Nationwide coffee subscription service? Check. A Redhook small-batch craft brewery and pub? In progress, but check. A Portland-born Salt & Straw Ice Cream outpost? Add it to Pike Motorworks sometime in late summer.
“We were sort of growing very organically — one store a year — and then last year we opened a few in L.A.,” said Kim Malek, who started Salt & Straw with her cousin and ice cream maker, Tyler, out of a cart in Northeast Portland in 2011. “Just over the last year or two we’ve been growing more and more. It’s been really fun.”
Malek lived in Capitol Hill in the ‘90s, she said, moving to Portland 20 years ago. That was before Redhook moved out of Fremont.
“I can remember riding my bike out to Redhook in the early 90s,” she said. “It was one of my favorite things.”
Salt & Straw partners with artisans, producers and farmers wherever it sets up shop, but for now it appears Redhook will just be a neighbor at Pike Motorworks, 714 E. Pike .
“Getting to know the food scene in each area has been really fun,” Malek said.
Malek’s history in Seattle has already connected her to Rachel Marshall for Rachel’s Ginger Beer collaborations. She’s also friends with Cupcake Royale owner Jody Hall, helping her open a few shops eight years ago, she said.
The ice cream to be scooped in Capitol Hil will be made in Portland, with plans to find a more local manufacturing facility after further expansion, Malek said. Tyler Malek will work to bring in local collaborators to create a Seattle menu.
“He’s just starting to tour and get to know folks and line things up,” Malek said.
There won’t be a lack of opportunities to reflect the local food scene through Salt & Straw.
“We change our flavors every month,” Malek said, “so it’s kind of, what’s next, and let’s find out what’s going on.”
Malek said she and her cousin attended a hospitality training class by famous restaurateur Danny Meyer four years ago, modifying what they’d learned into their own training regiment for employees.
“It’s come to be a four-day training class that our team goes through before they can show up on the floor and start scooping solo,” she said.
That includes learning how to interact with customers and work together, but also the ice cream-making process and all the flavors. “Then every month they have to learn a new menu.”
Since working with Hall on opening Cupcake Royale shops almost a decade ago, Malek said she understands the Seattle permitting process has changed, and is sometimes more cumbersome. Still, she’s hopeful Salt & Straw will be able to open by late summer — maybe early fall.
Seattle has also taken big steps in the past few years on the labor front. The city is nearing a $15/hr minimum wage, and just recently City Councilmember Lorena González proposed legislation that would require Seattle employers to provide 26 weeks of paid family leave.
Malek said she thinks Salt & Straw is ahead of the curve, offering 90 days of paid maternity/paternity leave and also paid time off. The company also offers health insurance to part-time employees at a cost to workers of about $35 a month, disability insurance, and also provides an employee assistance program, she said.
Keep up with Salt & Straw’s progress opening in Capitol Hill at saltandstraw.com.