Photographer and artist Kim Narenkivicius arrived in the Keys from Fire Island with her family at the age of 11, making the ocean her playground with her brother and their small Boston Whaler, “living wild and free, suntanned and salted.” Less than a year later, writer, photographer and former fly-fishing guide Jeffrey Cardenas “moved to Key West to be surrounded by saltwater.” For the next 35 years, both followed their love of salt and sea through sailing, photography, creative and business pursuits that lead them towards each other—once, nearly twenty years ago— and most recently the beginning of February, when Narenkivicius sold her business SALT Island Provisions and SALT publication to Cardenas.
“SALT was an opportunity for me to become involved with an incredible group of creative people,” says Cardenas, who founded the specialty fly-fishing store The Saltwater Angler in 1991, where Narenkivicius worked nearly two decades ago.
“The corner of Fleming and Margaret is an epicenter for sailors, and artists, and fishermen, and writers,” he says. “It is a privilege to be surrounded by so many fascinating people. This is what I love the most about SALT. It is a confluence of everything that is important to me.”
Yet how can one little shop hold so much? Certainly one might be easily drawn into the impeccably curated space on the corner of Fleming and Margaret Streets, filled with locally harvested and artisanal provisions of sea salt, wild honey, coffee, and granola in its rustic and simple packaging. Or the hand-carved wooden bowls, cutting boards and spoons, unique hand-made jewelry, and walls filled with art from award-winning, local artists. There is something curious about it that—upon first entering— one can’t quite put their finger on.
“It was created in the spirit of island magic,” says Narenkivicius, who launched it first as a pop-up shop in 2012, inspired by her experiencing selling salt, honey, and her hand-painted lucky seahearts at a party of purveyors and artists at artist Eric Anfinson’s Mockingbird Studio. Since then, the shop settled permanently into its current location, becoming a prominent feature of the local slow foods and hand crafts movement as well as a gallery featuring the work of Anfinson, Susan Sugar, and Narenkivicius and a free yearly literary publication that includes the work of local writers and artists appropriately called “SALT: an indigenous journal.”
But as anyone who has lived near the ocean knows, salt often transforms what ‘is’ into something else. It flavors, works the surface, sloughs off what is old to reveal what is below. For the soulful seeker Narenkivicius, she always knew the shop and business aspect of it would be temporary for her.
“Change is the secret of salt,” she says, quoting the line from an interview with 11-year old poet Alexis D’Albessen published in the first edition of her publication “the secret of salt: an indigenous journal,” which came to life with three hard bound copies and three newspaper editions featuring more than one hundred of the island’s artists, writers, poets and creatives.
“After my time in Spain this past fall walking along the Camino de Santiago, I knew that the dream to be a mentor for others looking to go on pilgrimage and the book in me wanting to come alive had become a plan and it was time to wrap up my time on the island. And when I decided, really decided, Jeffrey showed up.”
Cardenas intends on carrying forward the three key elements of SALT: the local and artisanal provisions, the gallery featuring monthly exhibitions, and the SALT journal that will “continue the tradition of publishing the island’s great writers, photographers, and visual artists,” he says.
“We are experiencing a creative renaissance in Key West,” says Cardenas. “This has always been an artistic town but today there is a reawakening in our community like never before. The creative inspiration in Key West is electric. SALT is going to plug into our local talent and provide a channel for that artistic energy.”
That energy will continue to reveal itself at the shop with a celebration of Key West Poet Laureate Rosalind Brackenbury and the launch of her novel, The Third Swimmer— a happening slated for Saturday, February 20th from 6-8pm. And while stories are read and wine is drunk, sailors, artists, fishermen, and writers will gather around to offer a welcome and goodbye of sorts for the two artists whose lives so prominently feature salt and all that it has come to mean. For more information, call 305.896.2980 or visit SaltIslandProvisions.com.