A LITTLE PIECE OF NANTUCKET ON MAIN STREET  

Anyone who has spent time on the New England coast and fallen in love with the area’s fresh, clean look will find a South Jersey oasis at Navy Blue Home & Gifts in Moorestown.  The charming shop is filled with seasonal merchandise reminiscent of Nantucket’s traditional style. Crisp linens and throw pillows, aromatic soaps and lotions, home and bath décor, and a line of nursery items keep the eye wandering. It’s incredible how many delightful things owner Melissa McGrath can fit in to the tiny store on Main Street. Devoted customers call it the perfect place to shop for hostess, baby shower, or birthday gifts—and know they’re unlikely to find anything similar unless they make a trip up north.

Nostalgia for the New England shops that she adored, and the recognition that there was nothing like them in the area, prompted McGrath to open a store on Main Street. Once her youngest child was college bound, the Massachusetts native channeled her time into developing a unique shopping experience in the heart of the town where her family has lived for over 30 years. With friends she scouted locations and developed a business model, and carefully planned her inventory so as to not compete with existing Main Street merchants. She scoured shops on her travels to Maine and the New England islands to crystalize her concept of how she wanted the store in Moorestown to look and feel. Another priority was to offer as many items as possible that were crafted in the USA. Although that proved to be more challenging that she first realized, 80% of her stock is sourced in this country.

In 2012, the former Fountain Flowers location was reincarnated as Navy Blue Home & Gifts–a welcoming, authentic slice of Nantucket in Moorestown. Soon after opening, McGrath began to look for ways to make Main Street more of a focal point.  She conferred with other merchants about creating activities to attract residents to the center of town, which led her to coordinate with the MBA and take the lead on some new events. In addition to Ladies Night Out and Holiday Stroll, McGrath developed one of the most popular events in the community—Daffodil Day.

McGrath borrowed the idea from a festival in Nantucket where each year residents spend a week celebrating the arrival of spring. Moorestown’s first Daffodil Day was launched in April 2016 with the concept of making it more cultural and interactive than other township events. The Moorestown Creates committee was enlisted to line up live music throughout the day and set up artists to demonstrate and sell their work on the sidewalks. McGrath located a daffodil grower and took orders from stores along the corridor so the street would be lined with the showy spring flowers. She connected with Alisha Simon, who donated miles of yellow ribbon bows that volunteers tie to every lamp post to add to the festive atmosphere. Continuous horse and carriage rides were scheduled so residents could take in the sights of the street in an old-fashioned way. The event was an immediate success, drawing hundreds of people out to have fun and usher in the season. Now in its fourth year, Daffodil Day attracts a growing number of people, and new activities like the popular pet costume contest and corn hole games have made it even more lively.

McGrath, who also chairs the annual Deborah Hospital gala where her husband Lynn is Vice President of Medical Affairs, seems  to have boundless energy. In addition to Daffodil Day, she will also co-chair Candlelight Night this year, and has many other ideas to attract visitors to Main Street. The MBA salutes Melissa McGrath for her innovative entrepreneurship and tireless efforts to enhance Moorestown. Over the past seven years, she has made Navy Blue Home & Gifts one of Moorestown’s most successful ventures—demonstrating, in spite of online shopping trends, the viability of offering appealing niche items in an inviting store—and offering a place where people can wistfully pretend, if just for a little while, that they’re vacationing at the Cape.

Photo: MBA President Steven Pazienza, Melissa McGrath, MBA Vice President Craig Dennin.
Photo Credit: Tom Sheckels