Toledo native launching distribution center
You never know what twists and turns life will present while finding your path. For Toledo native Zach Johnston— founder and self-described “Thyme Traveler” behind the burgeoning Colorado business The Spice Guy— the path included literal twists and turns. On a snowboard.
An alumni of St. John’s Jesuit, Johnston participated in the school’s ski and snowboarding club before graduating. “Next thing I knew, I was winning some competitions and one thing led to another, and I moved to Summit County, Colorado,” Johnston said.
He got pretty good on a board— good enough to become a full-time snowboarder until, with a bad fall, he fractured his pelvis which ended his career. Luckily, Johnston already had a plan for once his days on the slopes were done. As snowboarding alone didn’t pay all the bills, he worked evenings as a chef in Colorado restaurants.
“I needed a job where I only worked at night. And I wasn’t suited for serving tables, it really wasn’t for me. And I got addicted to the lifestyle of the kitchen. The pace and the adrenaline,” Johnston explained.
When one of his favorite spice suppliers went out of business, “I needed to get some of these hard-to-find ingredients, specifically spices. So I started doing a little bit of research, and I was able to find them all pretty easily, just through some of the contacts I had made in the restaurant business.”
Soon, Johnston began selling spices on the side, and began creating his own unique spice blends— for his own restaurant, and others as well. The positive reaction to his product convinced Johnston to launch his own business. So, with an extremely limited budget, Johnston started The Spice Guy in 2013. “I incorporated with 54 dollars to my name, and we’ve built a pretty big enterprise out of it,” he said.
The Spice Guy currently supplies spices and mixes to around 600 restaurants throughout Colorado and has national partners distributing products outside the state, as well. Johnston, aiming to place his Thyme Travel products into new markets, is focusing on Toledo.
“Originally, the idea was ‘let’s put a distribution center here.’ And that, like everything else we’ve done, has grown exponentially into people wanting to get some of these spices from us.”
Johnston said that Spice Guy Great Lakes is lining up partnerships with area restaurants which he declined to name just yet. But he’s hopeful for a big homecoming.
“We’re buying about 100,000 pounds of black pepper a year. That’s one of 1,200 items that we use. So in terms of growth, we’ve had just over 260 percent year over year, just in Colorado. So Toledo is going to be a first stepping stone branching out. And I figure, with so many roots there, it’d be better to go where my roots are.”
For more information on Johnston and his products, visit thespiceguyco.com.