On a cool windy Thursday morning, South Lake Tahoe resident Aysha Roberts is out at the Tahoe City Farmers Market standing in front of a display of Tahoe-centric pillows and personalized canvas wine bags. Pillows that say, “Woody Bliss, Lake Tahoe, Elev. 6,485,” to mark the place of memorable family homes in the Tahoe Sierra — along with solid-color, wine bags hanging on a wooden coat rack with the words, “Dreaming of a Tahoe Christmas.”
Roberts’ parents lived in Sacramento and had a home in Tahoe for 30 years. She regularly travelled back and forth between the two places during her life. After high school, she moved to Los Angeles and worked in design and marketing. However, when her beloved father Lee was diagnosed with cancer, Roberts quickly came back north.
To take her mind off her dad’s fight with cancer, she started talking about how she could build a business. Using her graphic design skills and experience in retail clothing, Roberts made some pillows and wine bags. She gave them to friends and family before launching her own brand, Elizabeth & Marin, a coastal lifestyle from Maine to California.
The name comes from her favorite coastal regions, Cape Elizabeth in Maine and Marin County, near San Francisco. Photos of these places, along with Lake Tahoe, serve as the inspiration behind her line.
“I wanted something simple and clean. I really had to think about the concept behind it and Elizabeth and Marin just sounded right. I love the ocean so much and the lake,” she said.
She also wanted to base the business in Tahoe since it’s a tourist destination, which allows her to meet more people. Since its launch in early summer 2018, Elizabeth & Marin has been at the South Lake Tahoe farmers’ markets, Tahoe City Farmers Market, Truckee Thursdays, Sample the Sierra, Autumn Food & Wine Festival and local Oktoberfest events.
Like the late Kate Spade, Roberts also wanted to build her business based on the things that she likes and couldn’t find anywhere else.
“[Kate Spade] wanted a specific handbag and couldn’t find it, so she made it herself and that turned into a great business,” Roberts said.
She also has many goals for growing her business: She wants to get the Elizabeth & Marin home décor line out in hotels, gift shops and resorts in coastal places across the U.S., as well as employ more people. She now has two part-time assistants.
“It’s my goal to build a company where people can be happy and have fun,” she says.
Currently, she’ll spend her days at local events, then goes home to work on production until late at night in her garage. She makes around 25 totes and 12 pillow covers a shift.
“The process has about eight steps,” she says.
Her standard dark gray Tahoe pillows are the most popular items. She sold out of them on the first day of the 2018 Made in Tahoe Festival and was up all night making more to sell the next day. She also makes hundreds of custom orders.
“There are so many weddings and special events in Tahoe. When someone goes out of their way to be thoughtful with their gifts, I like helping them with that process. One guy made a special pillow for his mother and she was so surprised,” she said. “My creativity keeps going and going. I have so many ideas. My mind never shuts off. I have so much fun doing the research and coming up with the design.”
Flipping through her portfolio of photos that portray the colors and ideas behind Elizabeth & Marin, she points out a photo of the Cape Elizabeth lighthouse.
“This is where Forrest Gump ran to in the movie and it makes me think about how far I’ve come. I’ve always been determined, never given up,” she said.
She is constantly seeking out quaint and quiet places close to water, happy to be creating unique Tahoe gifts for events and special occasions — and is looking forward to the future of Elizabeth & Marin.
“I’m grateful for all of my customers and businesses here in Tahoe,” she said. | etsy.com/shop/elizabethandmarin