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Outer Banks Area Features

Gray’s Outer Banks Lifestyle Clothing Co.

  By: Leah Lancione

Celebrating its platinum anniversary, Gray’s Outer Banks Lifestyle Clothing Co. pays homage to its history of serving visitors and residents of the Outer Banks for 70 years. Its history is one of success, family cooperation, and a shared love of the Outer Banks.

It all began in 1946 when, after serving in World War II, Walter Gray met his wife, Estelle, in the nation’s capital. The couple migrated to the Outer Banks in 1948 and established Gray’s Gifts and Beach Accessories. The goal was to create a store that was not just a place to shop, but a memorable experience. Customers were considered welcome friends whose smiles were as important as sales. The essence of what makes the Outer Banks spectacular—hospitable people, a diverse culture, and a coastal lifestyle that embraces nature was, and continues to be, captured at Gray’s.

As Gray’s expanded over the years, moving its flagship headquarters from Nags Head to Kitty Hawk and opening four additional locations—two in Corolla and two in Duck—the family operation maintained its signature hospitality and quality fashions and merchandise. Changing the name to Gray’s Outer Banks Lifestyle Clothing Co. reflected the company’s progression and continual objective to satisfy customers’ evolving styles and needs.

“Our goal has never been to be the biggest retail store, but to be the one people return to year after year because we’ve formed relationships with them. We sincerely appreciate our customers stopping in,” says Ronnie Gray, who has been running the business with two of his four siblings, Larry and Julie, since the 1980s. He insists that taking part in the business from a young age and being privileged to grow up on the Outer Banks means they have a “pretty good idea of the local flavors.” Larry, Julie and Ronnie, along with their other siblings, grew up surfing and fishing and continue to live and enjoy the Outer Banks lifestyle.

The only retailer to carry Under Armour with "Outer Banks" on it, Gray’s also features popular brands like Tommy Bahama, Billabong, Quiksilver, O’Neill, Sperry, Spartina, Brighton, Fresh Produce, and OluKai, as well as their trademark “Big Duck” logo products and a vast selection of T-shirts and sweatshirts. From apparel, headwear and sandals to jewelry, tumblers and toys, Gray’s has something for everyone.

Another key component of the Gray family’s success is attention to detail, which correlates to a hand-picked, high-quality selection of clothing and accessories for the whole family. Ronnie says his wife, Susan, who is responsible for the women’s apparel, has been “an indispensable part of the team” along with a crop of other loyal employees including April Ross and Anita Dade, who have supported the family operation for decades.
Ronnie explains that ultimately the partnership with his brother and sister is rooted in the traditional values of teamwork imparted by their parents. “We all wear a lot of hats and put our experience into practice to make sure Gray’s remains a viable business and a shopping tradition as it has been since 1948,” he says.

Gray’s Outer Banks Lifestyle Clothing Co. has become synonymous with the Outer Banks because it’s not just a stop along the way—it's a destination. It’s where folks go to complete their vacation experience or to find something that Ronnie describes as “neat and different” or quintessential Outer Banks. He reveals that in addition to welcoming new customers, his family loves seeing familiar faces because these relationships with “friends” is a sure sign they are continuing their parents’ legacy.

Gray’s Outer Banks Lifestyle Clothing Co. is located in Kitty Hawk (3860 N. Croatan Hwy. at MP4), Duck (at Scarborough Faire on Duck Road and at the Waterfront Shops along the Duck Boardwalk), and in Corolla at TimBuck II (two locations). For more information, or to shop Gray’s Exclusives and other designs, visit www.grays-sportswear.com. In honor of its 70th Anniversary, Gray’s will offer special promotions throughout the year.

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