Merchant Spotlight: Salter House + Holler & Squall


Sandeep Salter poses in front of her new business Salter House.

Sandeep Salter poses in front of her new business Salter House.

This is our first installment in a series of articles about business owners that have adapted their business model to accommodate changing consumer behavior marketplace trends. Sandeep Salter is the owner of Picture Room (117 Atlantic Avenue) and the recently-opened Salter House (119 Atlantic Avenue). Sandeep has a close relationship with the owners of antique store Holler & Squall (304 Henry Street)—husband and wife team Zak and Gillette Wing. Jonathan Marable, a staffer at the Atlantic Avenue BID, sat down with Sandeep and Gillette to learn how they molded their visions into viable businesses.

[Jonathan]: Sandeep and Gillette! Thanks so much for agreeing to sit down with the BID.

[Sandeep] and [Gillette]: Our pleasure.

[Jonathan]: Could you both first describe your respective businesses to our readers?

[Gillette]: Holler & Squall is a business that offers up antiques goods and other items we find and like for rent or for sale. We source goods from all over the United States and refresh items often, so you never know what you could find.

[Sandeep]: Picture Room is an art gallery that curates and sells art pieces but also hosts events. We also offer on-site curatorial consultations and other services to make your art purchasing experience that much smoother. Its sister store Salter House is a home goods store and tea room that we hope will become part of the neighborhood fabric like Picture Room has.

[Jonathan]: Indeed, all three businesses have established solid followings. I’m excited to learn more about how your businesses came to be. Could you tell us a bit about the history of your respective stores? Also, how did you two meet?

[Gillette]: We first opened our shop in 2009 one block down Atlantic at number 71, right next to Montero’s Bar. We moved to the corner of Atlantic and Henry three years later. We met Sandeep and Carson first as customers, discovering later that we had several mutual friends. When the space at 117 Atlantic came available, we had no idea that Picture Room was hunting for a Brooklyn location.

[Sandeep]: It was very serendipitous! In 2014, I opened Picture Room on Mulberry St in SoHo. I had been visiting Zak and Gillette on weekends, a big Holler & Squall fan! In spring of 2017, I decided to move Picture Room to the neighborhood to be closer to my family in Brooklyn Heights. I mentioned the move to Zak and Gillette one weekend and the rest is history!

[Gillette]: The available storefront came up organically in conversation in our shop and it was only a couple weeks later that we had a lease signed and our new lovely neighbors!

[Jonathan]: What a stroke of luck. So, Gillette, you celebrated 9 years on the Avenue on May 6th earlier this year.  Congratulations! That is no small feat. I’m curious, have you seen any changes in the neighborhood since you originally opened? How have the plans for Holler & Squall evolved over the years?

[Gillette]: This is a tough one. A little like describing how your childhood home changed, in that we changed along with the neighborhood (our family doubled in size with the addition of our two sons Paul and Gib!) While Atlantic Avenue is undeniably different with the development of the Piers at the end of Atlantic and Barclays, it still feels like home. I would love to be able to tell you we have a very well-thought-out business plan with target customers and marketing strategies to boot. But we are truthfully still basing all our inventory decisions and buying habits on what we would have in our own home. It can feel a bit like gambling every time we bring something particularly strange in to the shop…but it usually works out alright in the end.

[Jonathan]: Speaking of working out in the end, there’s been a lot of buzz around the inception of Salter House on Atlantic. Sandeep, can you talk about the evolution of your idea and how it came to be?

[Sandeep]: I have wanted to open up a sustainable housewares shop for a very long time, so when Zak and Gillette offered their space for rent, I knew it was another fortuitous opportunity!

[Gillette]: When Zak and I purchased the three commercial condominiums in 2014, we always intended to use the two adjoining spaces at 119 Atlantic Avenue and 304 Henry Street for Holler & Squall and maintain the third at 117 [Atlantic Avenue] as a rental to help mitigate the overhead of ownership. But when we moved our family to Kingston NY in 2015 and began commuting, our relationship to the physical store had to shift. It took a few years for us to figure out what we wanted that to look like.

[Editor’s note: Gillette and Zak downsized Holler & Squall’s physical footprint to a 10-ft-wide nook on the Henry Street side of the building, which they use as a short-term showroom and pickup location for pieces that customers have picked out via the store’s Instagram account. Sandeep remodeled the remaining storefront space at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Henry Street to create Salter House.]

Instagram has been a fantastic tool for staying engaged with our customers, regularly selling items even before they make it to Brooklyn. And perhaps if Sandeep and [her husband and business partner] Carson hadn’t been such a perfect fit, we wouldn’t have been so eager to make this big change.

[Sandeep]: In addition to selling home goods, I wanted Salter House to be a neighborhood spot that would really bring the community into the space – in the same way Picture Room does with its events – so having the tea room/cafe was central to the idea. We want people to have a local place to come hang out and to purchase household goods from cleaning supplies to fine china and bedding, while knowing that they are making responsible environmental choices.

[Jonathan]: The Small Business Administration states that only two thirds of all businesses with employees make it past their first two years, and only half make it past five years. Your respective businesses have thrived, adapted and expanded over the years. Could you tell us what advice you might give other business owners to help them be as successful as you have been?

[Gillette]: We have been so lucky with employees over the years. While we have never gotten to a point where it made financial sense to have someone on full time, the impact of having a perspective outside of our own has been tremendously helpful. At least two of the women who have helped us are also small business owners: Kellen Tucker of Shark Tooth in Williamsburg and designer Kendra Benson of This Womans Work. So I guess that’s my roundabout advice: hire other small business owners! (Gillette and Sandeep laugh.) I asked Zak the same line of questions and he gave an opposite but related answer: even the most amazing employee can’t run your business the way you can.

[Jonathan]: I’m sure it must be handy having staff with experience running their own businesses. At the same time, I would gather that only you and your husband can see and know the full vision you have for your business. What about you, Sandeep?

[Sandeep]: I would say to go slow. Grow and shrink accordingly – don’t be over-ambitious. And always be kind.

[Jonathan]: Great advice for sure, no matter what kind of business you have. Thank you Sandeep and Gillette for your time! See you around on the corridor.

[Sandeep] and [Gillette]: See you soon.

Follow these businesses on their websites and on social media for images of their merchandise and information about upcoming programming.

Holler & Squall

Wednesday to Friday 12 to 6 PM
Saturday and Sunday 11 AM to 7 PM
Instagram: @hollerandsquall

Picture Room

Tuesday – Thursday 1 PM – 7 PM
Fridays + Saturdays 11 AM – 7 PM
Sundays 11 AM – 5 PM
Instagram: @pictureroomnyc

Salter House

Monday to Friday 7:30 AM—7 PM
Saturday 8 AM—7 PM
Sunday 8 AM—5 PM

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