Add Flavor For Your Journey!
Tis the season for giving… and spices! With the holidays coming up, big meals to cook, and sweet treats to bake, it’s important to have the spice cabinet stocked. Whether you are a spice master or a newbie to the craft of seasoning, or even a fellow chocolate lover, Camino Spice (located at 113 W. Park Street in Livingston) has you covered. There, you’ll find all things spicy, from different blends to chocolates, including award-winning Mexican Hot Chocolate.
But the best part? Proud owner, Sasha Woods, has a huge heart for the community and giving back. Not only does she love helping her customers spice up their lives, every year she donates 10% of her chocolate sales to charity. With a heart like Sasha’s, I was excited to chat more about her store, Camino Spice.
Sadie: Can you tell us, How was Camino Spice conceptualized?
Sasha: There are two sayings if you walk the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. One is “Buen Camino,” which means good journey, and is said to most any pilgrim as a salutation. The other is, “Your real camino starts when you return home.” My home camino (journey) began one rainy, dreary spring day in Chicago, when I was ill, congested, and achy. I realized I needed to eat something, so I sautéed a few cloves of garlic, reached into the cabinet, and blindly pulled out spices. A little voice within instructed me to write down the measurements. I promptly obeyed and I sprinkled the spice mixture over the garlic, added chopped vegetables, a handful of cashews, and the juice of one lemon. After eating the concoction twice that day, I felt better and, well, yum!
I’ve learned it’s best to always honor that small inner voice, and my Divine Inspired Spice blend is the product of that day. I put it in or on almost anything: meats, vegetables, fruits, sauces, dressings, avocado toast, apple cider vinegar, whiskey drinks, as a tea, in coffee. I’ve even made a chocolate with it.
My journey to Montana began in June of 2016, when I visited a former spouse who was living in Big Sky. After dinner, I drove through the Gallatin Canyon, and when it opened up into the Bozeman Valley, I literally burst into tears, because I knew I was home. I had spent most of my life in Colorado, but in 2011 I went to work for my family’s graphite company in Illinois. After I had my little epiphany in 2016, I went back and told my brother that I was going to be moving to Montana and he asked, ‘What are you going to do there?’ At that point, the spice blend had already come to me, and I knew that something was going to happen with that. In 2017 the family graphite business turned one hundred years-old. I wrote a history of the company and our family; when I finished, I started Camino Spice in October of 2017, opening in its current location in May, 2019.
Sadie: What would you like people to experience when they walk through your doors?
Sasha: If you’ve never been to my shop, located in the back of the Park Place building, which is behind Park Street Café, it’s an excitement all on its own. No one knows that I’m there, the signage is horrible, so just having someone come into the store is exciting. The first thing people usually experience is the wonderful smells wafting down the hallway at 113 W. Park Street in Livingston. Whether it be the gluten-free granola, spiced pumpkin seeds, chocolate, cocoa mix, or blending spices, the smells are intoxicating. The perfect shopping experience would be me telling them about the spices; then I would give them a little sample of chocolate and a hot or cold cocoa with a smoked glass. They would probably buy a Smokin’ Old-Fashioned kit, a little cocoa to go along with it, and maybe some trios of spice, and recipe packets for friends. And then if they wanted to, they could sign up for a chocolate-making workshop to learn how to make chocolate themselves. If people want to get together and do that, I can very easily coordinate it, though I haven’t begun scheduling them again since I stopped due to the pandemic. It was $30 per person. In about two hours, you can learn how to make chocolate and then wrap your own chocolates to take home.
Sadie: What do regulars keep coming back for?
Sasha: Lots of regulars say they come back for the energy of the shop; they look forward to some free samples and often leave with one of our unique gift bags, like our trios of spice or our Smokin’ Old Fashioned kits. These kits provide all the essentials to create a Camino Spice signature whiskey drink: our signature spices, cinnamon sticks, maple syrup, smoking board, and recipe. The only items not included are whiskey, orange bitters, and bourbon cherries.
