So I have interviewed Mermaid Shelly AND her merman husband Chris (the only bona fide mer-couple I know of) here before, but considering that a few months ago Shelly opened the only actual brick-and-mortar STOREFRONT that sells mermaid tails and clothing and really, everything a modern-day mermaid could ever need, I thought it was clear that I needed to go back for an update. The store is called Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto and is located just north of San Diego in South Oceanside, California. That’s right, an actual mermaid-run mermaid store servicing mermaids and aspiring mermaids everywhere. Because if you are, like me, unfortunate enough not to live in South Oceanside, you can virtually visit the Grotto on Etsy and buy many delightful things, including shimmery tails like the one Shelly’s holding here:
Another gorgeous example of Shelly’s tail-making is this one that Sora Dancing Mermaid wore last July in the Bahamas (on our infamous mermaid diving trip, another version of which is being offered this coming summer), to the envy of marine (and human) life all over the Caribbean. Here is said tail in all its glory, in a beauteous shot from mermaid photographer extraordinaire Chris Crumley that makes me very sad that it is no longer July and that I’m no longer hanging out with sharks.
Obviously, Shelly’s tails are not for the shabby, would-wear-sweatpants-if-she-had-legs type of mermaid.
Here are some shots of the actual store, taken by Chris as well as Eric Larson of San Diego Business Photography:
Doesn’t it look lovely? My penetrating Q and A with Shelly follows:
So when and why did you decide to open Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto?
We opened Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto in October 2012 in South Oceanside, California. We spent all summer working open markets and street fairs and found it to be exhausting; both physically and financially. Lugging our wares around town, storing it the rest of the time in our tiny home, and living with a car full of sequins was just not for me. And especially given that one tail alone can be 8 feet long, living out of a 10’ x 10’ canopy doesn’t allow enough space to display them appropriately. People would mistake them for dresses, and we spent way too much time explaining to people that no, they are actually fully swimmable mermaid tails! Plus, many markets do not allow for competition, so if another vendor sold jewelry we were not allowed to. This was somewhat frustrating as we have a huge collection of jewelry items and it seemed a shame to leave them at home when we have such unique mer-made items. In this spirit of non-competition, we decided that it was best to start looking at leasing a more permanent home where our tails and mer-chandise can be displayed freely. It is also very expensive to vend at street markets, so it makes a lot more sense to settle down somewhere by the sea where I am free to be me.
Do you make the tails and clothing you sell yourself? I saw one of your tails up close (Sora’s leopard one, right?) and it was gorgeous!
Thank you! Yes, I make all our tails, swimwear, our mer-skirts and dresses. We have collaborated with a few mer-friends who have provided us additional items, but everything that we sell is proudly 100% mer-made.
What can visitors to the Grotto expect?
Visitors to Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto can expect an undersea experience that cannot be matched anywhere else. We jokingly say that we are the only mermaid store on land, and I quite believe that is the truth. From tails, to art, to jewelry, we carry unique items that are not available anywhere else on the planet. From the minute you walk in the door and witness videos of me and my mermaid friend swimming in my tails, to the wooden mermaids and artwork hanging on the walls, you know you have travelled to another world indeed. We do everything from taking photos of customers in tails to organizing adopt-a-beach clean-ups and wildlife walks at our local lagoon. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
I don’t know of any other store like it, do you?
There is no other store like Mermaid Shelly’s Grotto. Many gift shops may carry items with a mermaid image on it, but there is no other that carries items actually handcrafted by mermaids themselves. And we are the only tail-maker in the world to have a physical retail store presence where a customer can actually come in and touch and feel the quality of the tails, as well as have the difference in materials and pricing explained to them in person. We also do on-site measurements and tail fittings, so we guarantee the tail will fit you because it was measured and crafted by Mermaid Shelly herself. Many items are actually made in the store, so you can see firsthand the care and painstaking work that is done every day to bring the very best of the undersea world to your shores.
What has the response been since you’ve opened?
We have had the pleasure of being visited by many mermaids who sort of know what we are about, but I must say that the best reactions have been from the locals. We have been happened upon by neighborhood children who visit us every day after school just to say hello as well as longtime residents and surfers who were not aware that a mermaid culture even existed. So many people come in saying how they have loved mermaids their whole lives and had no idea that people actually do this for fun, not to mention professionally. It has been very delightful to show our world to the community, even more so having the FOX 5 Morning News feature us for a mermaid fashion show at the Oceanside Pier which has brought even more mer-enthusiasts to seek us out. It has been a wonderful experience thus far and we are hoping that it only grows with time.
I understand that you’ll be on the Discovery Channel soon (and that they found you through this very blog!). Can you talk a bit about that? When will we see you on tv?
Why yes! We are extremely excited to have been found by Discovery International to be featured as the season finale of their new series, Extreme Worlds. It will be aired in 200+ countries which gives us an opportunity to bring even more exposure to the mermaid community through our love and life-long dedication to it. Each episode is centered around a certain topic, and the one we will be featured on is about love relationships. The producers happened upon your blog where you interviewed my husband SoCal Merman Chris and after a few phone conversations they decided that we should be so lucky as to be featured on their series. Since it has not been premiered yet in the US, and we will be on the season finale, I would expect it to be a little while before it is aired. But you will be the first to know when it is, since all thanks are due to you and your wonderful blog for their having found us!
I interviewed Chris, but haven’t gotten your perspective on being part of a gorgeous mer-couple. How is it, having a half-human, half-merman for a husband?
What’s next for you and the Grotto?
I think the near future will be filled with more hard work as we continue to feather our nest and establish ourselves as a local and online business. We have recently joined the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce who will be creating a whole new section of the annual Harbor Days festival in September called Mermaids Grotto after seeing our spot on the FOX 5 Morning News. We anticipate getting more and more mermaids involved in the scene, and have created a new website, San Diego Mermaids, so that they can be booked for events through our shop. We plan on bringing these wonderful mermaid friends out to feature them at the Harbor Days festival so that the public can see how beautiful and talented they are as they entertain the masses with their sweet siren spirits. Aside from that, I’ll be continuing to work on my biography, titled Turbid Water – Swimming Into the Light, which will discuss my childhood and the situations that brought me to be who I am today. And of course, continuing to make tails and spend every other free minute in the water and on the beach! It is a mermaid’s life for me for sure!