While her husband, stuntman Jean-Luc Martin, continued to work after the birth of their two children, Mara Martin opted to retire from a successful career in Hollywood to become a full-time mom.
She had been an assistant director on TV shows such as Melrose Place and Mad About You as well as movies, including David Lynch’s Wild at Heart and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Since Jean-Luc filmed on location around the world, the couple decided to raise their two children, Melisande, now 11, and Charlie, 9, in La Jolla where Mara grew up and her family still lives. In 2009 they got a house near Mara’s alma mater, .
“It was the life the kids needed,” she said. “And a memory they will forever have, walking to school.”
Mara started making onesies she sold online, then began entertaining the idea of opening her own shop offering unique gifts at affordable prices.
“Despite the recession, I knew people would always be having babies,” she said. “And grandparents would always be giving presents.”
Soon Mara noticed a prime commercial space that became available.
“I brought the kids down and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a shop?’ ” she remembers. “They went for it. Within two weeks we got the keys.”
Mara’s background as a set designer came in handy.
“I have an artistic sense and am willing to take risks,” she said. “I’m not afraid of painting a wall and changing the color if I have to.”
Posies and Ponies opened its doors on Dec. 9, 2009, with an old-fashioned edge and attention to detail like a laser beam. Toys are made in the U.S., with no batteries required. This includes wooden building blocks available in different languages from French and Italian to Hebrew and Braille. They also have kid-friendly maps, jacks, dominoes and Tinker Toys.
Many books are penned by local authors such as Lisa Chapman, who wrote The Official Princess Rule Book, and Brush Barry Brush by Linda Valderrama, R.D.H.
Children’s clothes are fashioned by local designers such as Bella Bundles and Tamara Kipendo.
Sherry Ahern was one of the first customers.
“I walked into a high-end couture boutique at very reasonable prices,” she said. “The educational materials and toys bring you back to basics where children actually use their brain and imagination. Mara’s gift wrapping is to die for, and there is no charge for it.”
Sandra Munson became another regular.
"You are more likely to find Mara in the back of her store stitching together vintage fabric than tweeting to her followers, and that's the way we like it!” she said. “We could all learn a thing or two from this happy-go-lucky shop girl."
What’s more, Melisande and Charlie learned the business from the ground up.
“They saw the whole process: painting, building furniture and setting up accounts,” Mara said. “They’ve learned about customer service, and the cash drawer, and the fact that it belongs to the store. My son is in charge of [toy] cars. My daughter is responsible for dusting. She loves to count money and does her homework in the back.”
Phone: 858-551-0434. Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Monday.