New local boutiques, businesses and brands you may not know — but should.

Jennifer Serrano and Jennifer Green have recently spiced up their lives, substantially. The friends already had a lot in common: They each live in Oxford with their husbands and two sons (they met through a neighborhood playgroup), have vacationed together and have monthly “foodie” themed dinners with a group of friends.

A longtime fan of drinking loose tea, Serrano heard about the Spice & Tea Exchange, a small franchise crafting hand-mixed spice blends, rubs and teas, based in Florida. Her mother happened to visit a shop on vacation, brought back some tea for her daughter and a seed was planted. “I looked into the company and was sold, but didn’t want to take the leap alone,” says Serrano. So she brought Green on board and launched the company’s 25th franchise in downtown Birmingham on Black Friday last November.

The shop, reminiscent of an 18th-century trading post with 100-year-old salvaged barn beams, cypress shelves and antique furnishings and artifacts, bursts with the scent of the fine spices, fresh herbs, gourmet blends and teas from around the globe that brim in barrels and containers. Chili, cheese and smoked powders, mineral and hand-harvested sea salts, dry goods like mushrooms and rice, olive oil and blends, naturally flavored sugars, a vast assortment of loose leaf tea from unique and exotic to traditional, plus accessories from pottery to mills and grinders appeal to top chefs and gourmands to anyone who simply loves to eat.

Serrano and Green love to chat, advise and share recipes with customers and pride themselves on the freshness of their products. “Our custom blends make cooking a breeze,” says Green. “You do not have to be able to cook well to make something amazingly delicious.”

The Spice & Tea Exchange of Birmingham, 175 W. Maple, Birmingham. (248) 433-1500;

Inspired by nature and a background in fashion and graphic design, artisan Shari Dixon (nee Greenberg) hand-crafts exquisite, intricate necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets from genuine botanicals preserved with resin. Flowers, leaves and herbs from zinnia, bamboo and buckwheat, to oregano and artemisia on natural shells, to real snakeskin dyed and resined, suspend from sterling silver, hemp and deerskin cords. Look for bookmarks, tees and other pieces, too.

Get Shari Dixon designs at Catching Fireflies, Berkley (800-414-1654;, Falling Water Bookstore and Gallery, Ann Arbor (734-747-9810; and online at