People eating ice cream

Each flavor made by Salt & Straw Ice Cream includes local, organic and sustainable ingredients. The Portland, Ore.-based company opened in May 2011 with the goal of featuring the “best Oregon has to offer, through ice cream.” The owners call their business a “farm-to-cone” company.

Cousins Kim and Tyler Malek source ingredients from the state’s farmers and artisans—Lochmead Dairy, Laurelwood Brewery, Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Olympic Provisions charcuterie, to name a few—and also from small, hand-picked farms from around the world.

The Maleks began the business with a custom pushcart, but were able to open their first retail location less than three months later. Plans for 2012 include a second Portland store. In addition to purchasing goodies at the Scoop Shop, customers can order items online. The company ships nationwide.

The duo’s focus on local and sustainable extends beyond the ice cream. Scoops are served in compostable cups, and reclaimed wood from historic sites in Oregon and Washington as well as vintage items are used throughout the store.

The company name refers to 18th century production methods of pots of cream in a tin pail surrounded by salt and straw. Paying homage to that heritage, each Salt & Straw flavor is created by hand and visitors to the scoop shop are able to watch the ice cream makers through a large display window. While there are several standard flavors — Grandma Malek’s almond brittle with salted ganache, chocolate with gooey brownie and honey balsamic strawberry with cracked black pepper, to name a few — seasonal flavors are introduced every few weeks.

“Tyler’s been coming up with more inventive new flavors than anyone thought possible,” says Kim, owner and culinary director. “Some of our favorite new flavors include an Arbequina Olive Oil, a carrot pistachio and cardamom Indian ice cream and of course our pear with blue cheese.”

Partnering with some of their local chocolatiers, four upcoming flavors include: Oregon Kiss, Pinot and Dark Chocolate, Catalonian Breakfast and Love Potion sorbet. All will be available by the scoop, pint or as a sampler flight.

Kim, who previously worked for several Fortune 500 companies, including a dozen years in marketing and product management at Starbucks, says she started Salt & Straw with the hopes of “creating a space that would become a community gathering spot, a place to meet your neighbors, hang out with the family, go on a date or treat yourself.”

In addition to hosting in-store events, she uses social media to extend the company’s community involvement. Twitter and Facebook are used to promote events surrounding new-flavor launches, request feedback for new product ideas, share news and hold contests.

“We have a private club called the ‘Icescreamists.’ We only allow a certain number of people to join and they get special privileges (private ice cream for breakfast party on New Year’s, sneak peak of new flavors, etc.),” explains Kim. “We had a contest recently on Facebook to guess our new flavor lineup, and several people who guessed correctly got a place in the club.”

The owner, who has wanted to open an ice cream shop since 1996, is excited that Salt & Straw’s unique and gourmet flavors  and its story have resonated with local and national media. “This is such an amazing way to develop new relationships through grassroots outreach.”