Find Your Happy
by Mary Hope Roseneau Photography by Christian Lee
Find Your Happy
Marjorie Gray got her inspiration from the dripping wet family dog, a black flat coat retriever. Watching him one day at a dock on the Beaufort River gave her an “aha” moment. From her website she writes: “I sat and watched my dog, River, launch himself into the water over and over with his ears back, tail wagging and tongue flying. With each splash, he turned and swam back so he could jump again, so excited to continue his celebration. His enthusiasm was inspiring; the simplicity was magic. That day on the dock I was reminded of what my mother always said: ‘Dogs have so many lessons to teach.’”
Marjorie breezed into Beaufort Bread Company apologizing for being two minutes late, with strawberry blonde wavy hair, a handcrafted bone necklace from Twine & Twig, a cool top layered over a tank top and black leggings. She has her hands full with a husband, three children, a family business, her own company and the big black dog. We talked about busy summer plans with her children, two teenagers, and a 12 year old, who are all going in different directions.
Marjorie was born and raised in Beaufort, coming from the venerable Trask family. She was the baby of the family, with three older brothers: Paul, Angus and Chandler. They are important to the story later, so take note! She graduated from the Medical University of Charleston as a dentist, practicing for several years with Dr. Gene Grace. She married Herb Gray, a classmate from Beaufort Academy, and after two babies, Marjorie decided to switch off the drill and be a mom for a while.
The Gray family owns and operates Grayco Hardware and Home in Beaufort and on Hilton Head Island. Another baby came along, with school activities and team sports taking up lots of her time. Marjorie helped with the business as a buyer for home furnishings, but she wanted something different. Watching River gave her the spark to start her own company.
She pitched the idea of a t-shirt and ball cap company to her three brothers (remember them?). She promised high quality materials, but emphasizing the dog’s simple philosophy of life with pithy, memorable phrases. They agreed to be her partners, and she took off. The shirt and cap offerings have grown exponentially, with input from the children, especially, she laughs, her youngest. The company, River Happy, is now offering collegiate shirts, quirky coats of arms, latitude and longitude shirts, and recently the “royal” theme, such as “Stay loyal to the royal within you.”
Marjorie loves going to market shows to absorb creativity from others, as well as grow her own brand. Her merchandise is now offered in the Mast General Store chain, as well as many small stores in the South. In the near future, she hopes to sell merchandise online from her website, while still keeping ahead of trends that young people are into. The models in her slick catalog are local teens and pre-teens; her own three, as well as relatives and friends. “You gotta keep moving, and keep it fresh” is her secret of success. Her dream is to have one of her children want to come back home and run the company someday.
She admits it is a lot of work at times, but her term is “fun- consuming,” another reference to making life fun, not just work. The input and ideas from her children are vitally important to her, both as a mother and an entrepreneur. She looks for the joy in the details of her life (fulfilling orders, checking on mom, thread colors, dropping daughter at camp), but still looks to River (the dog) for inspiration. As far as the “River” reference, she states it’s not just about water, although she loves it. It’s more about animals to her, and whatever else makes you joyous and inspires you. As River advises, “Find your happy!”
Family: “Herb Gray, husband; Children are Hope, 17; Herbert, 15; and Leith, 12. Oh, and River, of course. He’s 6.”
Favorite place in Beaufort: “The porch on mother’s house, the historic John Joyner Smith house on Bay Street. It’s the perfect place to view parades.”
Favorite meal on the weekend: “Herb’s fried shrimp cooked in an outdoor cooker.”
People would be surprised that: “I keep my dentist credentials up to date. I take continuing education courses online. I worked hard for that degree, so it’s important.”
One day she’d like to try: “Playing bridge. My mother-in-law is a serious player.”
She feels most creative: “When I’m with my children.”
River’s future plans: “My daughter really wants us to make him a float and put him in a Beaufort parade— maybe the Christmas one. Summer is too booked already. He does have lots of fans.”
Log on: www.RiverHappy.com