In a county where August brings a whirlwind of activities, festivals and tourists, Paul Salm’s casual manner and easy, relaxed smile are utterly refreshing. A relatively new addition to the Northern Door community, Salm’s calm demeanor disguises his busy schedule: he’s a family man, new business owner, and active community member.
Since purchasing the Cornerstone Pub & Restaurant in May of last year, Salm has joined the Baileys Harbor Community Association board, helped to start the Northern Door Rotary Club, and actively volunteered time and staff for the Ride for Nature and 4th of July celebration.
“When I took over the Cornerstone, I was able to plug myself into a system that worked well, and to learn that new system before I changed anything. That was the only reason why I hit the ground running,” Salm said.
Salm found his particular style of managing and running a restaurant and kitchen very similar to Sandy Weisgerber, the former-owner, who continues to work in the restaurant. With an extraordinary staff already in place, Salm let the restaurant teach him what to do in order to succeed.
“Without entirely understanding the Northern Door market, I don’t know if anyone can come in and just conquer it,” Salm said. “You really have a lot to learn about your clientele, your employees, and the environment in general, and what it means to last through a summer and winter here.”
From there, Salm made a few basic improvements. He had the barstools and flooring redone in an effort to bring a genuine pub feel back to the Cornerstone. Future plans include revamping the kitchen and expanding the outdoor patio. He’s also updated the menu.
“We added a few things, skewing a little more toward healthy options. Now we have some vegetarian and locally provided things,” Salm said. “We wanted to update the menu in an unobtrusive manner. I’m always afraid of disenfranchising our established clientele.”
He added, “We’re not a cosmopolitan restaurant; we’re just a regular tavern. But I [made some changes] because I believe in it, as does the staff.”
The menu is designed to give people a choice. For example, they can add organic chicken to a salad for $1 extra. It’s been a hit so far, with a surprising amount of folks choosing to buy local – even with a small added cost – whenever possible.
Formerly the manager of the Ladder House in Sturgeon Bay, Salm, originally from Appleton, Wi., chose Door County in an effort to move his family a little closer to home. When he and his wife got here, they fell in love with the area, and with the idea of raising their family here.
“I noticed right away the amazing social net that exists in organizations and nonprofits. I was taken aback by the support structure. Immediately, I felt the need to get involved and help. I realized that it’s also a great way to meet people, to market yourself and your restaurant.”
Salm, who’s in his mid-30s, adds a youthful perspective to the Baileys Harbor Community Association, which is largely composed of older citizens. As a business owner he brings a certain savvy about the hospitality industry to meetings and important knowledge and experience about tourism.
Michelle Drover, Baileys Harbor Community Association Coordinator, says that Salm can always be relied upon to help out, going above and beyond the call of duty.
“He’s only been on the board since last fall and it’s incredible, the things he’s done already. He gives and does anything: donates food, staff, and anything we need,” Drover said. “He has awesome ideas, and is so enthusiastic and energetic!”
For Salm, giving back to a community that provides such a high standard of living for its citizens is a no-brainer.
“I didn’t invent beer, fish fries, or Baileys Harbor. I’m kind of standing on the apex of a mountain built by other people. So it’s unfair to reap these rewards without getting my own hands dirty and helping out with the events and community planning.”