Local clothing brand Coastal Crab expands into new Niantic storefront
East Lyme — While Coastal Crab co-owner Rachel Redding has sold the colorful T-shirts and sweatshirts that her clothing brand is known for out of a shared storefront with Smoochie Bird on Main Street the last two years, she dreamed of one day expanding into her own shop.
So when a space opened up at 266 Main St. next to the Past To Present Collectibles store in February, Redding and her wife, Laura Westner, who both run the Coastal Crab brand, felt it was a sign to jump on a new opportunity.
Two weeks after signing their new lease, however, the coronavirus pandemic broke out, shutting down all chance of opening as first planned.
But that didn’t stop the couple from moving forward, Redding said.
"We heard about this pandemic, and we didn’t know what was going to happen," she said. "But we also kept telling ourselves everything is meant to be, everything will work out. We kept positive thoughts and stayed positive the whole time."
A few months later, their new store, now known as Coastal Gifts on Main, has been receiving steady business since opening Memorial Day weekend.
The shop, which features the couple's Coastal Crab clothing brand as its mainstay products, also is a one-stop shop for Niantic-themed keepsakes and souvenirs, such a beach signs and drink coasters, as well as beach-themed gifts such as bath bombs and candles featuring scents like Blue Hawaii and Peach Bellini, as well as soaps with titles like surf, sunshine and island.
Redding said instead of just selling their clothing brand, the couple decided to expand the offerings to become a shoreline-concept gift shop.
“We didn’t want to pigeonhole ourselves to just Coastal Crab,” Redding said. “We decided if we brought in other things people might like, such as candles, local beach signs and bath and body items, we could bring in more people. We thought, if someone is running out to a friend’s house for dinner, they can stop here to pick up gifts beforehand.”
The store still has more than plenty of Coastal Crab offerings, featuring racks and shelves of clothing for adults, youth and babies, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, dresses, jackets, hats, bags and more, in colors like hot pink, seafoam green, Nantucket red and tie-dye.
Inspired by the Vineyard Vines aesthetic, or “summer days at the beach and nights by the fire pit,” the lifestyle brand carries affordable clothing and ranges from about $15 to $40 and are all screen printed by Redding herself in her Waterford garage, while Westner takes care of the "business side of things," as well as the store's social-media accounts.
The couple, both of whom are also teachers at East Lyme and Old Saybrook high schools, will celebrate the brand’s four-year anniversary this upcoming month.
Redding, who teaches graphic design in East Lyme, said she always wanted to start her own clothing brand after starting a small brand in the '90s that ultimately didn’t grow beyond a hobby. When the idea for the crab came to her one night some four years ago, she said she knew the time was finally right to try again.
“I thought, ‘It’s gotta to be simple, it’s gotta be catchy, it’s gotta be something people are wearing, and one night it all came to me,” Redding said. “We wanted to keep it beachy and fun. We wanted to make sure it was very affordable but where people are still getting a good value. A great product for a great price in all sorts of colors."
The couple first started selling the brand at every farmers market and fair, “everything we could get our hands into to get our tent up and put our brand in front of people," Redding said.
“It was every weekend, Thursday through Sunday. We were at any and all events all over Connecticut,” Redding continued. “We would put our tent up, figure out how to arrange things, sit in the rain and on 90 degree days. It was trial and error but we didn’t care, we were going to do it and get our brand out as much possible."
Two years later, Coastal Crab was invited to set up shop in Main Street’s Smoochie Bird store — which is soon permanently closing — helping further popularize the brand. The couple also sells the brand at Branford's Seaside Home and Gifts, and hopes to expand to other shops throughout the region.
Now with their own storefront, Redding said it feels like her dream is being fully realized with each passing year. “People come in and say they see people with these shirts on and wanted to find one,” she said. “It’s exciting to see the brand grow ... We love working and doing our thing. It gives us a lot of satisfaction, starting from $25 in our pocket, to now having our own storefront and our own clothing brand.”
Redding and Westner also sell on their website, which they say is soon being revamped. Their 266 Main St. shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Monday.
If you go
What: Rachel Redding and Laura Westner's new shop, Coastal Gifts on Main, where they sell their Coastal Crab brand clothing.
Where: 266 Main St., Niantic
When: The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Monday.
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