DC-based tastemaker and Howard alum Angel Gregorio is known around her community as 'the spice girl'. But for the former educator turned The Spice Suite CEO, it's much deeper than that. What started as a simple curiosity about area commercial rent, has now blossomed into a hub for DC's Black-owned businesses. Especially those owned by women.

"One day I was leaving the nail shop, and I noticed a for lease sign in a neighboring space," Gregorio shares. "I called the listed landlord to inquire about the price of rent, and before he would give me a price, he said it depended on what I ultimately would use the space for. I technically didn't have a plan, since I was just inquiring, so I randomly said a spice shop. Four weeks later The Spice Suite opened and just two months after that I quit my job to run it full time."

Over the last 7 years, she's proven that food is fashion. Through fun social media videos, Gregorio shows fans and customers that you don't have to overthink spices. According to her, if it tastes good on your fried chicken, then it will also taste great on collard greens or veggies. The store sells everything from uniquely flavored honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and dozens of spice blends that she's created from around the world. Additionally, she allows local Black entrepreneurs to use her space to help grow their own brands.

Angel Gregorio holds spice blends from The Spice Suite. Image: Sam Johnson Photography.

"I consider my business a spice shop and dream incubator. Over the years, I have welcomed 450 Black businesses in to host pop-ups at no cost to them. While I recently closed the original The Spice Suite location, on January 13, 2023, I will open my new multi-use commercial development, Black and Forth. The space will include renovated shipping containers that will house four Black woman-owned businesses. For me, this is how we achieve economic empowerment. I will keep the rent and overhead costs low enough so that they can run and grow their businesses with longevity. This is key, especially as much of D.C. faces gentrification."

Despite never receiving formal culinary training, the DC native has spent extensive time traveling the world to gain a deeper knowledge of spices and their origins. She's traveled to India, Tanzania, much of the Caribbean, Rome and more. What makes her educational globetrotting adventures even special is that she takes her son and daughter along, too.

Angel Gregorio in the new The Spice Suite, Black and Forth location. Image: Sam Johnson Photography.

"I didn't start traveling until I was an adult. My son is not even 10, and he's already been to over 30 countries. How often will you get to take your child to Rome to taste authentic Balsamic vinegar and learn about its origins?"

She shares that during her trips, she really immerses in local culture. One of her most memorable experiences happened in Tanzania.

"I was able to spend time on a spice farm, seeing how vanilla bean and cardamom were grown and cultivated. I was also able to go into the homes of some local women to prepare a meal from scratch," she says. "We spent hours in the sun, grinding up spices for our dinner, but it was all so worth it. I will never forget that."