Spice and herb store expands to Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue

sue.kidd@thenewstribune.comJanuary 23, 2013 

A spice and herb store that also will serve tea and coffee will open in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood. Ubiquitous Journey plans to open Thursday and will operate in the storefront formerly occupied by Caffe Dei, a combination coffeehouse-café that catered to vegetarians and vegans.

Ubiquitous Journey will be owned and operated by Robyn Liss, who opened the Ubiquitous Journey spice and tea store in Puyallup’s South Hill neighborhood in 2008. Liss said her new Tacoma store will be an extension of the Puyallup store, which will remain open. How long the Puyallup store continues is something Liss does not yet know. She is guessing she might experience a drop in South Hill business as some of her Tacoma customers switch to buying at the Tacoma store. If business remains steady and she gets a deal on her rent during her next lease negotiation, she said she’ll stay put in Puyallup.

Ubiquitous Journey specializes in bulk sales of seasonings, salts, herbs and spices, custom blends, and loose leaf tea. Think of the Puyallup store as a spice and herb store on a smaller scale but similar to Anne Buck’s spice store in Olympia, Buck’s Fifth Avenue. Buck’s store is arguably the best stocked spice and herb retail store devoted to home cooks in South Sound. Buck sells hundreds of spices, seasonings and herbs from around the globe and sells in quantities as small as a teaspoon. She has operated her downtown Olympia store since 1973.

While Buck concentrates on the culinary aspect of spices and herbs, Liss focuses on those shopping for tea, spices and herbs for health benefits. She employs Kerri Bailey, a certified herbalist who also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology. Liss has studied herbs herself, although she is not certified. Another employee is Donna Bennett.

Expect Ubiquitous Journey in Tacoma to look much like the Puyallup store, with a selection of herbs, spices and loose teas for sale in just about any quantity, but slightly larger. Like its predecessor Caffe Dei, Ubiquitous Journey Tacoma intends to operate a small cafe, which, like Caffe Dei, will cater to vegetarians.

“We won’t be 100 percent vegan, we will be vegetarian,” Liss said. “We’ll have dairy, but no meat and eggs. We’ll hopefully still appease the customers who were Caffe Dei’s customers as well.”

She expects to begin with a menu of soups and sandwiches, but may expand that later. She won’t serve raw foods like Caffe Dei.

Future plans include an aromatherapy bar.

Ubiquitous Journey also will serve coffee and tea brewed to order. For fans of Caffe Dei’s coffee, Liss plans to keep most of the coffee menu, but jokes that she’s having a difficult time executing the foamed designs that Caffe Dei owners Shuanna Holt and Shane Siegfried had perfected in their espresso.

Staff herbalist Kerri Bailey will work at both stores. Said Bailey, “I have blends that I’ll make up for people that are generic for anyone, but what sets me apart is I like to make some things custom. … My new things are powdered herbal blends you can put into smoothies. For those who don’t want to do that, I can encapsulate them as well.”

Liss said she made few changes to the setup inside the 1,400-square-foot Tacoma store that has a small kitchen and one bathroom. She’s keeping Caffe Dei’s bathroom artwork intact.

“It’s funny, the first thing people ask is, ‘Are you painting the bathroom?’ I would never paint over that,” said Liss. Her description: “It’s painted all four walls in an almost psychedelic mural, really bright colors and eyeballs.”

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270 sue.kidd@thenewstribune.com

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