Sailors Siren on Island Runaways

Here's our interview with our favorite island go-to source, Island Runaway

Irresistible Island Style: at the new Sailors Siren online shop
September 2, 2015

When we Island Runaways heard that mother-and-daughter team Michele and Whit were launching a fabulous beach-y shop -- online -- we had to hear all about it. As you know, we love nothing better than great "island style," from sea-themed beach towels to nautical barware. Sailors Siren with its tempting, chic goodies is definitely our kind of retail therapy! This past weekend, I interviewed family friend Michele about turning their dream of going into business into a reality. Hope you enjoy the story as much as we did...

Island Runaways: Sailors Siren has such a great beach-y vibe. Obviously sand, sun, and sea are huge inspirations for Sailors Siren. What are your favorite places for a great beach escape? Any islands you love especially?

Michele: I’m grateful and blessed to live in Atlantic Beach, Florida, so paradise is literally across the street. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't get out on my board, take the dogs to swim or simply see or feel the ocean. I can't imagine not living at the beach at this stage of my life.

Our family's favorite island getaway is Elbow Cay in the Abacos. We get on the boat by 11, stop to dive, stop to eat, and just explore the different islands. In the evenings we either cook what the boys caught that day or get on the golf cart and go find dinner. And then there's the rule about drinking as much rum as you want! That's a rule, right? 

We also love Islamorada and the Keys. My husband was born in Key West so he knows all the secret spots! Whit was born in Guam, so the Mariana Islands are very special to us too.

Island Runaways: So Whit is a real "island girl." Very cool. How did you and Whit come up with the idea of starting this business? And what inspired the awesome name?

Michele: Whit and I talked about a shop for years. Growing up so Southern and then spending 23 years as a Navy pilot's wife gave me a lot of experience entertaining, decorating, and traveling. Whit inherited the gift, but with a different spin and that variation of the same vibe became the driving force to create our “salt air” style. It was obvious to us that our separate, but similar aesthetic was represented in two extremes, but not commonly joined, so that's what we're doing! Meshing Southern and coastal with a focus on American, Southern, and locally made products as much as we can. 

We both love to shop and decorate and dreamed of a “one day” situation, then last Christmas we decided if not now, when? Whit had a very demanding job and was looking for a change and we just made the decision to put the wheels into motion and that was that. We launched the website eight months later.

As for the name, my husband (and Whit's dad ) is a 2nd generation Naval Officer. And now my son (Whit's brother) is a 3rd generation Naval Officer following in his Dad's footsteps, the "Sailor" in Sailors Siren was obvious and easy.

Silly enough, I’ve always thought of myself as a Mermaid, and of course mini-me is one as well. The Sirens of mythology are enchanting, appealing, and hard for sailors to resist, so it just made perfect sense. You'll also see that part of our branding says, "Since 1986." People always ask what that's about. It's when we became a team, the year Whit was born.

Island Runaways: What is your personal favorite beachy or nautical item you carry online? And what is Whit's?

Michele: That's a hard one – I love them all! This very moment its our Eliza Gran baskets, but boy those are so hard to even get that we're not putting them on the website for now. Whit is really proud of our Sailors Siren specific products, like our wine and whiskey glasses.

She worked very hard to make my mermaid dreams come alive in our branding and we have a ton of ideas and projects in the works for our Sailor Siren mermaid products as they're some of our most popular sellers. And we are both in love with the cloudware by HAAND

Island Runaways: As you know, our blog loves to feature home décor and fashion that celebrate the seashore. Why do you think "coastal style" has become so very popular in the last few years?

Michele: Coastal Style has been my décor of choice for over 30 years. Growing up on the “forgotten coast” enjoying beach and river houses and spending a lot of time on the water gets into your soul. I think it brings a relaxed and welcoming feel anywhere you are and people feel drawn to that salt air feeling.

Island Runaways: So, what are your plans for Sailors Siren in the coming months or year? I hear there's talk of pop-up shops...?

Michele: We are booked for a number of pop-ups through the end of the year with plans to open a brick and mortar store in 2016. In the meantime, we are actively trying to reinvent how people perceive online businesses and bridge the gap between online sales and offline community activities and partnerships. We are incredibly lucky to live in such an amazing community and want to be known as a local family business in the neighborhood that we love so dearly. I think our first event is going to help with changing that perception. We're partnering with The Palms Retro Hotel  in Atlantic Beach and organizing the first Palms Market for local businesses and shoppers to come together for a homegrown local shopping experience

Island Runaways: Wow, that sounds exciting. It's so gratifying to hear how you're creating this business and pursuing your dreams...especially as a mother-daughter team. Thanks so much, Michele, for taking the time for this interview.

Whit ToomerComment