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Retail Business of the Year: Unique concept has been worth its salt

Subheadline: 
Couple prepares to open third store that specializes in flavoring, enhancing food

Nearly seven years ago, Carol and Dave Legasse decided to go on a romantic getaway to Amelia Island to relax, recharge from their busy careers and just enjoy each other’s company.

That they did, not realizing they were bringing home an idea that would change their lives.

Three years and lots of research and planning later, the couple gave up their lucrative day jobs — in the midst of the recession — to make salt.

They haven’t looked back since.

“When we were in Amelia, we ate at a restaurant in the Ritz Carlton called Salt,” Carol said. “They did salt pairings with different salts and salt blends for every dish.

“It was fascinating to listen to them talk about the various salts. I came back with a salt sampler, totally amazed that there were so many flavors of salt.”

Salt is like other seasonings: It gets attributes from its environment, she said.

“There is red salt from clay, black salt from activated charcoal, for example. And there are so many benefits from high-mineral-content salt,” she said, picking up a marbled block of Himalayan Pink Salt.

“This salt has 84 trace minerals,” she said. “We’re all trying to eat healthy, to source local foods for freshness. So why would you put unhealthy salts or seasonings on it?”

The couple began to talk about the concept of selling salt. At the time, Carol was the district manager for H&R Block, responsible for 15 stores. Dave had owned his marketing and advertising firm for 40 years.

“We talked about it, started building a model store on paper, trying to figure out what would be a great place for this kind of store,” she said.

“While we were doing that, we were also doing a lot of traveling, sampling a lot of different tastes,” Dave said. “Carol has this hobby of mixing flavors and coming up with interesting blends. One year, she developed a grinder blend that we gave, along with a bottle of Himalayan salt, to friends for Christmas.

“Three months later, they were all asking for more. That pretty much pushed us over the edge,” he said, laughing.

“We spent three years working on a business plan,” Dave said. “We visited as many food specialty stores as we could, taking note of what we liked and didn’t like.”

Three and a half years later, The Salt Table, 51 Barnard Street in Savannah, bustles with tourists and locals alike. The store features the Legasses’ unique brand of food enhancement products, including salts, seasoning blends, sugars, teas and other flavors. All Salt Table products, including its proprietary special blends, are hand-blended, packaged and labeled in-house. Carol develops the recipes and manages production, while Dave designs the packaging and handles the marketing.

 

No growing pains

As with any new manufacturing and retail venture, there are things the Legasses say they would do differently, knowing what they know now. But, Dave said, those are all minor details.

What they’ve done right is certainly apparent:

• Overall sales have doubled since opening.

• Internet sales have more than doubled since their first full year in 2012, with sales now in all 50 states.

• The wholesale division started up in the summer of 2013 and has expanded to multiple outlets in six states, including Whole Foods in six states.

 

• A new, modern production facility and retail store opened in Pooler last year.

• From an initial staff of three, The Salt Table has grown to a staff of 12, a number that is set to expand when the Legasses open their third and largest store in the Tanger Outlet Savannah this spring.

“We are really fortunate to have an amazing, dedicated staff that provides five-star customer service in an environment where products are meant to be sampled,” Carol said.

 

 

All Georgia, all the time

In addition to their own brand, The Salt Table’s expansion has allowed Carol and Dave to showcase products from other artisans in Savannah and around the state. The new Georgia Room downstairs on Barnard Street features Georgia wine tasting and such local products as Leoci’s jams, jellies, sauces and oils, Frali pasta and sauces, Verdant Kitchen’s ginger products, Savannah Coffee Roasters coffee, Oliver Farms oils, and Oliver Bentley’s dog biscuits.

“We have so many wonderful food artisans here, we want to show everyone off,” Carol said.

The Salt Table also has developed partnerships, co-brands and signature-blended products with Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, Daufuskee Island’s Bloody Point Resort and Purvis Pecans. Restaurants featuring Salt Table salts and blends include the Bohemian’s Rocks on the Roof, Jazz’d Tapas Bar and the Jepson Café.

“And we’ve just recently developed two Savannah signature blends with Visit Savannah,” Dave said.

The Legasses also believe in giving back. Through a co-brand arrangement with Rivers of the World, a Georgia-based nonprofit that helps the poorest of the world, The Salt Table has donated thousands of dollars to the charity.

Closer to home, they support local organizations such as the Savannah Voice Experience, the Humane Society and the Rotary Clubs of Savannah.

There have been accolades, too, including Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence for 2013 and 2014. The Savannah Taste experience, a walking foodie tour, chose The Salt Table as one of its stops three years ago. Since then, the tour brings a dozen or so “foodies” through the store every day.

The Legasses expect to keep growing The Salt Table, but at a carefully controlled pace.

“We talked about franchising, but we really like the idea of being a Savannah-centric business,” Dave said. “And our local customers are a huge part of what we do.”

Carol agreed.

“Instead of taking this outside of the greater Savannah area, we’d like to think we’re helping draw people to Savannah.”

The Salt Table’s second location is at 1370 E. U.S. Highway 80 in Pooler. For more information, visit www.salttable.com or call 912-447-0200.

 

ABOUT THE SERIES

As 2014 comes to a close, the Savannah Morning News, Business in Savannah and savannahnow.com continue the tradition of profiling companies and organizations that made major contributions to the local business environment during the past year.

The Business in Savannah staff chose the honorees from a list of nominees submitted by local business and community members, utilizing broad criteria — from growth and success to philanthropy and community involvement.

Tuesday: Newcomer of the year

Wednesday: Manufacturer of the year

Thursday: Business advocate of the year

Friday: Entrepreneurial business of the year

Today: Retail business of the year

Sunday: Small business of the year

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Breakout Box: 

ABOUT THE SERIES

As 2014 comes to a close, the Savannah Morning News, Business in Savannah and savannahnow.com continue the tradition of profiling companies and organizations that made major contributions to the local business environment during the past year.

The Business in Savannah staff chose the honorees from a list of nominees submitted by local business and community members, utilizing broad criteria — from growth and success to philanthropy and community involvement.

Tuesday: Newcomer of the year

Wednesday: Manufacturer of the year

Thursday: Business advocate of the year

Friday: Entrepreneurial business of the year

Today: Retail business of the year

Sunday: Small business of the year

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