Airlie Moon has been a staple in Wilmington, N.C., for many years. The charming boutique first opened its doors in Nov. 1994 and has been in its current space since 2003. Specializing in furnishings, decoration, and gifts, the store has evolved over the years into one of the state’s most sought-after décor and home design stores.
Coastal-Themed Merchandise in a Range of Price Points
The selection of inventory is wide, featuring art, furnishings, and gifts that are all locally inspired, if not always local. Airlie Moon does try to feature local vendors and one-of-a-kind products whenever possible, but they also meticulously curate the rest of their stock to ensure that they have wide variety of price points.
This unique Wilmington North Carolina Gift Shop: Airlie Moon perfectly captures the essence of the coastal home with its obvious color palette of sea foam greens and a rainbow of every ocean blue. They offer a selection of classic furnishings, and an eclectic array of gifts and jewelry. Salt-washed cabinets and dressers are topped with nautical-themed local art, and a colorful collection of beautiful rugs adorn the floors. Airlie Moon strives to produce an air of nostalgia for an old coastal South without compromising good taste or function.
“You know if you go to Airlie Moon, it’s going to be coastal lifestyle influenced,” co-owner Julie Robinson said. “Our customers don’t have to live at the beach, or have a beach house, to shop at Airlie Moon, but it’s a way to have a little of that coastal vibe.” And that “coastal vibe” is everywhere in the store. You can find coffee table books on surfing, greeting cards decorated with all varieties of sea creatures, crocheted mermaid dolls for children, and even a grand chandelier constructed of polished oyster shells.
Customers can outfit kitchens with several collections of dining sets in various coastal colors. If they need bedding, they offer luxurious blankets and pillows capturing every color of the ocean. Customers can find incense, candles, globes, scarves, jewelry, lamps, and pretty much everything needed to craft a sea-inspired room.
“Everybody loves the coast! Everybody wants a little piece of that kind of relaxation they feel at the coast or at the beach house, and we became a go-to place for that. Whether it’s linens, a gift, or a candle, a cover up, or a necklace, it’s all coastal inspired.”
A Loyal Customer Base and a Dedicated Staff
According to Julie, Airlie Moon is also a store that can grow with its customer base. She told the story of a young woman who started shopping at Airlie while she was a student at the local college, buying small items and gifts here and there throughout the length of her studies. Years after she had graduated, the young woman came back and decided to have Airlie Moon design, outfit, and decorate a bedroom in her first home.
Julie attributes this sort of customer loyalty largely to her staff.
“Airlie Moon is not just a reflection of me and what I love, but it’s a collection of what all of us love and want it to be,” she said. “It’s definitely more of a family than a staff, and I think that’s another big appeal of our shop. People come in and we’re all pretty recognizable because, chances are, if people come in, they’re probably going to see the same two or three people.”
Creating an intimate environment in the store — with a staff that not only recognizes their customers, but also often comes to know their customers and understand their tastes and needs — lends itself perfectly to the ultimate goal of the shop: to help customers create a sense of home. “I think for me, and for my average customer, home should be comfortable and should reflect who they are and what they love.”
“All of our bed linens, everything, can go in the washer and dryer,” Julie said. Though everything Airlie Moon carries is meticulously curated for taste and beauty, she believes that when you’re outfitting a home, utility is paramount.
Q&A with Julie Robinson of Airlie Moon
Smart Retailer (SR): How did you get started in retail?
Airlie Moon (AM): I have lived at Wrightsville Beach for 35 years and been a part of the business community almost that long. For over a decade, I managed and was the women’s buyer for a local surf shop. In 1994, my father decided to take early retirement, and he and my mother relocated from Raleigh to Wilmington. They both wanted to continue to work, so we began to look at business opportunities in the area. We soon decided to open our own shop, using my father’s business skills, my retail and merchandising background, and my mother’s attention to detail. It was a leap of faith for my parents, and a daunting responsibility for me.
At that time, there was very little upscale retail in the area, and certainly nothing like Airlie Moon. The shop was inspired by my travels, and most significantly, our coastal lifestyle. At that time, the term “lifestyle store” did not exist, but that is what we were.
As the shop has evolved, so have we. My father passed away in 2010, so I took over the business side of things, while remaining the creative director. My mother continues to work in the shop and assists me at shows with the purchasing.
(SR): What would you say is the secret to your success?
(AM): From the time I opened, I felt very strongly that someone in college could come in my shop and buy a candle or a card and walk out with a pretty bag and have something special, and that customer is just as important to me as the customer who comes in and spends $2,000 on various items. We don’t want to be exclusive, but we don’t want to be everything to everybody. I am what I am and I think I have a very specific brand, but I want everyone to feel like they can walk in and leave with some sort of treasure. And I think that’s been the key to our success — that we’re attainable.
In addition, I have an amazing crew of women who make me look good every day with their friendliness, work ethic, and reliability. We have very low turnover, and our customers become our friends.
(SR): What is your buying philosophy?
(AM): I would say that I break the retail rules and buy for the shop the things I love because, if I don’t love it, I can’t sell it.
(SR): Was there a ‘turning point’ that you can identify in the growth of your business?
(AM): A significant factor in our evolution was the fact that once we were established, people began seeking out our “look” for their homes. I found myself helping decorate client’s homes and have had the great privilege to be part of some of the premier homes in our coastal community. At this point, I’m busy enough that I rarely accept new clients, but always have a project or two going on with one or another of my longtime clients. I have been lucky enough to even work on a few motor yachts, as well as a number of beach homes and condos.
Wilmington North Carolina Gift Shop: Airlie Moon Facts at a Glace
Location: 1908 Eastwood Rd., Lumina Station, Wilmington, N.C.