The salt business started with great-grandfather Justino Lopes. Grandfather Artur Lopes followed up and learned from him about the butchers, and about the extraction of fleur de sel and salt. The summer holidays were, therefore, synonymous with animation for the brothers João and Luís Henriques Lopes, who today, together with their father and mother, continue this activity with 150 years of heritage, in Rio Maior.
João Rodrigues, Feitoria
Texto de Patrícia Serrado
Loja do Sal is the name of the brand created in 2009, but this family business starts much earlier. "My great-grandfather started with a tavern." On the edge of the saltworks in Rio Maior, it was, in days gone by, the meeting point for salters. “Salt workers, when they went to the tavern, paid the amount of the expense with the salt and this salt was later sold by my great-grandfather”, says João Henriques Lopes.
The prosperity reflected by the sale of this product, led Justino Lopes, the great-grandfather, to lease some butchers, a name attributed to each compartment of the saltworks, and separated the businesses. Succeeding the assets, it is Artur Lopes, son of Justino Lopes and grandfather of the duo João and Luís Henriques Lopes, who is in charge. “Altogether there are between 20 to 25 saltworks”, says João Henriques Lopes.
The taste for roots and the land lead both brothers to help their grandfather, during the so-called “big vacation” in summer, in the exploration and sale of salt. “There was a time of year, in September, which was the Onion Fair, the big moment in Rio Maior. It was a great attraction, and the saltworks gained another charm. All the houses opened their doors to sell salt. Salters could sell between five and six tons of salt!” Later, it is the father of both, Fernando Henriques Lopes, who took the business “and bought some more”, adds João Henriques Lopes. "At the weekend, the house was opened, and the salt was sold." After graduation, João Henriques Lopes started to dedicate himself to the family business.
Today, Loja do Sal has 70 butchers, of which 15% are leased and of these, about 3% "have been leased since my grandfather's time!" Although this business is already in the fourth generation, the salt extraction process continues. “In spring, when the weather is good for a few days in a row, we clean the fields: the pump is placed in the well to extract the saltwater into reservoirs or drains, where it is decanted. Once decanted, it goes back to the butchers for evaporation. On the second or third day, the fleur de sel is extracted and, between five to seven days later, the salt is removed”, explains João Henriques Lopes, who guarantees the inexistence of washing or implementation of chemical processes in this raw material. “We have a company that audits HACCP [Preventive System of Hygiene and Food Safety]” and “we are in the process of certification for the DOP [Protected Designation of Origin].”
The salt from Loja do Sal is located in 100 selling places spread across the country and in Europe, Asia or America, but the ideal is certainly to visit the saltworks in Rio Maior and go through the installed Loja do Sal (Salt Shop) in the old tavern of Justino Lopes, the great-grandfather of João and Luís Henriques Lopes and the pioneer of this business.