By Eilidh Whiteford
Back to basics and ensuring visitors are treated to a full Hebridean experience, Salar Smokehouse in Lochcarnan is back in business.
Set up in 1987 as a small business in South Uist, just over a decade later, Salar Salmon had become an international name and was bought over by Loch Duart Ltd in 2008.
By April 2015 however, the plant was shut down, with the loss of 10 local jobs.
Yet former production manager, Iain MacRury had other ideas – purchasing the business, drawing focus to the talents held with in its island home and reviving the Salar brand.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic feeling to have bought the Smokehouse, there’s really no words for it,” said Iain.
“It was started from scratch in 1987 and we’re going back to basics, getting as close to the original smoking recipe as we can and getting the internationally known brand back out there.
“The response so far has been brilliant, the feedback from all our customers has been positive.”
Employing six staff, including three original Smokehouse workers, the back-to-basics approach is making for a vibrant workplace, as Iain continued: “You’ve got to have the knowledge and expertise on the ground, and that’s what we have.
“There’s no titles here, everyone gets on with what needs done and the employees are keen for the Smokehouse to work. They could see issues before, had ideas to develop, and now these are getting taken on board.”
And one of the major changes at the Lochcarnan business is expansion of the Smokehouse’s shop area – from a space measuring one metre by three to a 25m² retail base which offers far more to visitors than simply delicious fish.
“People were coming a couple miles down the road to this tiny area to buy fish, it seemed crazy we didn’t have more,” Iain said. “There are some very talented people in these islands, from Ness to Barra, hidden away and making fantastic things.
“I’m an islander and I’m proud of our islands so we’ve now got 30 suppliers, from the Butt of Lewis to Vatersay, stocking their products in the new shop.
“We want to improve the visitor experience, not just for us but for the islands. We make sure we take on things that are different to other shops and we’ve a bespoke range of Hebridean Jewellery which is unique to the Salar Smokehouse,” he went on.
“We don’t see other businesses as competition – we’re small islands and we have to work together and support one another to offer the best we’ve got to visitors.”
As well as the Salar Smokehouse products, and exclusive Hebridean Jewellery designs, the new retail space also houses island-made chocolate, tablet and bakery goods; jam, chutney and black pudding; shellfish and seafood, and candles and haberdashery items amongst the range of isles-made merchandise.
And making sure visitors to the islands aren’t stuck, the Smokehouse also offers a spot for free Wi-Fi and phone/tablet charging, as well as tea and coffee facilities, water top-ups and a toilet stop.
“We’re back to basics and back to the quality of product our customers recognise, so it’s time to get back to our Highland and Island hospitality as well,” Iain added.
“Salar Smokehouse is open again, come in and have a cèilidh with us.”