This Beloved Portland Ice Cream Shop Is Finally Hitting the East Coast
Salt and Straw is expanding their empire with a new Miami scoop shop.
Salt & Straw, the cult-favorite ice cream company from Portland, Oregon, that's known for out-of-the-box flavors (think Mushroom Muddy Buddies and Berries, Beans, and BBQ Sauce), has expanded to 19 locations since 2011. Beyond Portland, the small-batch ice creams can be found at scoop shops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and Disneyland. While Salt & Straw has been available at an all-day café in New York City since 2017 (Union Square Hospitality Group’s Daily Provisions), the company hasn’t had its own presence on the East Coast—until now. In spring 2020, Salt & Straw will open a scoop shop in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. A second South Florida location, in Coconut Grove, will follow in summer 2020.
Hospitality guru Danny Meyer is a Salt & Straw board member (his private equity fund, Enlightened Hospitality Investments, invested in the ice cream company), and he’s the one who suggested they look into Florida. After one trip, co-founders and cousins Kim and Tyler Malek knew that Miami was the right market to test out East Coast expansion.
“The sheer amount of ingredients in the state is awe-inspiring,” Tyler said. “It’s the only place in the continental U.S. where we can get real coconut.”
The key to Salt & Straw’s expansion is customization. There’s a baseline of classic flavors that make appearances across all shops—like Honey Lavender and Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons—yet the ingredients and experience are molded to each location. “We understand that we can’t just export what we’ve already created,” said Tyler, who is Salt & Straw’s Head Ice Cream Maker. “It comes down to how do we work with the best farmers and chefs and chocolate makers and bacon smokers in the city.”
Whenever Salt & Straw opens a scoop shop in a new city, Tyler spends a year immersing himself in the food, people, and culture of that place. He connects with local business owners, forming partnerships that inspire ice cream flavors. A San Francisco ice cream might be made with Dandelion Chocolate and a Seattle one with Beecher’s Cheese, while Miami partners will include Panther Coffee, The Salty Donut, and Wynwood Brewing. Though the Miami menu is still in development, the Panther Coffee flavor will possibly entail a dark roast that’s cooked into the ice cream and combined with locally-made Exquisito chocolate and rum tres leches cake.
“When we come to a new area we create a whole new menu,” said Kim, who is Salt & Straw’s CEO. “Making the decision to grow and open in a new place is not just sending more Portland flavors across the United States.”
For Kim, the most terrifying thing about growing Salt & Straw is maintaining the company’s culture. “We’re constantly evolving,” Kim said, explaining how she and Tyler apply lessons from previous shops to new ones. For example, when they opened in SF, they were met with instant success. Yet as time passed, they realized that behind the scenes, the company wasn’t operating at the level Kim and Tyler expected.
“We came to learn that we were not set up to grow and develop our people and hire and train in a way that transferred our culture for the business to be sustainable,” Kim said. So they stepped back, slowed down, and created a new way of developing talent that could maintain their high standards—and be replicated from coast to coast.