Went to The Spice House on Wells in Chicago on Saturday. Was excited to finally see the place.
Been a longtime Penzey's shopper (both retail and mail order), so that was my standard for comparison.
My Spice House experience was not a good one.
First off, not all of their spice blends list the ingredients. Some of the jars in the store lacked them and NONE of the labels on the jar/bag that you take home do. Annoying and downright stupid of them.
Second, they have very little in the form of pre-packaged inventory. Mostly you have to take down a large jar of product, haul it to the counter (be careful because they get visably pissed if you put it down on their marble countertop -- so why have a mable countertop in the first place?) and have one of the few frazzled staff people measure and package for you. Then go to a paper file folder and find a label to affix. This takes WAY TOO LONG. Moreover, different customers are taking various containers of product to the counters, so way too many jars are missing from the shelves.
Third, with one or two exceptions, the staff was snotty and full of attitude. A huge turnoff.
The store is way too small, especially given the confusing way business is done there. Also the old fashioned manual cash register which requires employees to use a calculator to tally up your purchases and figure out tax is not "cute," it's ridiculous. Sorry. Takes forever, especially when the employee makes an error adding up your booty.
The one thing that was a big plus was "tasting" jars, though I have some doubts about the sanitation aspects of that practice.
They do have a few interesting things that Penzey's doesn't, but their line and Penzey's is pretty much the same (understandable given that they are from the same family). I bought some of the items that Penzey's doesn't carry and a few that they do. But unless the former are things I find I can't live without or the latter are vastly superior to Penzey's, I'll skip the Spice House in favor of Penzey's.
Anyone else have a comparison?