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7.1.18

Adding a Little Salte to Their Slate

Four years ago, life was on track for Connecticut-based Lizzy Hynes and her husband Tom Juster. The pair had recently moved back to the East Coast after living in San Francisco, where Juster worked in finance and Hynes managed clothing boutiques. When Juster’s job transferred him to Boston, Hynes got a job working for the corporate division of home goods retailer Juliska, and here’s where fate intervened: Juliska happened to be opening a store on Martha’s Vineyard, where Hynes had grown up spending summers with her family. A seed was planted, and Hynes began to wonder if it was time for their tracks to turn.

After packing up and spending six months in Italy, the couple began to look at spaces on the Island for their own retail shop. A small space off Main Street in Edgartown was open and they signed a lease that trip. Three months later, Slate was born; a “fashion, home, and wellness boutique” with a clean aesthetic and a penchant for supporting brands with a mission.

“I’d dreamed of having my own shop forever,” Hynes said when we met at the beginning of Slate’s third season. “And I thought about hundreds of names. But then, when we were traveling, it hit me: Slate. This was my ‘Clean Slate.’ And that was it.”

Clarity found while traveling is a theme for Hynes. It was during the Italy trip that she finally felt ready to take the plunge into owning her own business, after years of working for other people. “I identify with my career,” she said. “I work like it’s my own business anyway. I knew I could do it, but it’s scary taking that first step. I had to get to a point where I believed in myself enough. And being away, stepping away from it all gives you clarity.”

After Slate’s first season was a success, the couple decided to branch out into home goods, with a second shop, Salte, tucked away on another Edgartown side street and now in its second season. “People always ask me why I didn’t want to be on Main Street,” Hynes said. “And of course that would be great, but I’m an explorer. I love finding that off-the-beaten-track gem. Yes, you miss out on some people and I’d love to capture them all, but hopefully we’ll grow.”

With two shops to run, Juster decided to leave his job in finance and sign on as head of operations for the businesses. The couple has found the transition into working together to be a positive one. “We were definitely nervous about it, but so far so good,” Hynes laughed.

A core value at both shops is a commitment to featuring designers, makers, and brands with socially responsible missions. “We work hard to curate an assortment that’s a combination of established and emerging designers and makers, and people who are inspired by creating beautiful things with purpose,” Hynes said.

Apolis is one such brand. Sold at Salte, their “MV Market Bags” are part of the Bangladesh Project, which employs and empowers women in Bangladesh, giving back to education and revitalization projects in the community. The brand partners with cities (and islands) to co-create custom bags made from recycled jute fiber. The bags have waterproof lining and sell for $68.

While much of Salte is artfully curated with pillows, throws, and other homeware made by vendors the pair sources while traveling or through social media, a few quirky passion projects are featured in the mix. “This was made by a twelve-year-old,” she said, reaching into a display cabinet to retrieve a bottle of Buzz-Off, natural insect repellent made by the son of a family friend. “He was a mosquito magnet, and he turned his kitchen into a lab. People love it.”

In addition to carrying brands with a conscience, Hynes and Juster are committed to featuring the work of local artists and makers as much as they can. “I’m very proud to carry Elizabeth Cecil,” Hynes said, pointing to a large print of one of the Island photographer’s ocean-themed series. “I’m inspired by her ability to capture such stillness in such a powerful source.”

Reverence for the ocean is important to Hynes; another Salte vendor with Island connections is Norton Point, makers of sustainable sunglasses who give back a portion of their proceeds to development efforts toward stemming the impact of ocean plastic. “It’s an inspired brand,” Hynes said. “I find their Sea Plastic Differently campaign to be really compelling.”

For the couple, collaborating with local businesses and artisans is about more than just carrying the brands. In the few years since both shops have been open Hynes and Juster have prioritized working with Island organizations, giving back through promotions and events. From pop-ups to Saturday henna parties on the patio, Hynes is eager to see Salte grow into a gathering space for Islanders and visitors alike. “I love being a space for people to gather,” Hynes said, noting that people will often grab a coffee across the street and bring it back to the patio to sit.

After a few years of splitting time between Edgartown, Boston, and wherever their travels have taken them, Juster and Hynes are now in the process of transitioning to living on the Island year-round. “We are really excited about building a life here,” Hynes said. “It’s rare these days to be part of a community that is full of independent retailers, and we take that responsibility seriously.”

Salte is located at 6 South Water Street in Edgartown and at saltemv.com. Slate is located at 11 North Summer Street in Edgartown and at slatemv.com.