Welcome to Movers & Shakers; a series where we look deep into PNW life for people who are making moves, doing big things, and who are just - in general - being rad. Seattle is full of multi-talented and multi-faceted people, many at the intersection of technology and the arts. How do they find the time? What's their secret? Well friends, we're here to find out. Meet Movers & Shakers; aka Seattle Refined attempting to capture the not-so-secret lives of impressive locals. Have a recommendation for us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here in Seattle, Clara Veniard and Martinique Grigg own Coro by Salumi, the country's only woman-owned certified salami company. It seems to work out for everyone; loyal customers appreciate the pair's delicious and innovative creations, while the longtime friends love being surrounded by their dedicated team that shares the same passion.
Although the women attended the same undergraduate and graduate colleges, they didn't meet until skiing on Mt. Baker 12 years ago, when Veniard recognized Grigg's husband (who had been in her college class). Before long they had launched into the business world together — becoming trailblazers in the meantime.
Grigg had just come off a six years as CEO at the Mountaineers and was taking a few months off to be with her young children. Veniard was on maternity leave from Amazon when she approached Martinique with the idea of buying a business and running it together.
"I was thrilled at the idea of running a business with her," Grigg says. "We searched for a year for the right business and focused on the food industry because we have a personal passion for food. When Salumi came up, we jumped at it. We had both been longtime fans of Salumi, and it was a dream come true to help the company progress and evolve to its next stage."
Veniard was also thrilled by the opportunity to purchase Salumi. "Not only were we both longtime fans, we hit it off with the former owners, and I got a chance to return to my longtime passion for food," she said. "I had my own catering business many years ago and helped an award-winning chef write cookbooks [Joan Nathan) before dropping everything to go to the Peace Corps."
The duo spent a year apprenticing to learn the craft and the company's unique process. Today there are many ways in which they honor the legacy of Salumi, which has been serving Seattle customers for 20+ years. For one, Coro by Salumi uses the same recipes and handcrafted processes devoted fans have enjoyed for decades.
But it's the pair's ongoing exploration of flavor that makes their cured meats stand out.
"While we take pride in bringing our fans the new world flavors they have loved for decades, we never stop imagining what else could come next," said Griggs, citing new unexpected flavor options like lemongrass. "We are also thrilled to continue the legacy of the Salumi deli in Pioneer Square. We moved around the corner from our old location for a bit more elbow room, but the new spot has the same charm and delicious sandwiches as our original location."
The pair is incredibly mindful about everything they put into products, wanting their food to be as healthy and nourishing as possible.
"Sourcing the best possible ingredients with an eye towards sustainability is a continuous pursuit for us," said Grigg. "Our products are now all made with all-natural ingredients, including locally sourced spices and humanely treated vegetarian-fed pork never treated with antibiotics. We have also added an uncured nitrate and nitrite-free product line and moved to easy-to-eat casings with no peeling required."
Running the business has no doubt come with challenges. Making salami after all, is a true art form, and they liken it to creating a fine wine or cheese.
"Making the best cured meats is a daily pursuit that requires constant work and iterations," Veniard said. In addition, they pride themselves on making Coro an amazing place to work for everyone involved.
"Providing a great workplace is always a challenge, but doing so during COVID is even harder," she said. "We’ve done a lot to make sure everyone feels rewarded, engaged and safe, and are constantly working on raising the bar for ourselves."
In the midst of any hurdles, countless rewards abound. Grigg cherishes watching people try Coro salami for the first time, or diving into a sandwich at the deli.
"The pure joy on their faces at that first delicious bite is awesome," she said. "Especially in these difficult times, we are grateful to provide a little joy and light through our food."
"Yes, definitely watching people try our salami is the most rewarding," agree Veniard. "Before COVID hit, I loved going to tasting events and watching people’s eyes light up when they tried our flavors."
While this year has presented new challenges, the community has helped the business stand strong.
"So many locals have supported us and we are really grateful!" said Grigg. "Thank you!"
That folks can continue buying their products at local stores like PCC, Made in Seattle, Met Market, Town and Country and DeLaurentis, or they can buy online.
So which flavors do the inspiring owners prefer?
"Hands down, mole," said Grigg. " I keep mole in my purse so I can have it as a snack!"
And for Veniard?
"Agrumi! I love the subtle cardamom and orange flavor. Ultimately, though, I always encourage people to try all the flavors—everyone has their own favorite and it’s really hard to nail which one is #1!