By Alison Bailin Batz
Nearly 100 years ago, Roy Franklin discovered a tree sprouting in a Phoenix yard and knew it was something special.
The tree was producing 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.
“If you would have told me that dates—and even Scottsdale—would be in the cards for me even 10 years ago, I may not have believed you,” says Sharyn Seitz, who owns Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry with her daughter, Rebecca Seitz.
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 working for Amtrak in Washington, D.C.
Her first brush with Scottsdale was when she and her daughters moved there in 1977, but had to depart soon for Chicago (and eventually Indianapolis), where her then-husband had been hired for a job, but made her way back a second time in 1982. During her second time around, while raising her family, Sharyn made a name for herself, including holding positions with the Arizona Legislature, city of Phoenix and private companies in the Valley.
“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 1991-1993.
Family and eventually a new career opportunity called 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 Scottsdale. It is my forever home,” Sharyn says.
But what to do this third time around?
“By this time, my daughter Rebecca was grown and working in digital marketing,” says Sharyn, who adds Rebecca is 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 discussed combining their skills to start a business.
“At the time, Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry was operating as Southwest Gourmet Market,” Rebecca says.
“The business was looking for a buyer, and in researching it we learned about Arizona’s rich date history.”
Inspired to update the market as a showplace for not only dates but a bevy of artisanal products from Arizona, the mother-daughter team bought the business and rebranded as Sphinx Date Co. in 2012.
“My mom’s operation and financial knowledge combined with my abilities in digital marketing and e-sales was a perfect fit,” Rebecca says.
“The only challenge we faced was from the initial name.”
As Sphinx Date Co., 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 rebranded 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,” Rebecca says.
Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry 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 and Rango Honey.
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.
“Of course, we also have a wide array of dates, too, from gift baskets to cooking dates to those you can grab and go for a personal treat,” Sharyn adds.
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,” Sharyn says.
For more information, visit sphinxdateranch.com