Spice it up

Creative businesses help those who cook and those who eat add flavor to their food
By Katie MacDonell

Variety is the spice of life. Who doesn’t love to add a unique flavor to their cooking? These Hoosier spice companies have just what you need to transform your recipes with their specialty offerings.

Marion-Kay Spices
When he was a child, Kordell Reid and his five siblings would gather around the kitchen table and test the spices their father, Jim Reid, would bring home from his business, Marion-Kay Spices. Everyone had an opinion to share: a little more pepper, a little more salt here, a little more garlic there. Continually analyzing and tasting spices prepared the children to carry on the family business years later.

Today, Kordell Reid and his sister, Pamela (Reid) Warren, co-own Marion-Kay Spices, a company that has been family owned, managed and operated since 1922. Located in Brownstown, Marion-Kay Spices distributes high-quality spices, blends, herbs and extracts to customers all over the world. Not only is their distribution global, but their products are sourced globally as well.

“We have pepper from India, cinnamon from Vietnam, tarragon from France and Spanish thyme,” says Reid. “We try to buy from where the best spices are from. It’s really cool that we’re in such a small town, but we have all this world in front of us every day.”

Professional chefs recognize the quality of Marion-Kay’s products and incorporate them into their food service at high-end restaurants. The company also offers to create custom blends upon request and will do private labeling and packaging for restaurants. It even helped Colonel Harland Sanders of KFC with the research and development of his spice blend.

Marion-Kay’s spices are fresh and made to order. When an order comes through, the employees will grind, blend, package and ship quickly.

“We’ll do anything it takes to get an order out the same day,” Reid says. “We are so good at making the customer happy. They are impressed that we do things the old-fashioned way. We’re hands on. It’s refreshing to have live people give you an answer. The customer comes first. Not only is it the best quality in the container, but the service is impeccable.”

American Mushroom & Spice Co.
American Mushroom & Spice Co., located in Bloomington, not only grows and sells a variety of fresh mushrooms, but also uses them to create one-of-a-kind, handmade spice blends.

Take the company’s signature Indiana Hickory Dry Rub and Marinade Base, for instance. By weight, this product is made of 51 percent fresh oyster mushrooms. First, the mushrooms are grown and harvested in the on-site commercial wholesale kitchen. Then, they are dried, crushed, milled and infused with a shagbark hickory wash to absorb that natural flavor. The subsequent paste is formed into slabs that go back into the commercial dryers. Once completely dried, the slabs go back through the hand-cranked mills until they become a powder resembling coffee grounds. This powder is then blended with salt, oregano, parsley, onion, garlic and red peppers, and finally put into spice jars for sale. This artisanal blend is just one of the many dry goods and spices available.
Cortland Carrington III, a native of Acton, founded American Mushroom & Spice Co. five years ago. He is the only full-time employee, although seasonally his wife, daughter and a few subcontractors will help out from time to time.

Carrington’s military background inspired him to begin this business. He is a partially disabled combat veteran of the Air Force who spent 20 years on active duty and an additional seven years in the Indiana Guard Reserve. He has flown missions all over the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Of the thousands of missions I flew, humanitarian aid missions brought me the greatest sense of accomplishment,” he says. Being in poverty-stricken environments and interacting with the people there profoundly affected his outlook on life. His inability to remove them from those situations haunted him for years and gave him the desire to explore better ways to feed others.

“Looking into the face of starving people living in desperation is what led me to start American Mushroom & Spice Co.,” Carrington says.

In 2009, he started working on a business degree and exploring high-value, small-space food production. After looking into aquaponics and hydroponics, he discovered mushrooms and considered the idea of growing them. Mushrooms interested him as they use fewer resources to yield more protein than livestock. In other words, they are a sustainable food source that requires minimal space to grow.

“Mushrooms can convert many different materials into high-quality, human-edible proteins, using far less water,” Carrington says. “Mushrooms are one way you can better feed a starving world constrained by limited resources.”

Nashville Spice Co.
Two years ago, Greg Fox and Mark Schmidt pondered what made them happy and what they enjoyed doing. Their thoughts always circled back to spices and cooking. In 2017, they founded Nashville Spice Co. They offered their own line of spices and opened a gourmet store in Nashville, eager to share their passion for cooking and good food.

The company’s spices are ground fresh, hand-blended and do not contain any fillers or additives. When the business opened, it offered about 140 spices and blends. Today, customers can choose from more than 380 spices and blends, as well as other featured items from similar artisanal food companies. The company also sells premium extracts, syrups, jams, spreads, mustards, sauces, bitters and more.

Fox and Schmidt aim to create a flavorful, informative experience for guests who visit their store. Shoppers can smell and taste all of their spices, and on the weekends the co-owners offer samples of select products for everyone to enjoy.

“Foodies are happy people, and we love sharing recipes and ideas with everyone that comes in,” says Fox. “If someone is unsure, we take the time to help and educate them to build awareness and confidence in trying something different.”

Nashville Spice Co. also offers meal ideas, recipes and flavor profiles online through its social media presence and company website. There, food enthusiasts can view a wealth of recommendations, from how to use a mango habanero jam, to making a pork loin glazed with spicy Texas blackberry wine sauce and seasoned with cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt.

“We listen to our customers, and they give us great ideas as well,” says Fox. “We love what we do, and we love our customers.”

Galena Garlic Co.
Venezuelan-born Laszlo Marton moved to the United States when he was 12 years old with an entrepreneurial spirit he carried into his adulthood. Marton is passionate about all things garlic. He loves that garlic not only makes food taste delicious, but also provides several health benefits. He began growing his own garlic in 2003 and founded Galena Garlic Co.

The first store location in Galena, Illinois, carried his gourmet garlic and five initial seasonings. Marton quickly realized his customers wanted more, so the company expanded. This family business now offers a collection of over 400 flavors in its full line of gourmet rubs, seasonings, fresh olive oils and aged balsamics. Its mission is to make home cooking simple and foolproof with blends and seasonings.

“With everything from barbecue rubs to bread-dipping blends, curry blends to salad toppers, we have something you’re sure to love,” says Amy Curione, director of operations.

Over the past 16 years, Galena Garlic Co. has not only expanded its product line but also its presence in the Midwest. It now has four locations, including one in Madison that opened in 2006.

“We enjoy interacting with our customers and guiding them through our store with tastings and ideas to best use our products,” Curione says. “We like to say people come into our store as customers, but leave as friends.”

Marton’s daughter, Nina, moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2014 and opened its latest store in East Nashville that same year. Marton and Nina now grow garlic at four farms, including their own Tiny Roots Farm in Clarkrange, Tennessee.

Galena Garlic Co. participates in many farmers markets and events and sells its products online as well. Team Garlic even hosts a Midwest Garlic Fest every August in Elizabeth, Illinois, which is near Galena. Curione says the festival celebrates their passion for garlic, local farms, community and music.