By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Feb. 28, 2019) Berlin native Cassandra Brown took the scenic route to ownership of a downtown Berlin business, and now she’s thrilled be running the oil and vinegar shop Una Bella Salute.
The name roughly translates to “A Beautiful Health,” and Brown said the products in her store could enhance flavors and make foods healthier.
“I like the flavoring and the taste, the fact that it’s all natural, and that it’s healthy,” she said. “The oils, especially, have very healthy properties. They’re Old World, so it’s nothing that’s preserved or has artificial flavors or anything like that. It comes straight from the olive [orchard].”
Brown said high-quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars have a wide range of uses – from baking, to topping off ice cream.
“You can put it in your water. You can even flavor your teas with it. So, there’s a lot more that you can do with it than just salad,” she said.
All the olive oils at Una Bella Salute are “first-pressed,” meaning the olives were crushed and pressed only once to preserve the oil’s quality and purity, and balsamic vinegars are each aged 12 or more years. The shop also carries a selection of pasta, as well as several olive oil-based products, like face wash and facial serum.
Brown has been a Berliner all her life – 65 years – and said growing up there was “just like any other small town.”
“I grew up in the early ’60s, so you can imagine seeing a lot of changes over the years,” she said.
Before she opened her shop, she was a volunteer for the Town of Berlin’s ambassador stand on Main Street, and in the town’s welcome center.
“My aunt encouraged me to become a volunteer, because that’s what she’s done all her life in Salisbury … so I did,” Brown said of Mary Gladys Jones, who will celebrate her 100th birthday later this year. “She has gotten a lot of accolades.”
Volunteering at the welcome center led Brown to a chance meeting with former Una Bella Salute owner Charlene McQuillen.
“One day I’m sitting there, and the previous owner came in and asked if I wanted to come help her in the store,” Brown said. “We were familiar with the oils and vinegars to start with. I started using them when I ran into [the same distributor] in Frederick, Maryland … and when they opened [in Berlin] we were excited, because now we don’t have to go to Frederick to get our oils and vinegars.”
Brown said it was a rainy and dreary day when McQuillen popped in.
“I had previously said to several people, my aunt included, that maybe one day this volunteer job may turn into something paying,” she said. “When she came in with that, I said let me think about it and talk it over with my husband … and I decided to give it a try.”
Brown pulled triple duty after that, volunteering in her two roles with the town and working in the shop. And then, once again, an opportunity presented itself.
“One day I walked in and, just like when [McQuillen] asked me if I wanted to help out, her daughter, Deborah, looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you maybe want to take over the business?’ And the rest is history!”
That was last April. Brown and her husband, Randy Brown, officially took over last October.
“It’s been interesting, nothing different than what I had been doing all along,” Brown said. “The only difference now is that I have to do the ordering and the banking and paying the bills and all that. But before, I was pretty much running [the store].
“It’s kinda slow right now, but it’s going to pick up,” she continued. “It’s interesting, because you get to share the little bit of knowledge I have, and I’m learning more all the time about the oils and vinegars and how important it is to be healthy. And this is a part of being healthy, using good products.
“I love meeting people anyways,” Brown said. “That ties into my personality. I love talking to people and meeting people, and we get some interesting people coming in – although not quite as interesting as at the [welcome] center!”
Visit Brown at Una Bella Salute on 14 Broad Street in Berlin, near The Globe restaurant.
For more information, call 410-641-2300 or visit www.facebook.com/unabellasalute.