Guest Blog written by Stephanie Olson

There’s no doubt that Savory Spice Shop has changed how Bend, Oregon cooks. From the freshness of their spices to their community donations, education, and the way their spices end up on the menus of all the best restaurants, it’s clear that the Spice Shop has simply made Bend taste better. What few people recognize however, is how the Spice Shop is helping Bend  lead  better.

Many people who come into the shop often remark how pleased they are that the shop has stuck around. Relieved they can still come in and get tailored advice for the best curry to choose for a certain meal, they might attribute its success to its excellent location in the Old Mill District, the quality of the product or the unbeatable customer service, but the real reason is because of the smiling guy under that quintessential handcrafted hat – Matthew Perry.

Matt has brilliant business acumen, but it is not the bottom line that he is focusing on. Instead, it is a focus on the human experience. By investing in his employees, who invest in the customers, he invests in the community, who in turn invest in him. When an employee is hired, the first thing they are requested to do is to fill out a goal sheet so he can create a supportive atmosphere that can turn their goals into reality.

When an employee knows their employer cares about them, they naturally care about their job. Spice shop customers are so well taken care of because their employees are taken care of. Call it the ripple effect or common sense, the proof is in the figgy pudding.

Matt draws inspiration from many admirable leaders such as John Wooden, author of the Pyramid of Success and former UCLA basketball coach. Step into the storage room behind the shop windows and you will find Wooden’s exemplary quote “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming”. Scrawled on the inspiration wall, it and other employee contributed quotes are continuous reminders to do your best no matter who you are, where you are and what you are doing.

Matt doesn’t direct his employees. He creates unspoken guidelines that are followed through self direction, empowering his employees through trust. When a guiding force needs to step in he his there, but he will always allow for things to be worked out on their own before unbalancing the power scale. He practices “servant leadership”, which removes a sense of hierarchy, gives each person the benefit of the doubt, and in doing so allows natural strengths to shine.

Each employee is given a copy of the book The Tao of Leadership which guides in these concepts as a modern, inspiring, and easily readable, non-religious interpretation of the Tao. These subtle lessons encourage going with the flow, staying calm in times of stress, believing in your peers, and letting go of control to let things take their natural shape. When an entire team of employees in a small shop is tuned into these same values, focus is not on the self, but on how to serve others. In this way, service become second nature in aspects of business and community.

The Spice Shop is a special place for more than just it’s varieties of cinnamon, hard to find spices, and easy to cook recipes. It is an exceptional place because when you walk in the door, you are important to the people who work there. As a customer you are part of a community that the owner cares deeply about and does everything in his power to make a better place, just by doing what he does best – setting a good example. Matthew Perry is more than a successful spice merchant, he is by far one of Bend’s finest and most humble leaders.

Savory Spice Shop is a locally owned franchise in the Old Mill District. 

Guest blog contributor Stephanie Olson has been an intermittent employee of the Spice Shop since it’s opening in 2011 in between bouts of living abroad, encouraged by Matt to follow her dreams. She also runs PassionFruit Creations, a local tote bag company that empowers women. Learn more at the PassionFruit Creations website.