Explore Washington D.C.

My Washington: Writer-turned-retailer Amanda McClements

The owner of Salt & Sundry talks about her housewares shop, the dining scene and a capital view

Amanda knows best. As a veteran writer whose commentaries appear in Food & Wine and as owner of a “modern general store,” this longtime Washingtonian has watched the rise of our culinary and retail scenes. In 2012, she opened housewares shop Salt & Sundry in Union Market, brick-and-mortar proof of the capital’s burgeoning artisanal culture, and this summer she opens a second location on S Street NW. We’d follow her just about anywhere. Good taste guaranteed.

Amanda McClements
Amanda McClements (©Jeffrey Martin)

How did the vision for Salt & Sundry develop?

During my 12 years of writing about food and travel, I became more interested in the style and art of entertaining and felt frustrated that I couldn’t find local resources to inspire me. I had this place in my mind where I wanted to shop, so the obvious question became, “Why not just build it?”

So you risked it and opened your shop in unconventional Union Market?

When I found out about the retail space available in Union Market, it just seemed like a natural fit. The vendors coming in were all people I’d written about in the past and respected, and the chance to be neighbors with them was really exciting. Having this hub is a huge game changer for the food scene here.

Union Market
Union Market (©Dan Cunningham)

Does the dining scene factor in your shop?

We have great food in the city now, which inspires people to ask, “How can I recreate these experiences at home?” That’s where Salt & Sundry fits in. We provide the tools needed beyond the cooking for those who love casual entertaining.

Name one of your favorite local pantry goods in stock.

We have addicts who come for the Langdon Wood: Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. Art [Drauglis] who lives on Capitol Hill takes Pennsylvania maple syrup and ages it in local Catoctin Creek’s rye whiskey and brandy barrels.  

Any family ties in the store?

My dad’s a carpenter in North Carolina, and he’s been building furniture for decades. We sell his tables made from reclaimed and salvaged wood. It’s fun to have that family component to the business and have his craft in the store.

Tableware at Salt & Sundry
Tableware at Salt & Sundry (©Jeffrey Martin)

How do you source the goods in your shop?

We travel to big design shows and people contact us now, which is awesome when you get great products in the mail. A brand I’ve admired, like Bittermilk in Charleston, may write and say they’d love for us to stock their product, and I feel like we’ve “made it.”

Does the artisan emergence here reflect a broader trend?

Yes, I think D.C. reflects what’s going on in urban areas across the country. A younger generation is saying, “We want to work for ourselves, do projects that are hands-on and create the things that we want around us instead of complaining about what’s not.”

Home goods at Salt & Sundry
Home goods at Salt & Sundry (©Jeffrey Martin)

What’s shopkeeping taught you?

It feels good to know that people in D.C. will go out of their way to support local businesses. People call and ask if they can order products through us, just because they like shopping at the store.

Where’s the best view of the city?

On a hill near the market, the new Dolcezza gelato factory faces the Capitol and offers a great view.

What makes the best D.C. souvenir?

We have these great pillows printed with the D.C. flag that are made out of un-issued military blankets by a woman in Brooklyn [Fritz & Fräulein]. She says our flag sells well—even in Brooklyn!

Read about Amanda's perfect day in the city.