An Interview with Hope Shcwartz-Leeper and Zachary Fagiano of Wellfleet Sea Salt Company
When I first tasted Wellfleet Sea Salt, I was eerily thrown back to my first surf lesson, when I got tumbled under a wave and pearled to shore. I must have swallowed a gallon of water, but the sea water in Wellfleet, Massachusetts has a very unique flavor. For me, it is saltier than other sea water, and perhaps more earthy.
Hope and Zachary started their company as a term project their junior year at Skidmore, where they won money to start Wellfleet Sea Salt Company. They are primarily self-taught and perservered with the company through Hurricane Irene, unruly greenhouse barges and trouble getting access to land in Wellfleet.
Now, they have a burgeoning business with a unique and delicious product that can be found at farmers markets and stores throughout Cape Cod and Massachusetts.
Here are some of their thoughts.
Why did you decide to base in Wellfleet?
We decided to base in Wellfleet because I grew up going there every summer as a kid. It's an amazing place with incredible seafood, so it just made sense!
What is it like being young business owners in a town with some very old businesses?
Being young business owners in this town has actually been an advantage for us because many towns on Cape Cod, especially Wellfleet, are trying to encourage younger people to move into the area and start their lives there. When we ran into problems while looking for a place to expand into, we had a lot of support because people didn't want us to give up and find somewhere else to run our business. It seems that, slowly but surely, younger people are opting to start up on Cape Cod.
Do you feel like there is a community of young people in the food industry that you are part of?
Most definitely! Young entrepreneurs in the food industry are definitely growing on the Cape. You have people like Chequessett Chocolate and Salty Market in North Truro, Pop+Dutch in Provincetown, and lots of young farmers that supply local restaurants and farmers' markets.
What does your salt taste like to you (to me it tastes strangely specifically like being tumbled under a wave)?
I would agree with you! Many people have said it tastes like a mouthful of Wellfleet seawater, or like the briny flavor of a Wellfleet oyster, which is exactly what we want the experience of eating it to be like. I think it helps transport people back to a favorite place of their childhood, or a place where they go to relax, unwind, and dig their toes into the sand.
Were you surprised with how quickly your business took off? Do you have plans to expand?
We were definitely surprised, although we knew that sea salt was an up-and-coming food product. I didn't quite expect that people would be so excited about it, and we have many customers from all over the country who wait all year until their Cape Cod vacation to see me at a farmers' market and restock. We do have plans to expand as well: we currently have two new evaporators, but will eventually have six. We will also be making more flavored salts using as many local products as we can, and eventually moving into other similar things such as rubs and blends.
To be honest, the most annoying thing about the blog is remembering to update it! I often go a few months at a time without writing a new post, simply because I'm usually busy with running the business to remember to write the blog. I do enjoy writing though, and I like that people can keep up with what we're doing in such an accessible way.
Is there a recipe with sea salt that you want to share?
For a recipe, since we live on Cape Cod, a simple way to use it is on grilled fish, preferably something local! Sprinkle a bit on before grilling, like you would with a rub, and if you'd like add any other seasonings. It's always better to use less salt during cooking because you can finish with it later, which is what most gourmet salts are really for. Once the fish is finished, cut into portions and plate. Use the salt to sprinkle on as desired, which will add some texture as well as a bit of briny Cape Cod flavor!