David and Anna Lee of Cape Charles have turned to local waters to revive the age-old Eastern Shore practice of salt making. It’s not your everyday pastime, but salt making was a surprisingly perfect fit for this high-energy couple who has now turned a passion into a thriving business, Barrier Islands Salt Co.

Anna Lee had often visited the Cape Charles area as a child, and later, enjoyed weekend visits with her husband, David. About five years ago, the Lees relocated permanently to Cape Charles and set out on an unusual adventure: creating a superior culinary-grade sea salt from the local waters. 

Old Roots, New Endeavor

Salt-making on the Eastern Shore is no new thing—historical records list Smith Island as an area where salt was made in the early 1600’s. But in the centuries after, local salt making stopped, as mass produced salt became readily available. With the surge of interest in local produce and goods, and a wider appetite for bespoke, gourmet sea salt, the time for local Eastern Shore sea salt has most certainly arrived. 

Anna who worked as a marketing executive for McCormick, had overseen the launch of their gourmet Mediterranean Sea Salt and was intrigued. “I thought, wow, this is cool. I did a lot of research about it and the market, and saw this new interest in local sea salt. My husband, David, said ‘couldn’t we make it?’” After Anna’s time at McCormick ended, the salt question remained. David’s work as a boat captain and extensive maritime experience, along with the couple’s intense desire to learn more led them to where they are now, proprietors of Barrier Islands Salt Co. 

As they state, they are “the first and only coastal Virginia salt makers since the 1700s.” 

Their crunchy sea salt flakes offer a distinct flavor that can only come from this special place in the world. 

A Good Sign 

Anna and David set out on a four-year deep dive into every detail of making sea salt. They learned about the salinity and purity of the water in this unique Barrier Islands environment. They delved into the history of the area’s salt making. And when it was time to get serious, they realized they had discovered something exceptional: “As we began experimenting with making salt, we had to submit water samples for testing and we were amazed by the results.” The water that they harvested off Cobb Island was incredibly pure. The values for toxins and pollutants were low. Very low…not only much purer than acceptable values but some even registered zero. 

“Because these barrier islands are protected by the Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve, the environment has been allowed to flourish,” explains Anna. “The water here is naturally filtered. The restored eelgrass meadows, oyster reefs and the unique ecological structure of the area all play a part.”

Barrier Islands Salt Co.

David and Anna Lee

David and Anna officially launched Barrier Islands Salt Co. in September of 2018 and have been humbled by its reception. “When we moved here, we realized Cape Charles had the small town community feel we wanted,” recalls Anna. “People here are so proud of living in this area, and our sea salt is a representation of the area,” says Anna. “Everyone has been so supportive and many of them want to be a part of what we’re doing. It’s wonderful.” 

Local Food Deserves Local Flavor

Anna and David enjoy being able to offer the bounty that is local flake sea salt, from the waters around their community. Anna and David explain their interest in keeping things local, right down to the salt. In their own words,  “We’re proud to be a part of the Eastern Shore food community of farmers and makers and enjoy knowing the talented people who make our food, that it was grown or made nearby and that we’re contributing to the economy of our community and Virginia. We have a great amount of respect for the salt making traditions of France and other countries but we believe that we shouldn’t have to rely on container ships traveling 4,000 miles to enjoy culinary grade, flake sea salt here at home.”

Sweet, Salty Success:

David and Anna are excited to be expanding their production in their soon to be complete larger facility in Cheriton. As for the future, it’s exciting: the new facility, greater production ability, the possibility to host culinary events and more. 

They enjoy partnering with local businesses, too. Their salt is used in the fine creations of several local chefs and is carried in many retail stores locally and regionally. We at Bay Creek are thrilled to have Anna and David Lee and Barrier Islands Salt Co. as Cape Charles neighbors. 

Learn More and Meet David and Anna Lee:

Enjoy a Sept. 20th Coffee Hour Series free event at Barrier Islands Center “Harvesting Salt Around Virginia’s Barrier Islands” Friday, September 20, 2019  | 10:30 AM  11:30 AM  |  Free Admission

 “We love creating a product that captures the flavor of this magical coastal wilderness,” say David and Anna Lee. They’ll be sharing the process and history of salt making on the Eastern Shore. 

Reserve Your Seat: http://www.barrierislandscenter.org/events-calendar?category=Coffee%20Hour%20Series

*Note for our Readers:This event only has 5 seats left at time of publish. Hurry to reserve your seat!


Ready to taste it? 

Find Barrier Islands Sea Salt at these retailers:

Cape Charles
Gull Hummock
115 Mason Avenue

Browder Hite Garden Market
20498 Lankford Highway

416 West Main Street

The Local
21229 South Bayside Road

Shore Breeze Farms
3210 Townfield Road

TASTE – Greenbrier
717 N. Eden Way

Chincoteague/Wallops Island
Poseidon’s Pantry
6219 Maddox Boulevard

Whiteraven’s Nest
33453 Chincoteague Rd

Seaside Consignment
3282 Main Street

Barrier Islands Center
7295 Young Street

Chatham Vineyards
9232 Chatham Road

Quail Cove Farms
12435 Machipongo Lane

Blue Crab Bay Co.
29368 Atlantic Drive

New Church
Bonnie’s Bounty
6213 Lankford Highway

Newport News
TASTE – City Center
702 Mariners Row

TASTE – Larchmont
6464 Hampton Blvd

TASTE – Ghent
407 West 21st Street

Artemis & Cauldron
6 College Avenue

North Street Market
5 North Street

TASTE – Westhampton
5706 Grove Avenue

Tuckahoe Seafood
1007 Starling Drive

TASTE – Harbour View
5911 Harbour View Blvd

Virginia Beach
TASTE – Oceanfront
3603 Pacific Avenue

TASTE – Hilltop
1554 Laskin Road

TASTE – Bayville Farms
4097 Shore Drive


Rooster & Hen
2302 Frederick Road

Ocean City
Raggamuffin Boutique
2401 Philadelphia Avenue

Snow Hill
Lower Shore Land Trust
100 River Street

For more information, visit  www.BarrierIslandsSalt.com

Bay Creek