Charleston-based travel writer Claire Volkman clues us into shopping like a local. Add her recommendations to your itinerary.
Charleston is one of those cities you never want to visit without extra room in your suitcase. The relatively compact downtown corridor and the shops along the prime retail strip of King Street make it convenient to stock up on Lowcountry staples (like stone-milled grits and sweetgrass baskets). But serious shoppers will want to also browse further afield to take advantage of the city’s specialty boutiques and antique shops.
If you want to devote as much of your travel budget to shopping as possible, there are some hotels that offer excellent values worth considering. The King Charles Inn on Meeting Street is less than a block from King Street, Charleston’s prime shopping strip. Even if you are loaded down with purchases, it won’t take long to get back to your hotel. The Residence Inn Charleston Downtown/Riverview is convenient to shopping in the up-and-coming West Ashley neighborhood, yet also just across the river from historic Charleston.
Read on for our guide to navigating Charleston’s shopping scene.
Upper King Street
King Street is the unofficial epicenter of Charleston shopping. Sure, you’ll find outposts of familiar retail brands, but there are also plenty of unique favorites to uncover. On Upper King, stop at Blue Bicycle Books to peruse used and vintage volumes. Down the street are Felice Designs, a jeweler specializing in glass-blown bead necklaces and bracelets, and Mosa Boutique, for of-the-moment clothing. For the best in consignment shopping, visit Butterfly Women’s Boutique, in Mount Pleasant where you might turn up a label reading Tory Burch or Diane von Furstenberg. For men, M. Dumas & Sons beckons with its well curated selection—everything from terry hoodies for boat outings to dapper suits perfect for Charleston weddings.
Middle and Lower King Streets
As you head south towards the tip of the Charleston peninsula, you’ll reach Middle and then Lower King, which also have a number of noteworthy shops. Hampden Clothing stocks contemporary and trendy pieces for women in an array of price points. For quality jewels from a longstanding local, head to Croghan’s Jewel Box, located at 308 King, with a stunning collection of both vintage finds and estate jewelry. If you’re bringing the kids, head to Kids on King, which has everything you might need for the little ones, like board shorts, monogrammed towels, and beach toys. Lower King is where most of the higher priced antique stores and luxury chains are located along with a few gems like the 90-year-old antiques store George C. Birlant & Co antiques and Sugar Snap Pea, which carries children’s clothing.
Market, Cannon, and Spring Streets
The iconic Charleston City Market has been operating for over 200 years and continues to be a go-to resource for locally made gifts like sweetgrass baskets, works by area artists, and jewelry from family-run Gold Creations. On Cannon Street, slightly off the beaten path of historic downtown, you’ll find Indigo & Cotton, carrying American-made clothing for stylish men. Mac & Murphy, across the street, offers everything any paper and stationery lover could desire, from custom made calendars to folk journals and even threaded artwork. And at Tiger Lily Flowers, a shop on Spring Street that smells as beautiful as it looks, you can pick up custom made bouquets and gorgeous succulent arrangements to spruce up your hotel room. More local bounty is available at the Veggie Bin, another Spring Street staple, stocking specialties like dried okra and boiled peanuts.
West Ashley & North Charleston
These two up-and-coming neighborhoods are increasingly in fashion. In West Ashley, Pluff Mud Mercantile has an interesting curated selection of apparel, home goods, and gift items. For more bargain boutique shopping, stop into Stylez Exchange, a store that buys and sells slightly used trendy clothing items, from shoes to dresses to jeans. Foodies will appreciate Callie’s Charleston Biscuits, a small shop sells the Lowcountry's best artisanal biscuits, homemade jams, and pimento cheese dip. They can arrange to ship purchases across the country if you can’t fit them in your carry-on. (You can also try the company’s biscuits at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit on King Street.) If you’re an art collector, stop by the North Charleston City Gallery. It’s free to visit the gallery, which features a rotating collection of local and regional art, ranging from paintings to sculptures to photography. Finally, if you’re up for shopping for some serious bargains, head to the Tanger Outlets for the best deals on your favorite brands.