Last month I visited my parents in the Pacific Northwest (they live in a small town in Washington called Yelm). Along the way I stopped by and toured a few health-minded food producers in the area. First on the list: Salt, Fire & Time, a traditional healing foods kitchen in Portland, Oregon.
As expected, they had a variety of tasty and healthy food items (more on that later), but what stood out to me about Salt, Fire & Time is their journey to find the best way to bring health to its customers. It got me thinking about how businesses have to find a common ground between themselves and their community, so we’ll talk a bit about that, too.
The storefront greets you with an impressive array of nourishing and tasty foods – everything from broths, to jerky, to sauerkraut and kombucha, all traditionally prepared and aligned with The Weston A. Price Foundation‘s food preparation recommendations. They also have a wide selection of meats and offal to choose from in their freezer.
I had an opportunity to try their kombuchas, which are flavored with whole-leaf tea and flowers during their initial fermentation – no need for a second fermentation. Due to their unique brewing process, the drinks are only slightly fizzy and have a light, subtle flavor to them. I liked the osmanthus flavor the best, which tasted a bit like peach. Their kombuchas have a 6-14 day fermentation cycle.
The star of the show was definitely their huge boiler, used to make broth. They pull no punches with their broths, and use only the most nutrient-dense and high-quality products possible; here you see their chicken broth made with heads, feet, backs, carrots, onions, and apple cider vinegar – all gently simmered for up to 72 hours. Sure, the broth-making process looks a little gruesome (those heads!), but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more nourishing broth.
I was also impressed with their baby broth, created to closely replicate human breast milk and made with beef bone broth, liver, whey, lactose, cod liver oil, probiotics, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, gelatin and Vitamin C. Pretty impressive!
Although Salt, Fire & Time is mostly an online retailer, for the past five years they have maintained a storefront presence. After some recent soul-searching (and quite possibly some checkbook-reading), they realized that their overhead had become unmanageable – such is the cost of sourcing-high quality ingredients, despite the fact that they share their kitchen space with other businesses. So they recently made the decision to only open the store once a week, and focus on the online sales of their most unique products: their broths and kombuchas.
Their decision started me thinking about the struggle that many producers have to find their audience. A great idea can only go so far, and I feel that many businesses are most successful when they market themselves just right – and many businesses suffer when they aren’t successful in connecting with their audience right off the bat. So while they would like to keep a large store presence, there just hasn’t enough business to make this a daily possibility; thus the new refocus on e-commerce, and a streamlined portfolio.
I understand this concept well as a writer, having adjusted my own direction over these past four years. During my first year of writing, I would post recipes as much as possible – aiming for every other day, and failing miserably every few weeks. It wasn’t until I decided to only post recipes once a week that I was able to find the best balance between my day job, time in the kitchen, and audience expectations.
In the end, I’m glad that Salt, Fire & Time is maintaining their in-store presence, even in a more limited capacity. Since their products are specifically made to help sick people recover their health, their store acts as a de facto community center for those who may not have any other community to belong to. During my years of health issues, I definitely felt isolated in my struggles; having a place like Salt, Fire & Time to connect with other people would have made a huge difference for me. An online store is also an excellent resource for those who aren’t in the Portland area, so it’s a win-win in my eyes.