After two years of impressive growth along the West Coast, Portland ice cream company Salt & Straw has accepted a new investment, this one focused on getting their frosty product to more customers, no matter where they might be.
Salt & Straw started life scooping strawberry honey balsamic ice cream from a Northeast Alberta Street pushcart in 2011. In 2017, co-founders Kim and Tyler Malek took on “substantial” investments from both Greenwich, Connecticut-based KarpReilly and noted New York restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and Affiliates. Today, the company has 18 shops across the Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and San Diego areas.
This month, the Maleks accepted $2 million more from the Oregon Venture Fund (formerly the Oregon Angel Fund), which they expect to use to seed an artisan food incubator program and improve the technological experience throughout the company.
In an interview Tuesday, Kim Malek said she started talking with the Oregon-based venture capital fund after learning they had “a concentrated effort to increase their investments within the food world in Portland.” The funds will be used in part to launch an artisan food incubator program, a new venture that seeks to locate, support and grow new food producers that could then go on to work with Salt & Straw.
“We would help with HR, marketing, accounting, all the fun stuff that you don’t think about when you’re blazing through a passion project,” Kim Malek says. “Once you start manufacturing, we would start buying product from you.”
Oregon Venture Fund also plans to assist Salt & Straw in upgrading their tech. According to Malek, fund partner Matt Compton, a former Yahoo executive and onetime chief operating officer at online banker Simple, has already offered assistance and advice, including sitting in on interviews with potential hires.
“We have a pretty nicely growing direct to consumer business — until recently I called it mail order, which just shows that I came of age in the 80s — that we’ve never really paid any attention to,” Malek says. “We’d like to start developing that part of the business, as well as our third-party delivery, Postmates, etc. We want to be able to more consistently offer the excellent experience that people have come to expect in our stores, wherever they might find us.”
— Michael Russell