Just over two years after launching their catering business via pop-up diners and takeaway meals, sisters-in-law Payson Cunningham and Shelby Faux have opened a plant-based market and grocery store in Newcastle.
On July 23, Cunningham and Faux opened the Salt + Pepper Social at 67 Main St. in Newcastle, the former home of Milling Around and the Damariscotta Area Chamber of Commerce.
The roots of the business took root during a boat trip Cunningham and Faux took with their husbands in 2020. During the trip, the sisters-in-law cooked meals and found they loved cooking together.
“It was a lot of fun for us because we’re both vegan and we’re never around people who are like that,” Cunningham said.
The two families lived together for part of 2020, during which time Cunningham and Faux continued to cook together, preparing three-course meals for themselves and their friends to enjoy. This gave rise to the idea of hosting pop-up dinner parties, the first of which sold out.
Cunningham and Faux then launched their catering business S+P Foods, through which they hosted additional pop-up dinners and began creating takeout at Fork Food Labs in Portland.
“We just wished we could go to a place like this…and ultimately it was like ‘I guess we have to,'” Faux said.
Continued positive customer feedback has demonstrated the demand for good plant-centric meals.
“Everyone is focused on local use, but they almost always focus on meat, seafood, dairy, and produce is almost an afterthought,” Faux said.
“People tend to think your options are limited, because of what you eat, but in reality, your options expand because you look at your plate differently,” Cunningham said.
The possibility of opening a storefront with this mindset in the Midcoast arose last fall, around the time Cunningham and Faux began considering their next steps. They were hosting events for The Public Works, a co-working space in Portland owned by Rob and Sydney Barrett. When the Barretts ended up buying the Newcastle building, they offered the lease to Cunningham and Faux.
“They’ve always been very supportive of us,” Cunningham said. “But we were scared…it’s a big scary step.”
As they pondered the decision, Cunningham and Faux hosted an event in New Harbor. They then stopped in front of the building and immediately made the decision to take the plunge.
“It ended up working perfectly,” Cunningham said. “We thought if we fail, we fail trying.”
Over the winter, while renovations to the building were underway, Cunningham and Faux hosted a few holiday events and left Fork Food Labs. Half of the building at 67 Main Street is now a commercial kitchen from which they can operate their catering business.
The other half is dedicated to Salt + Pepper Social, a market and delicatessen where customers can purchase take-out items such as pastries, salads and sandwiches, as well as hot and iced coffee and ice cream. soft. Offerings vary almost daily, all of which can be enjoyed while overlooking the Damariscotta River on the new deck built by the Barretts’ other business, Barrett Made. Cunningham and Faux plan to host private dinners and events on the bridge in the future.
Salt + Pepper Social also offers a selection of frozen items, host and hostess gifts, and all plant-based pantry items that can sometimes be hard to find locally, Faux said.
Cunningham and Faux opened Salt + Pepper Social to the public on July 23. They posted the news on Instagram and emailed their takeout and catering event customer list, not knowing what to expect. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with a large number of former customers coming through the door.
“Everyone has been so enthusiastic, kind and welcoming,” Cunningham said.
Salt + Pepper Social is open 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The company is closed from Wednesday to Friday.
For more information, find Salt + Pepper Social on Instagram.