By Mina Williams Special to the Herald
LYNNWOOD — In less than 1,000 square feet, Scott Mackie’s Sea Salt Superstore brings the world of natural salts, spices, oils and vinegars to Lynnwood.
The interactive tasting bars give customers flavors to savor as they try before they buy.
Opened in November 2009 in a former flower shop, the location is an offshoot of a sea salt wholesale and online business showcasing natural sea salts, bath salts, spices and gourmet gifts.
The varieties of the gourmet bulk salts include selections such as flavored smoked bacon chipotle, truffle sea salt, porcini sea salt and saffron sea salt. Geographically specific offerings include French fleur de sel and Himalayan pink. Even hard to find specialties such as Kona deep sea salt, reported to be lower in sodium, and sulfur-scented black sea salt, an integral ingredient in East Indian cuisine, are readily available at Sea Salt Superstore.
Then there is a spice line of more than 150 items, also offered in bulk. Smoked paprika, hibiscus powder, black cumin seed and smoked black peppercorns are just a few spices available along with a selection of specialty sugars.
As the store specializes in sea salts, it was a logical extension to present body care items, lamps, foot bricks and cooking plates made from salt, Mackie said. Imported olive oils and vinegars were recently introduced at Sea Salt Superstore. In keeping with the interactive sense of the store, they are all available on tasting bars.
“We like the interactive nature of letting customers try all we have to offer,” he said.
Mackie’s introduction to the variety and qualities of sea salts came from his oldest son, who was stationed in Europe with the Navy.
“Out of the house, he learned to cook and brought some of the great sea salts he picked up in his travels back home,” said Mackie. “I had never tasted anything like it.”
Mackie was so intrigued with sea salts that he delved into research. He discovered that they are natural and produced by artisan harvesters. He concluded that some day sea salts would find a place in every home, replacing processed versions.
“There is a great growth opportunity in sea salt,” he said. “The history of salt and the ancient salt traders is fascinating.” So fascinating that the wholesale line — Caravel Gourmet — is dubbed after the style of seagoing ships of the 15th century spice traders.
Prior to the Lynnwood retail store, Caravel Gourmet was only available online and through his wholesale operation. The products are now distributed nationwide to specialty and gourmet food stores including locals like Petosa’s in Edmonds, and Food Emporium in Lynnwood.
The company made Everett its home alongside the office for his other concern, Funtasia Family Fun Park. When expenses for the location went up, Mackie sought to relocate to a spot in Lynnwood — midway between his home in Mukilteo and the Edmonds amusement center.
“It was great to reduce our operating costs,” he said. “I wasn’t planning to do a retail shop, but with a location across from Costco, it just screamed for it. Since we were doing retail online, along with the wholesale, the transition to brick-and-mortar was easy.”
Two years into the online and wholesale introduction and six months into the retail introduction, Mackie says business is good.
“We are growing,” he said. “But, we would be growing faster if it wasn’t for the economy.”
He attributes the growth to hard work and presenting his wares at local food and wine events.
“It’s the same consumer profile,” he said. “The Sea Salt Superstore is like a candy store for foodies.”
Mackie enjoys the global platform that sea salt affords. Routinely he is on e-mail with suppliers in Pakistan and China finding new and securing hard-to-get items.
Mina Williams is an editor with the Enterprise newspapers.