Sadie: What is your favorite spice? What is your personal favorite item sold?
Sasha: I’ve never really had a favorite spice, as I’ve typically added a bit of this and that, but I have to say my spice blends have become my go-to seasoning. I put them on everything. And by everything, I really mean everything! I put a honey crystal blend (Epiphany Elixir) in my coffee each morning. I put the Epiphany blend in my homemade sourdough; I add the Divine Inspired Spice to my evening creations, and sometimes on my ice cream. And believe me, it is good!
My favorite personal item we sell is a toss-up between the Smokin’ Old Fashioned Kit or the trios of spice with the food and drink recipe packet. Many people don’t know what to do with the spices, so having the recipes really helps get them started. Either set makes a great gift.
Sadie: What would you say makes you unique in the local food scene?
Sasha: Camino Spice is a woman-owned company, and everything we make, including the Last Best Chocolate, is made on-site, and hand-wrapped and packaged. I’ve got a great team who help make everything possible, and all our products are certified Kosher. This year, we were also voted Best Specialty Spice and Seasoning Store in Montana by Distinctly Montana magazine.
Sadie: What do you personally enjoy most about being part of the greater Bozeman community?
Sasha: I love seeing familiar faces at the farmer’s markets, and hearing how they love, love, love the spice, and come back for more. Bozeman is definitely growing, but there’s still a good sense of community, and people will come up and ask about the Camino because they saw the shell in the logo, or they’ll tell me that they’ve purchased products at the Bozeman Co-op or Town and Country in Bozeman and Livingston.
Sadie: Why did you choose to have 10% of chocolate sales go to charity? Which charity do the sales go to?
Sasha: If you ask my mom about giving 10% of my chocolate sales to charity, she’d say, “I have no idea why she does that!” But since you are asking me, [it’s because] I like to do good where I can. I feel like this spice blend has been a gift given to me, and I feel like it’s my privilege to share it. When you purchase chocolate, I will ask you to write your favorite charity down on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. Then, twice a year, I draw a charity from that jar and donate 10% of the chocolate sales to that charity. The recipients are usually Montana-based charities, but some national ones too, like Reel Recovery and Breast Cancer Research. This past June, Camino Spice gave money to four different charities through the Give a Hoot campaign in Park County. We like to say that every little bite helps!
Sadie: What award did Mexican Hot Chocolate win?
Sasha: In 2020, our Mexican Hot Chocolate Mix won a Bronze Sofi award from the Specialty Food Association. It was a true honor to be chosen out of so many applicants. The mix is a perfect blend of Mexican cacao powder, coconut palm sugar, and Divine Inspired Spice. It’s great on its own or mixed in with coffee (or schnapps) and served hot, or cold over ice.
Sadie: Do you have anything coming up that you’d like readers to know about? Any events coming up?
Sasha: Coming up this fall, Camino Spice will have booths at the Helena Holiday Market on November 5th; at the Montana Food and Beverage Show in Missoula on November 7th; at the Billings Food and Gift Festival on November 12th; at the Gallatin Valley Farmers’ Holiday Market on November 26th, at the Livingston Craft Market at the Park County Fairgrounds on December 3rd, and at the Belgrade Holiday Market on December 10th.
I do teach a class at Chico Hot Springs called Smoke & Spice. We use the smoking board and either sparkling water or sparkling cider. So, it’s not all just alcohol-related. We smoke the glass—each individual smokes their own glass, and how fun is that? I put spice in it and it’s wonderful. Then we move up to the whiskey drink, the old-fashioned, and that’s lovely. We end with a little hot drink, like cocoa with schnapps, if they want that, or just plain cocoa, or a spiced apple cider. The next Smoke & Spice event will be on November 8th. Call 406-333-4933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve one of 12 spots.
Other than that, the store is open Monday - Friday 11-5, or online at caminospice.com.
So, whether you’re looking to restock your spice cabinet, spice up your in-laws’ cooking, or find the perfect chocolate to nibble on during this giving season, Camino Spice won’t leave you bland!