Commercial remodel and custom woodworking helps Salt and Straw expand its Portland empire of frozen yumminess

Adaptive reuse for scoop shop’s NW location demands nimble, quick remodeling chops.

“It was a real sprint out there,” said Hammer & Hand project manager Kevin Guinn of our recent adaptive reuse commercial remodel for Salt and Straw’s new location in Northwest Portland.

Commercial remodel of Salt and Straw NW by Portland/Seattle contractor Hammer & Hand
photography by bright designlab

Salt and Straw NW, located at 838 NW 23rd Avenue in Portland, opened on April 27 to well-earned fanfare.  (See this Oregonian article and this write-up in Portland Monthly.)  In addition to Salt and Straw’s now-famous ice cream (augmented by new flavors created in collaboration with local chefs from Ox, Beast and other Portland restaurants), the NW location serves Stumptown coffee as well as pastries and desserts made fresh onsite.

In constructing her new store, Owner Kim Malek reunited the team that designed and built her first bricks-and-mortar location on Northeast Alberta Street last year: John Cooley as architect, Sarah Littlefield of Seattle Junk Love as interior designer/artifact-sourcer, and Hammer & Hand as builder.

Commercial remodel of Salt and Straw NW by Portland/Seattle contractor Hammer & Hand

In some respects the NW project was a reprise of the Alberta experience: same collaborators, old-time aesthetic, time-sensitivity, and engagement of Hammer & Hand carpenters in both the field and the woodshop to build custom furniture and built-ins.

Commercial remodel of Salt and Straw NW by Portland/Seattle contractor Hammer & Hand

But the two spaces started from two very different physical states.

The Alberta project was a build-out within a cleared-out shell.  Tabula rasa.

The NW location, on the other hand, was a complex palimpsest of former uses from former lives, most recently as Mio Gelato, before that Torrefazione Italia café, and from 1911 to 1986 the Esquire movie theater.

“Because this one was an adaptive refit, the complexity level went up,” said Kevin.  “You’d open one thing up and find that it affected three others.  So it really became an act of agility for lead carpenter Steph Lynch and her crew, handled with aplomb.”

The scope of the NW project was also larger, to match Kim’s expanded business model for the Salt and Straw NW location.  To provide space and facilities to prepare the freshly-made desserts and pastries served at the new store, the team added a kitchen and workspace to the space, cantilevered over a portion of the shop and the custom designed walk-in cooler.

Commercial remodel of Salt and Straw NW by Portland/Seattle contractor Hammer & Hand

Sarah Littlefield brought her designer’s eye and junk-picker’s touch to the interior décor of the space, salvaging old-school dairy and ice cream artifacts (seen on the shelving above) and retro metal chairs (below).  Movie reel boxes adorn the walls of the bathroom, homage to the site’s theater beginnings.

Commercial remodel of Salt and Straw NW by Portland/Seattle contractor Hammer & Hand

Hammer & Hand master jointer Dan Palmer and his woodworking team played a co-starring role alongside Steph and the field crew.

Commercial remodel of Salt and Straw NW by Portland/Seattle contractor Hammer & Hand

The upcycled wood tables, benches, built-ins, menu boards, stanchions, cabinet boxes and windows were all built in-house at Hammer & Hand’s woodshop.

Commercial remodel of Salt and Straw NW by Portland/Seattle contractor Hammer & Hand

To say that Kim has built a following for Salt and Straw is an understatement.  It’s more like a Portland ice cream movement, a renaissance of creamy, savory, and sweet devotion.  So it’s no surprise that her new spot is thriving and smashing sales projections.

Commercial remodel of Salt and Straw NW by Portland/Seattle contractor Hammer & Hand

“Yeah, she’s doing alright.  Normally lines don’t start forming ‘til 10 am,” quipped Kevin.

- Zack

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