ASTORIA – Pat Milliman’s motto is “eat locally, season globally.”

She and her partner, Tom Leiner, have opened an herbs and spices shop in downtown Astoria in April. They currently sell 165 herbs, spices, seasoning blends and salts at Pat’s Pantry, and are adding more products when they do their ordering each week. By customer request, their next order will include duck fat, which reportedly makes good soup stock and a mean French fry.

“We could have gone to Seattle or Portland and done very well, but we wanted to live in a place like Astoria and do well… The foodie community is what attracted us [to Astoria],” Leiner said. “[Pat’s] personal passion has been spices and gourmet cooking.”

“I love food, I love everything about food,” Milliman agreed. Her passion for food is clear. “I just got goose bumps!” she exclaimed.

Milliman and Leiner are a wealth of ideas for how to use the herbs and spices they sell in bulk. There’s the “take charge kind of cinnamon” for cinnamon rolls, four forms of cardamom, spice blends from Ethiopia and Morroco, and blocks of ancient pink salt from the Himalayas that can be used in the oven to cook meat or fish, or in the freezer to serve ice cream.

Although Milliman and Leiner take food seriously and often cook at home, “We’re like everyone else, some nights we don’t feel like cooking,” Milliman said. Then, they might just munch cheese and chips, or they’ll whip up something delicious like whole-wheat toast smothered in cream cheese and Oregon-made habañero pepper jelly, topped with bacon crumbles.

They plan to start offering Spice 101 classes this summer, and at some point they’ll start doing cooking classes.

“We’re going to build out a kitchen,” Milliman said. She wants to hold classes with visiting chefs so that customers can learn cooking techniques and new ways of using herbs and spices.

Milliman only recently discovered an outlet for her passion for food. She had been in banking for 30 years when she left the bank to become an independent consultant for the financial industry. When the recession hit, Milliman’s work dried up.

“So I stumbled into a part-time job at a spice shop in Portland and it was so much fun,” she said.

Leiner worked in the semi-conductor industry for 25 years, making silicon wafers for computers. Milliman describes him as “very action oriented.”

Milliman and Leiner brainstormed the idea for Pat’s Pantry while vacationing in Astoria. March 1 of this year, they moved to Astoria from Portland.

They gave themselves two days to move in to their condo and got right to work on the shop. They opened April 5.

“We didn’t waste anytime at anything at this point in life,” Milliman said.

They’ve financed the start-up costs from personal savings and feel positive about the reception they’ve received from customers and the community. One customer even called and left a voicemail, enthused about her “spice experience.”

“We’re seeing locals. And they’re coming back and back… May has been better than expected,” Milliman said.

In addition to the demonstration kitchen, they are in the process of adding a grinding and blending station and a “cook’s corner” with reference cookbooks. They continue to seek out and add local product lines to the store, including marinara sauce, olive oil, mint candy, ketchup and jelly

“Customers have to tell us what they’re looking for,” Milliman said. “We had the vision for it and the store has come together in a very organic way.”

Part of that vision involves giving back to the community. They call their business “a not-just-for-profit business;” what that will look like remains to be seen.

Pat’s Pantry is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 503-468-0583 or visit patspantryastoria.com.

 

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