When Sophie Machado started traveling the world six years ago, she brought back one-of-a-kind jewelry, clothing and housewares to remind her of the people and places she'd encountered.
Now, people can buy a piece of Machado's international scrapbook at Salt Collection, a globally inspired clothing and housewares boutique she opened March 4 on South Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas. The indoor/outdoor shop carries everything from bangle bracelets to dresses to succulent wall hangings, as well as few of her husband's custom-made surfboards.
Machado is married to one of the world's most famous surfers, Rob Machado, 43, who grew up in Encinitas. They met in 2010, married in 2013 and now live in Cardiff with their 3-year-old son and Rob's two daughters from his first marriage.
While there's an overall theme to the colors, textures, patterns and styles of the merchandise at Salt Collection, Sophie Machado said it's meant to be an eclectic collection of handicrafts she has found around the world. There are items from Japan, Bali, South America, Uganda and Rob's native Australia.
A macramé hanging chair on the patio was hand-woven by a woman she met on the beach in Nicaragua during one of her first trips abroad with Rob. There are also many items from Southern California artisans, including Naughty Knits, Jaye Swim and Lennon + Wolfe.
Sophie, 27, grew up in Orange County, where her father was a commercial fisherman. Part Italian and part Cherokee Indian, she started working in high school as a makeup artist for MAC cosmetics and as a street marketer for Red Bull.
After high school, she enrolled at an art college but the tuition was too expensive. Instead, she dropped out and used her savings to fly to Jamaica, where she volunteered for a nonprofit teaching computers skills to the poor.
Eventually she returned to Orange County and Red Bull, and that's how she ran into - quite literally - her future husband. Red Bull was a sponsor for the 2010 U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, where Rob was one of the top competitors.
"I had told my friends I refused to date anyone until they stopped me dead in my tracks," she said. "I think it was God's way of playing a joke on me because I literally collided with him, head on, on my way to the restroom."
As their relationship grew, she transferred to Red Bull's San Diego division to be closer to Rob. Then he asked her to quit her job and travel the world with him full-time. They married in 2013 and welcomed their son Jaxton - inspired by her time in Kingston, Jamaica - in 2014. Now there's a new baby in the family, Salt Collection.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays
Where: 930 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas
At first the items Machado brought back from her trips were for her personal use. But soon her friends, family and retailers began asking her to bring back items for them as well. One of them was longtime friend Natalie Zlomek, who is now the store manager at Salt Collection.
"There are people with a natural eye for fashion and decor and Sophie is someone who always 100 percent knows style," said Zlomek, who previously ran the Encinitas clothing shop 22 Threads.
Zlomek said that there's more to her friend's business skill than just being a good collector. She said Machado is also a people person who understands customer service.
"She always leads with kindness," Zlomek said. "She greets every person with they walk in. and she's warm to everybody, whether they're 1 or 100."
Machado said she got the idea to open her own store in 2014, but with a new baby, she couldn't focus on a business until recently. The shop is located in a renovated 1930s bungalow formerly used by the Rustic Rooster consignment shop.
The name, Salt Collection, will soon undergo some alteration to make it more unique from competitors, but the word "salt" will remain in some form. Machado said it's inspired by the element in ocean water and the desert flats she has visited, as well as the Bible verse "You are the salt of the Earth."
Business in the opening weeks has been strong, thanks to support from the local and surfing communities, but Machado said she's grateful that new customers from outside that circle are arriving each day thanks to word of mouth.
Next month, she will launch an e-commerce website (salt-collection.com), but there are no immediate plans to expand the business beyond her adopted hometown.
"This is home for us," she said. "There was never any question where we'd be."