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Jun 22, 2015 4:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Entrepreneur Collects And Sells Salt From the Seashore

Michele Martuscello collecting water from the Atlantic Ocean. Michele Martuscello
Jun 24, 2015 8:58 AM

Local entrepreneur Michele Martuscello is bringing her online business, Shelly Sells Sea Salt On The South Shore, to the Westhampton Beach Farmers Market in the village.The 27-year-old said she started making her own sea salt using water from the Atlantic Ocean about six years ago with the help of her parents, Laura and Frank Martuscello of Westhampton Beach. Back then, she mostly gave the product as gifts to family and friends.

It turns out that everyone loved her salt so much that she incorporated the business and started selling the harvested mineral to her neighborhood friends nearly three years ago through her website, www.shellyseasalt.com.

“It’s a nice family thing,” Michele Martuscello said, referring to the support and assistance she gets from her parents in all aspects of the business. “I have the most supportive parents on this planet—the most supportive family, my siblings too. They probably think I’m crazy, but it’s so, it’s so nice.”

Ms. Martuscello, who works as an associate photo editor for Parents magazine, explained that she figured out how to make her own sea salt through a lot of research and experimentation.

She makes her salt by first collecting buckets of ocean water. Though she prefers to do that from Cupsogue Beach at the western end of Dune Road, Ms. Martuscello sometimes collects water from off Rogers Beach in Westhampton Beach.

After collecting five gallons of sea water at a time, which is typically enough to produce about a pound of salt, Ms. Martuscello uses extremely fine filters to remove the salt from the water. The water is then placed in a filter inside a greenhouse that sits outside the home she shares with her parents, and the sun, with the help of some heaters, do the rest.

“We always treat it with heat, so it kills any sort of bacteria that could grow on it,” Ms. Martuscello said.

She explained that the process requires about eight hours of work per batch, though it typically takes up to three weeks for the salt to be removed from the water and before it is ready for consumption.

Once that process is completed, Ms. Martuscello sells her salt in three different sized containers; one ounce costs $10, two ounces cost $20, and four ounces runs $35. She also sells a citrus blend for $12, and a sea salt hairspray for $15.

Once she perfected her process and began sharing her salt with family and friends, Ms. Martuscello said she started receiving email orders from the “friends of friends,” including some of whom requested slight tweaks to her recipes and different products. Those requests prompted her to start offering the citrus-infused salt; she hopes to introduce new offerings soon.

“This summer, I think we’re going to do a few more blends, experiment with some stuff—maybe garlic salt,” Ms. Martuscello said. “And maybe, like, an herb one. But nothing too crazy. I don’t want to get too far away from what I started with, and I really want to push that my all-natural sea salt is made here in Westhampton.”

And, as of earlier this spring, her sea salt and related products are also being sold in Westhampton Beach. The farmers market, which operates in the municipal lot off Mill Road, is open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. every Saturday through the fall.

“This is our first year in the market and really kind of selling and doing business,” Ms. Martuscello said. “It’s been very different. It’s cool, it’s exciting and it’s different from what I’ve always done.”

She also recently started selling her sea salt at the Atlantic Seafood Fish Market in Center Moriches after their customers started asking for her product. The fish market is the first restaurant to stock and sell her product.

The Martuscellos said they love putting their sea salt on everything, from tomatoes and steak, to popcorn and even margaritas.

“It’s overwhelming because we’re getting such a great response,” Laura Martuscello said. “We’re really happy that we’re being received so well for what we are, you know, just a small little thing.”

The younger Ms. Martuscello graduated from Westhampton Beach High School and has lived in the village for her entire life. Her mother observed that she is benefiting from many in the community knowing her, thanks to the babysitting jobs she had as a teenager.

According to Laura Martuscello, her daughter’s product has also found an audience with those who have moved away from the area, as well as those who still fondly recall those trips to the beach when, inevitably, they would accidentally swallow a little salt water.

“I always tease her and say it’s like having a little bit of Westhampton with you,” Laura Martuscello said. “Wherever you go, you can have a little bit of Westhampton in your pocket.”

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