

“I was an assistant principal. I had been an educator for years,” Gregorio tells Yahoo Life. “And I was leaving [a local nail salon] and I saw a for lease sign on this empty building.”

On a whim, Gregorio slowed down long enough to call the landlord and inquire about the space. But she wasn’t prepared for the questions that followed, or how quickly the landlord wanted to move to find a tenant. Even Gregorio was caught off-guard by her own response.

“OK. I’m going to open a spice shop. Can you just tell me the price?” she recalls telling the landlord. “When I said it, I was like, ‘Yo, I’m going to open a spice shop. And it literally just came to me in that moment, and it started to come together.”

Three and a half weeks after that serendipitous phone call, Gregorio opened The Spice Suite in Washington, D.C. — a showcase for just about every spice imaginable. Nearly two months after opening, she left her job as an assistant principal and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Spice Suite
Angel Gregorio, owner of The Spice Suite (Photo courtesy of Angel Gregorio)

“There was some trepidation when I first stepped out there,” Gregorio said. “My best friends are twins and they ... were principals at the time and I would definitely hit them up like, ‘Yo, keep a job for me OK? Just in case this does not work out.’”

But Gregorio didn’t need a Plan B. According to the Washington, D.C. native, The Spice Suite is now a seven-figure business supported by a profitable online store. A top seller is Gregorio’s Spice Box — a surprise box of goodies she curates and makes available on the first of every month. The boxes typically sell out in mere minutes despite buyers not knowing what’s inside.

“I try to keep the price point for all boxes between $100 and $150,” Gregorio says. “I try not to go over that price point because I want it to be something that's pretty affordable for people.”

Never in her wildest dreams did Gregorio imagine that she’d become a globetrotting seeker of spices, literally hauling home kilos of saffron, but that’s exactly what she’s doing to keep store shelves stocked with spices, oils, dressings and more.

Former assistant principal, Angel Gregorio, talks about how she took a leap of faith and quit her job to open a spice shop.
Angel Gregorio traveling the world searching for the best spices. (Photos courtesy of Angel Gregorio)

“Pre-COVID, I would travel the world for spices and spice inspiration. I’ve been to about 26 countries for spices from Egypt, Morocco, India, most recently Zanzibar,” Gregorio says. “Whenever I bring spices back from my travels, guests are able to purchase them in the same exact packaging that I purchased them in.”

Gregorio describes walking into The Spice Suite as experiencing the best kind of sensory overload which also reflects her vibrant personality.

“You walk in and you smell all the spices from saffron and paprika and smoked salts...and then you see the clear glass bottles on the shelves,” explains Gregorio. “The store is exactly me. It is all of me in it’s clean aesthetic and it's funkiness. And this idea of like mismatching things and this whole kind of notion of Food is Fashion is played out, you know, visually and aesthetically at The Spice Suite.”

That kind of savvy branding coupled with a strong social media presence keeps customers coming back for more.

“Taraji Henson...started following me and almost immediately she sent me a DM and was like, ‘Hey, put together a box of like what some favorites and a box of things that you think I just have to have.’ And so I sent out a bunch of boxes to her and her friends and family. And she was like, ‘and don’t discount my invoice’ and that just meant a lot to me because a lot of times celebrities...assume that people are supposed to give them things because of who they are,” she says.

Supporting fellow Black-owned businesses also means a lot to Gregorio, who shows love to an all-female crew of entrepreneurs as they build their brands.

The Spice Girls
Angel Gregorio and her Spice Girls (Photo courtesy of Angel Gregorio)

“I have these women I call Spice Girls who are all Black women, business owners who have products that they hand-make or uniquely source. And they have a regular recurring pop-up schedule at The Spice Suite where they sell their products,” Gregorio says. “And while they’re selling their products, they also sell my products and that benefits them because they have a space, they have a home, they don’t pay anything...And so we have this collective space where we get to kind of learn, grow, share together.”

Despite running a successful business that shows no sign of slowing down, Gregorio isn’t looking to expand.

“I am living in what’s next. And if I couldn’t do anything other than what I’m doing right now, I’d be completely happy if the only next thing for The Spice Suite was to continue on this journey,” she says.

To find out more about The Spice Suite and its popular Spice Box visit thespicesuite.com and follow The Spice Suite on Instagram and Facebook.

Business in Black is Yahoo Life’s new video series spotlighting Black-owned businesses.

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