Tiny Dragunara Spice Bazaar is jam packed with organic spices, sauces, salts and teas, providing an exotic look into foreign lands and flavors. Owner Michael Khemlani, who opened the shop at Farmers Market on November 11, 2011 (11/11/11) spoke with Farmers Market about owning a successful spice business.
Getting Started In the Spice Business
When a health condition sidelined Michael, his daily diet underwent a dramatic change. Because he could no longer eat salt or sugar, his wife had limited options on how she could season their food.
Michael knew that there had to be better, more flavorful products than what they were using, so he set out to find the best sugar-free and salt-free spices in the world.
Sourcing these products from around the world, Michael opened a factory in Los Angeles. The factory, still in operation today, produces sauces as well as the healthy, high-quality spice blends Michael was looking for in his own diet. After the factory opened, Michael set out to establish a shop where he could interact directly with customers.
When it came to looking for a location for the shop, Farmers Market was a natural fit.
“With all the food stalls here, we knew that everyone would need spices,” said Michael.
Not long after introducing his “slim spice” line, a major national publication caught wind of Michael’s healthy spices, which definitely helped get the word out about Dragunara Spice Bazaar.
In general, it’s the high quality products that keep the customers coming back for more. Michael himself sources the flavors from around the world, making sure to buy only certified organic, top grade products, which are then mixed and blended locally in the Los Angeles factory.
The shop does serve a number of celebrity chefs, but Michael isn’t a name dropper.
“They like it here because we don’t hassle them,” he said. “But also we don’t care if they are a big chef or a home cook. Everyone gets treated equally.”
Most Popular Items at Dragunara Spice Bazaar
For a first-time visitor, Dragunara can seem overwhelming. The tiny space seems to display countless spices, salts, sauces and teas.
But customers shouldn’t let fear of the unknown stop them from dropping by. Michael is frequently on hand to help navigate newbies through the products, and there’s also a knowledgeable staff who can help customers buy exactly what they want or need.
The store’s top seller is the Biryani Blend, a hand-crafted combination of turmeric, cumin, peas, lentils, fried onion and nuts.
“Add two tablespoons of the blend to a bowl of steamed rice and it becomes a meal,” said Michael.
Salt is also a popular product at Dragunara, which stocks a huge variety ranging from white truffle salt to Himalayan salt to pink salt. The current favorite is a new flavor, bonfire-smoked sea salt.
“It’s excellent for barbecue.”
Creating New Products & Blends
While customers might keep returning for their favorite items, there’s always something new at Dragunara.
“We create new blends almost every week,” said Michael. Since many of the new blends can only be found here at Farmers Market, samples are always available.
“Basically,” says Michael, “we are all about the testing. Before anyone buys anything, we have them sample it to see how they like it.”
For some of the newest products, Dragunara will also print custom how-to informational pamphlets.
For example, for another new item, an Organic Matcha Tea, Michael is creating a custom pamphlet that explains a little bit about the tea. This grade-A product is grown only in Japan, and the pamphlet provides some tips and recipes on how to use the product.
For new products, like the matcha tea, Michael always travels to the source to ensure he’s getting exactly the product he wants.
“We don’t take chances. We want to make sure it has the organic designation, that’s it’s a certified grade A product.”
And ask Michael’s take on why using only high quality spices is so important.
“The cost of the spices is just 10 percent of the meal. But its 90 percent of the flavor.”