Spicing It Up

Former art gallery owners find a flavorful niche in Detroit’s Eastern Market


Published:

This is the most fun I’ve had in my entire life,” Jim Yaw says, as he chats with shoppers who stop by his niche in Eastern Market’s Shed No. 3. His products — packets of herbs, spices, sugars, and sea salts from around the world — are a far cry from the pricey fine art and handcrafted jewelry showcased at the gallery in Birmingham that he and his wife, Nancy, ran for more than 35 years.

It’s also nothing even close to his original career as a stockbroker, or to his second one as a picture framer, which he’s still involved in. The satisfaction in this latest venture comes from the camaraderie of the market, where he has bonded with his fellow vendors and also with the customers, many of them regulars, ever since bringing his array of spice packets to the market in 2009.

Spice Miser rose out of the recession that forced the closing of the Yaw Gallery on North Old Woodward in 2008. Customers stopped coming, but not before telling the Yaws why. It was that in the face of the tough economic times, they didn’t want to make what might seem like ostentatious purchases. So the couple had to reinvent themselves.

To make the switch to a culinary business was not much of a leap for Nancy Yaw. She had always loved to cook, and the idea had its genesis when she had difficulty locating a certain ingredient — fenugreek — for an Indian recipe she wanted to try. She needed only a spoonful. But the containers she found were much too large and expensive. She didn’t want to buy a large quantity of the aromatic seeds for just one spoonful and then have the rest languish in the kitchen cupboard.

A light went off. Why not package herbs and spices in small portions, so they would be both economical and fresh? That’s exactly what the couple did. Their Spice Miser plastic packets contain one rounded tablespoon (6 grams) for 99 cents. The Yaws buy directly from importers on the East Coast and do their packaging at their fully licensed facility in Royal Oak, which is also where Jim still does picture framing. Their menu goes far beyond parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. There are more than 150, in all, including some newly introduced items, such as flavored sugars and sea-salt blends — all tasted and approved by the couple.

Spice Miser products are available online at spicemiser.com and at several area stores, including Westborn Market, Market Fresh, Market Square, Greenhouse Growers, Joe Wigley’s Meats, and Superior Fish. And, of course, they can be found every Saturday year-round, and Tuesdays in the summer, at Detroit’s historic Eastern Market. You’ll find their display between McClure’s Pickles and Great Lakes Coffee.

photographs by paul hitz

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Solid Gold

Pawn shop turned farmstead-cuisine restaurant feels like home sweet home

Dining Like Diego

Local Mexican chefs to take on Frida Kahlo’s recipes as side dish to DIA and MOT events

Starting From Scratch

It took 10 years, but a chef gets back into the culinary world with a carryout and catering business specializing in fresh fare

Beer (Cheese) Me

Brown Iron Brewhouse’s Deni Smiljanovski combines two things he loves in this easy, party-friendly recipe

2015 Restaurant of the Year

Torino chef Garrett Lipar’s tasting menus take guests on expertly paced and emotional culinary adventures
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Atwater Brewery Success Pushes Expansion Plans for 2015
    Record sales for 2014 enable Southeast Michigan’s largest brewery to boost production
  2. Corktown Welcomes Two New Breweries
    Brew Detroit and Batch Brewing Company open their doors
  3. Winter Beer Festival and Beer Fest Boot Camp
    2 great ways to enjoy Michigan beer outdoors in the winter
  4. Size Matters?
    Large-format bottles provoke awe, provide ageability
  5. A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
    We asked some far-from-regular guys from metro Detroit to guest star as models for our fashion...
  6. More Than Half Full
    Michigan craft brewing industry growth is good for beer lovers and the economy
  7. 2015 Restaurant of the Year
    Torino chef Garrett Lipar’s tasting menus take guests on expertly paced and emotional culinary...
  8. 2015 Winter Beer Festival Recap
    The cold presented some challenges, but the breweries rose to the occasion
  9. Dining Like Diego
    Local Mexican chefs to take on Frida Kahlo’s recipes as side dish to DIA and MOT events
  10. Coming Home
    John Varvatos has opened high-profile boutiques from LA to London, but perhaps no location means...