Salt and Straw—Packing Them In at Night On the Boulevard

Salt and Straw

Salt and Straw

CORRECTION: In our story we state that the Salt and Straw located on Larchmont Blvd employs 45 at their Larchmont Boulevard location. They employ 25 at that location. We regret the error.

LARCHMONT BOULEVARD—Elysa Desa, 24, was in an elated mood on a recent night in January. At the artisan ice cream store, Salt & Straw, she sat outside with family and friends, having just finished a yoga workout nearby.

Portland-based Salt & Straw, at 240 N. Larchmont Blvd. features flavors like “Twenty-Four Blackbirds’ Peanut Butter Chocolate and Bananas” and “Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.”

Desa, however, is a “Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons” kind of girl. On average, she said she visits the shop once a week to get her cold treat. When the shop first opened in September she said she would have to walk past a line that snaked down the sidewalk. The rope cordoned line reminds some like those found at Disneyland.

Almost six months later, on any given night, the line outside the shop can still stretch 15 customers deep and some say it seems to be turning around the nightlife of this once-sleepy Mayberry-esque street.

“I think they do change the nightlife, it actually keeps people on the sidewalk,” Desa said. “It’s amazing. It’s my favorite place in Los Angeles.”

The 45-employee, 950 square foot Larchmont Boulevard location is the second busiest store in the Salt & Straw business. The local shop hands out ice cream to thousands of customers each month, according to owner and founder Kim Malek.

There are three Salt & Straw locations in Portland and then, of course, the one on Larchmont.

Malek and her co-founder cousin, Tyler, chose Larchmont Boulevard, she said, because it seemed like the type of street where people could run into neighbors and spend time with family and friends.

“I can see more people are coming to the street,” she said. “And a lot of them say they come from other parts of the city to sample our ice cream.”

The ice cream is hand-made in small batches, using local dairy and ingredients, in a downtown Los Angeles kitchen where about 15 employees work. Tyler, who is Salt & Straw’s creative director, comes up with a new set of flavors every four weeks.

The name of the store is a nod to the old-fashioned way of making ice- cream: packing salt into ice when hand churning to make it freeze and then packing the ice cream on straw to insulate it.

Customer Lia, 30, who declined to give her last name, used to live in Southwest Portland and said she knew Salt & Straw from home.

“I haven’t even been to any other shops on Larchmont Boulevard,” she said. “The only reason I come is because of Salt & Straw.”

The ice cream is hand-made in small batches, using local dairy and ingredients, in a downtown Los Angeles kitchen where about 15 employees work. Tyler, who is Salt & Straw’s creative director, comes up with a new set of flavors every four weeks.

The ice cream is hand-made in small batches, using local dairy and ingredients, in a downtown Los Angeles kitchen where about 15 employees work. Tyler, who is Salt & Straw’s creative director, comes up with a new set of flavors every four weeks.

The name of the store is a nod to the old-fashioned way of making ice- cream: packing salt into ice when hand churning to make it freeze and then packing the ice cream on straw to insulate it.

But others that frequent the store—which is opened daily until 11 p.m.—

do manage to wander the other shops on the boulevard.

“I think it’s really good because people come in after 5 p.m. from Salt & Straw,” said Yuki Tsuda, a sales associate for a nearby store called Growze.

Tsuda said at least 10 people a day drift into the clothing store from Salt & Straw a day.

Most welcome the newest ice cream business on the block, which opened after the longtime 31 Flavors there closed, with the exception of some nearby restaurants. The ice cream store’s long lines can interfere with pedestrian traffic, like near Prado Restaurant, located at 244 N. Larchmont Blvd.

According to manager and owner, Javier Prado, the Caribbean-style restaurant has an older clientele than Salt & Straw. The restaurant closes at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 10:30 p.m. on weekends. Prado said he hasn’t considered changing his hours.

But other businesses like the boon of traffic and the ability to suggest the ice cream store as an accompaniment to its own offerings.

Employees of Erin McKenna’s Bakery at 236 N. Larchmont Blvd., which sells vegan cupcakes, loaves, muffins and cookies, say the street is now busier at night thanks to Salt & Straw. The bakery closes at 10 p.m. on weekends and 9 p.m. on weeknights.

“We like having them close by,” said bakery manager Flower Williams. “It gets people on the block…We don’t do ice cream, so it’s always nice to tell people where to go for it.”

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