If there is such a thing as a first family of Outer Banks retailers it’s got to be the Grays, who own Grays Department Stores. They just celebrated their 65th year in business, and I can’t think of any other family run business on the Outer Banks that has been around as long as they have.
Certainly there are other Outer Banks families that have owned businesses even longer, but I’m not aware of anyone who has maintained the same kind of business for so long.
Of course the original Nags Head store is long gone–it’s now Sea Green Gallery, but the same commitment to the community still remains.
Walter and Estelle Gray moved to the Outer Banks soon after WWII and quickly saw an opportunity where no one else saw one. I never had a chance to meet Estelle, but if ever there was a man who never met a stranger, it was Walter.
Walter passed away in 2004, and three of his five kids–Larry, Ronnie and Julie–run the business today.
The 65th Anniversary Celebration was held at their main store in Kitty Hawk. There are also stores in Duck and Corolla.