Gourmet salts, Himalayan salt products, and Dead Sea salt bath products
Several years ago husband and wife team Don and Judit (she’s a transplanted Hungarian), spent some time traveling throughout Eastern Europe. One day while in Budapest they happened upon an interesting shop with a window display of glowing Himalayan salt and wandered in to see more. The store was unlike anything they had ever seen in the US. Beautiful Himalayan salt tiles covered the walls and glowed from the lights behind them. The store sold tables made of wood and decorated with beautiful inlaid salt tiles as well as health products made with salt as the key ingredient. They even had entire rooms lined in glowing Himalayan salt where people breathed a salt mist to improve their lung function. It was their first experience seeing salt used in so many unique ways.
Later they traveled to Salzburg, Austria, to visit their medieval salt mines and learn a little more about salt. They went sightseeing in town and found a wonderful little store called Salz (German for ‘salt’). Inside was a beautiful shop that sold many of the Himalayan salt products that they had seen in Budapest as well as a variety of health and skin products made from salt. The backlit salt walls, so similar to those they saw in Budapest, looked elegant and beautiful. The products they sold were beautifully presented and naturally prepared using salt as the key ingredient. Again, they were struck by the fact that no store in the US was remotely like it.
The next day they traveled to the Berchtesgaden salt mine in the Bavarian Alps. Donning worker coveralls they toured the deep salt mine for hours and learned that salt miners, unlike other miners, rarely had lung infections or respiratory problems because the salt particles they inhaled effectively fought bacteria. Afterwards they toured the mine’s salt store and again were taken with the vast number of salt-based products and uses that they had never seen in the US.
On the plane home they wondered if it was possible to actually have a store completely dedicated to a rock that was best known in the US for melting icy roads and causing hypertension. Still, they were pretty sure they had the beginning of a great concept: a new kind of store that would capture the elegance and beauty of the many mysterious places they had seen. They envisioned a store that would both educate and celebrate the many benefits of this much-misunderstood mineral: salt.
It was all coming together and they now felt they had most of the products that would make for a great new store concept: more than 50 gourmet finishing salts; beautiful Himalayan salt blocks for food preparation and other uses; dozens of imported Dead Sea salt-based bath and body products; healing salts for the airways, skin and sinus; as well as salted confections like salted caramels and salted chocolates.
History of the Salt Cellar
The next challenge was to find the right city for such a unique concept. Judit and Don searched a number of towns up the east coast from New York City to Portland, Maine. They finally settled on the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. With a population of around 20,000 that swelled to 80,000 on many weekends it had everything they were looking for to prove that their new concept would work.
Next they hunted to find just the right retail space. Judit discovered a great spot in a beautiful alley just off the main street. The building was erected in 1800 and was lovely. The only problem was the fact that the space was located in the cellar. Undaunted, they decided to call the store the ‘Salt Cellar’ and signed a lease.
Judit and Don rushed to open for the holiday season after relocating from Long Island, NY, just 30 days prior. The Salt Cellar opened in Portsmouth, NH on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2011 without even an outdoor sign. Thanks to word of mouth and some great coverage of the store in local newspapers and TV, the store was an instant success.
Encouraged by the reception they received in Portsmouth, Don and Judit began to look for retail space in nearby Portland, Maine. They quickly found an irresistible space and in October, less than a year after opening in Portsmouth, opened their second Salt Cellar store. Situated on a busy ‘Old Port’ corner the store is, of course, located in the building’s cellar!