Features March 2021

Sphinx Date Ranch: A Family Affair

For the many who are not yet comfortable on a traditional date amid COVID-19, Sharyn and Rebecca Seitz have you covered.

The mother-daughter team and North Valley residents together own and operated Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry. The small business proudly offers gifts from a wide range of Arizona vendors including Hayden Flour Mills, Ramona Farms, Arizona Cactus Ranch, Arizona Spice Co., Kettle Heroes, Iconic Cocktail Co., GoodyTwos Toffee Company, Native Seeds, Rango Honey and many more. They are also big supporters of the local wineries and breweries, offering gifts from more than 20 Arizona vendors including Tombstone Brewery, Superstition Meadery, Pillsbury, Grand Canyon Winery, Four Monkeys Wines and Kief-Joshua. And, of course, they’ve got dates. So. Many. Dates.

“If you would have told me that dates – and even the North Valley of Phoenix, for that matter – would be in the cards for me even 10 years ago, I may not have believed you,” says mother Sharyn.

Sharyn was born in New Jersey and spent much of her early years moving around everywhere from Montreal to St. Louis. In college, she studied economics, which led to a successful career in the finance and government fields, including work for the State of Illinois in the governor’s budget office, owning her own business and even work for Amtrak in Washington, D.C.

Her first brush with the Valley occurred when she moved here with her daughters in 1977, but had to depart soon after for Chicago (and eventually Indianapolis), where her then-husband has been hired for a big job, but made her way back a second time in 1982. During her second time around, while raising her family, Sharyn would make quite the name for herself, including holding a number of positions with the Arizona Legislature, City of Phoenix and private companies in the area.

“During my first stint in the area, I was a proud member of the second-ever graduating class of Scottsdale Leadership back in 1994, and eventually served as its president. I was also appointed by Mayor Drinkwater to work on the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee in 1994, and the Scottsdale Citizens Bond Oversight Committee from 1989 to 1994,” says Sharyn, who also served on the local Chamber board from 1989 to 1994, including work as its treasurer from 91-93.

Family and eventually new career opportunity would call Sharyn away from Scottsdale again, however, in the early 2000s first in Kansas City to help family and then in D.C.  after Amtrak came calling. When she retired from the company in 2012 as assistant vice president of finance for budget and grant administration, she wasted no time in coming back.

“The third time is the charm for me and this side of the Valley. It is my forever home,” says Sharyn.

But what to do this third time around?

“By this time, my daughter Rebecca was grown and working in digital marketing,” says Sharyn, noting a particular point of pride in that Rebecca is also now a graduate of Scottsdale Leadership as well. “If you remember back to the early 2010s, much of that industry was struggling – like most industries – as a result of the Great Recession.”

Together, the two started talking about combining their skills to start their own business.

“At the time, Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry was operating as Southwest Gourmet Market,” says Rebecca. “The business was looking for a buyer, and in researching it we learned about Arizona’s rich date history.”

According to Rebecca, nearly 100 years ago, a fellow by the name of Roy Franklin discovered a tree sprouting up in a Phoenix yard and knew it was something special. The tree happened to be producing what are now known as black sphinx dates, which are smaller and sweeter than Medjool Dates with a bit thinner skin. Still only known to grow in Arizona, these dates helped plant the seed for one of Scottsdale’s most beloved businesses: Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry.

Inspired to update the local market as a showplace for not only dates but a bevy of artisanal products from Arizona, the mother-daughter team bought the business and re-branded as Sphinx Date Company in 2012.

“My mom’s operation and financial knowledge combined with my abilities in digital marketing and e-sales was a perfect fit,” says Rebecca. “The only challenge we faced was from the initial name.”

As Sphinx Date Company, many assumed they were a date farm versus a market with locally sourced gifts of all types ranging from honey and salsa to wine and beer.

“We re-branded as Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry and rebuilt our brick and mortar space to better reflect what we offer locally as well as online to anyone in the world,” says Rebecca.

As with many businesses, Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry is serious about customer safety amid the pandemic and is following all CDC guidelines at its brick and mortar location as well as ramping up its online store for the holidays.

“This business is a legacy in Arizona, and for our family, one we hope to continue for years to come,” says Sharyn.

For more information, visit www.sphinxdateranch.com.

Written by: Alison Bailin Batz

Alison Bailin Batz is a freelance writer on interesting people, places, things – as well as all thing travel, food and drink. Her musings can be seen in more than two dozen media outlets across the Southwest. She is also a senior account executive at HMA Public Relations in Phoenix.

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