“Go big, or go home,” said Caroline Marko referring to her new building on the south side of Main Street.
Ever since Caroline opened her original Salt Boutique in 2008, in a rented space on the other side of the street, she has had it in her sights to one day build her dream shop.
When the lot directly across the street came up for sale, she jumped on it and the dream shop is a dream no longer.
It is a minimalist, light and airy, uncluttered space with 12-foot ceilings and a mix of the raw and the refined. One wall is unfinished stucco wall while the others are cleanly painted white.
The decor and fixtures also combine rough and soft. Her racks are welded raw steel, the garments on them refined quality.
A display wall is framed by antique weathered pillars and antique folding school chairs adorn the wall serving as shelves.
An antique 10-foot tall physician’s lamp, antique German hunting chandelier and large hanging steel lamps fabricated from what she thinks might have been an old culvert, contrast with modern LED track lighting.
Other display areas include an antique, very rough, Tibetan monk’s bed that doubles as a coffin alongside simple white shelves.
The floors are polished concrete.
The exterior, too, reflects the aesthetic with a black facade of clean straight lines and large plate glass windows, but with a rustic wooden door and a roofline constructed of weathered bricks salvaged from the Old Hazelton school’s fireplace.
The sliding door between the retail space and staff area is from an old Rogers Sugar factory, rescued from a nursery in Vancouver. Originally two doors of just slightly different sizes with rotting frames inset with glass blocks, Caroline’s husband Scott Marko managed to restore them and put them together.
Caroline loves the combination of rustic and modern, old and new, raw and refined, muted colours and light.
And it complements her merchandizing choices.
“My concept for pretty much everything is to have balance,” she said. “You have a flowing top, you have a slim pant, you have a very romantic piece with a leather jacket or something like that.
“The mix between tough and soft is what I really like. I’m a big fan of texture, I’m clearly not a big fan of colour.
“I think that’s what we’ve tried to do with the space, it’s romantic but there’s a toughness to it with all the raw steel and the raw stucco.”
It is an aesthetic, she said, borne of her native Sweden and designer mother.
“I would like to generalize it and say it’s very Scandi, but I think the very Scandi part of this is the minimalistic approach, simplicity, quality over quantity,” she explained.
The vision is hers, but the execution is Scott’s.
“My husband is phenomenal at reading and speaking Caroline fluently so it’s really thanks to him that this is all possible,” she said.
“Somehow he manages to pull it out of the hat and nails it every time.”
He nailed it this time around with the help of some local craftsmen. Austin Currah fabricated the steel features while Darren Smoley did the stucco and painstakingly put together the brickwork.
“It’s like an opportunity for everybody to make a little mark on Smithers,” Caroline said.
Above the shop, the Markos are finishing an 1800 square-foot luxury apartment. The Town has incentivized mixed-use buildings downtown in recent years, particularly to increase affordable housing. Caroline thinks it just makes sense to get people living downtown, but also believes there is room for both affordable and luxury spaces.
The apartment includes a 300 square-foot balcony on the front with a stunning view of the mountain and a smaller one at the back, which gets the morning sun and would serve as a great breakfast alcove.
It also comes with a storage space built under the raw cedar staircase at the back of the building. The rent will be $2,200 per month.
All in all, Caroline believes they have created something that serves her own sensibilities and fits in with Main Street as if it has been there all along.
“I’m really happy now when I step back and go across the street and look back this way, it really feels to me like the building’s been here for a long time and I love the fact that the bricks at the top are going to add some character to make it not look like this weird, standout, shiny thing. Shiny has never been my thing.”