Just months after Melissa McGrath shepherded the last of her four kids off to college this fall, the Massachusetts native resolved to shift her focus from the days of school fundraising and years of carpooling, to that of finally realizing her dream.
On Dec. 10, McGrath achieved that goal when she launched Navy Blue Home and Gifts on Main Street—which touts 80 percent of its products as being crafted and made in the United States, some from local artisans, and some from artists around the country. (Cocktail napkins, baskets and soaps with dishes are pretty much the only items not made-in-America.)
The store, a brightly lit 800-square-foot space—named for McGrath’s favorite color—is in a white-and-brick building with knotty pine flooring and showcases very fine merchandise for the home, unlike the novelty-laden souvenirs one might imagine.
“I knew some artists from Moorestown and throughout New England, who made quality items. For years, I’ve been thinking about bringing these talented people together,” says McGrath, a friendly and well-spoken woman in her 50s, who has lived in Moorestown for the last 27 years. Her husband, Lynn, is a surgeon.
In an economic climate that’s been relentlessly scrutinized for outsourcing jobs to foreign lands, McGrath cares as much about the artists she represents as the products she has started to sell.
As she imagined her space, which at one time housed Fountain Flowers, McGrath cast her searchlight on merchandise not only made in the United States, but goods that are more apropos to a polished aesthetic—and affordable.
“Many people think because something is manufactured in America that it must be expensive. That’s not always true,” says McGrath, who worked as a nurse before having her children.
She credits this area with having a lot of artists who help to fill her jaunty retail shop. Moorestown residents Mary Jane Montemuro and Natalie Pope have their unique collections on display and for sale in the gift store.
Montemuro, who has designed sparkly images of Fairmount Park mansions onto stand-up cardboards, can recreate anyone’s special haven.
“They make wonderful housewarming gifts,” McGrath says.
Pope’s Nantucket Summer line of whimsical dishes and tote bags are designed in cheerful colors and are functional pieces.
An artist from McGrath’s home state will be stocking the store with table coasters emblazoned with “Moorestown.” The graceful works also have latitude and longitude degrees printed across them, and sell for $6 each or four for $20.
Rolf glasses hailing from Pittsburgh and Massachusetts’ Kringle candles sit on wooden tables. A Vermont jewelry maker, who designs necklaces with silver sleds, has been commissioned to begin making Moorestown’s Nipper dogs.
Toasty mittens have been repurposed from old sweaters by a woman in Maine, and a designer from Tiffany’s will be offering her engagement series of plates and keepsakes in the near future.
A room in the rear of the store is set up for students who want to learn flower arranging on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. Classes are held in the mornings from 9-10:30 a.m. and evenings from 7-9 p.m.
Pillows, blankets, maps and furniture are some of the other treasures found at Navy Blue Home and Gifts.
McGrath has been busy visiting home shows and craft fairs in Atlanta and New England to add new items to her store.
"There aren't many of them, but they are around," she said.
She says business has been steady so far, and her vision is to expand and carry more local goods.
“I think it’s great to work with people right here in town,” says McGrath. “A whole group of talent is nearby.”