“If they need spices we’re the place to call because that’s all we do.” – Tom Finnefrock, Owner
In Rochester’s East End, on the shelves of Hart’s, thousands of ingredients sit, waiting to be made into an endless number of meal combinations. However, one section of ingredients is particularly important to almost each and every one of those meals- the spices. Whether we’re talking basic salt and pepper or something more interesting, we personally don’t know what we would do without our beloved spices. Luckily for those of us living in Rochester, NY we have a local, family-owned option: Stuart’s Spices.
Stuart’s Spices was founded by Stuart Schultz in 1992 but was purchased in 2011 by Tom Finnefrock, a loyal Stuart’s Spices customer. At the time Schultz was contemplating an exit strategy and Tom found himself on an economic sabbatical. The timing was right.
“It’s the most embracing community- they include us in everything; we include them.” – Vicki Finnefrock, Owner
One year into ownership the Finnefrock’s relocated Stuart’s Spices from its original location in Gates, NY to South Clinton Ave. in Rochester’s South Wedge. The move was important for two reasons: the growing business needed more space and there was a demand for them to be more centrally located. Enter the South Wedge: a thriving and growing community and in Vicki Finnefrock’s words, “foodie central.”
Of the many things that the Finnefrock’s believe set Stuart’s Spices apart is their commitment to wow people with flavor and the performance of their seasonings. In order to do this Tom and Vicki consistently work with dependable wholesalers and importers that take quality control seriously. These relationships run deep, too- one of the spice suppliers has four generations of international relationships. They also buy high grade premium spices- cumin or peppercorns or cinnamon that have a high oil content, for example, so that the quality and concentration is better.
These high standards are the reason why they now they have two distinct businesses- wholesale for restaurants and butchers and retail. In fact, Stuart’s Spices works with upwards of 80 different restaurants in the Greater-Rochester area creating unique spice blends that meet their needs. They work with Hart’s, for example, to create special blends for our housemade sausages as well as Hart’s Hog Rub and Hart’s Butcher Rub which are available in our meat department and on our spice shelf.
Lots of what you’ll find on the shelves of Stuart’s Spices are because of a customer request. For example, last year they started carrying Mexican oregano because of a request. Recently they’ve found that people are eating healthier by using less sugar and salt and instead using more natural spices. New blends, always made in-house, have come from that trend.
So if you’re sitting down with the spice experts in town, how can you not ask: How long are spices good for?
It turns out that there’s no one correct answer. “Don’t leave them in sunlight or on the stove-top, because it shortens the life,” Vicki said. She added that a seed lasts longer than something ground (cumin seed vs. ground for example), and leaves are more fragile. Something like cilantro may only be good for six to nine months. However, some have a shelf life of a couple years. When in doubt, smell it. If it doesn’t seem to have a bright smell it’s not going to have a bright flavor, and your dish just won’t be the same.
Much like their spices, lots of the original recipes you’ll find in the store are from customers as well- and they certainly have a lot of them! There’s nothing worse than buying a spice and not knowing what to do with it, right? We’ve added a handful of Stuart’s Spices recipes to our website for you to check out here.