Jean Conway, a year-round islander, said the winter grocery selection is limited mainly to packaged foods and limp fruits and vegetables. “In the summer, they stock it up for summer people, but in the winter they don’t,” said Ms. Conway, 59, who used to work for the Maine State Ferry Service and now owns a convenience and gift store called the Island’s Closet. “When we go to the mainland, we spend thousands at once because you have to plan so much ahead.”
She loved the communal atmosphere of Salt. “I don’t know what we are going to do if someone doesn’t open it back up,” she said. “There just aren’t enough restaurants,” especially ones “where people feel really welcome.”
Mr. Feingold was working as an environmental and economic consultant in Manhattan and living in Larchmont, N.Y., when he first started visiting Vinalhaven in 1998. His wife’s family had a vacation home here; he quickly fell in love with the natural beauty and “the self-selected community,” he said. He and his wife, Nancy Seligson, bought a house on the island.
Mr. Feingold had a longstanding interest in food. Seeking to switch gears from consulting, he quit and enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education, in New York; after graduating, he worked at high-end Manhattan restaurants like Daniel and Tocqueville.
At Salt, he hired chefs to execute his vision: a restaurant that felt steeped in local flavor. Lobster caught by Vinalhaven fishermen embellished the housemade pappardelle with spring peas. The walls showcased paintings by residents, purchased at the gallery next door. The wooden cubbies from the space’s days as a 19th-century apothecary were still visible.
At the restaurant that used to inhabit the space, called 64 Main Street, “they threw the fishermen out because they were riffraff,” Ms. Conway said. “You can’t do that in a community this size.” Mr. Feingold welcomed the fishermen, and hosted fund-raisers for community causes.
“It was my mission to make every single human being on the planet feel comfortable in this restaurant,” said Caitlin Clapham, 31, a longtime Vinalhaven resident who was Salt’s general manager for four years.