Sure, the Lowcountry has malls, large plazas, and shopping outlets, but at its heart, the smaller, independent retail shops define the city—Bob Ellis Shoes, Croghan’s Jewel Box, Worthwhile, and so many other boutiques and retailers that you won’t find anywhere else. Our most important shopping street has always been King Street. (Locals know that the elevation on King is higher and so it doesn’t flood when other streets do.) It’s narrow and one-way south of Calhoun Street, and that’s part of the charm. At least one Sunday afternoon each month, several blocks of King are reserved for pedestrian-access only. Those days feel like a festival, with music and food, too. Other streets of interest downtown for shopping are Broad, Queen (art galleries), Meeting, and Cannon (Beads on Cannon is fascinating), and of course, the restored, circa-1804 Charleston City Market on Market Street for souvenirs—including gourmet foods and sweetgrass baskets made in Charleston.
Geo. C. Birlant & Co.
The Chippendale bureaus and pendulum-swinging clocks make Geo. C. Birlant & Co. the granddaddy of King Street antiques’ shops. In fact, Birlant’s has so many sparkling, cut-glass chandeliers and silver tea service sets, it’s been called the “Tiffany of Charleston.” Stop by for a stroll around this shop that’s been a Charleston establishment since 1922.
The Alabama designer opened his Charleston store back in 2008, and we immediately liked that you could have a sip of whiskey while shopping. Nicely situated on the corner of King and Queen, the shop stocks the line’s latest—if you don’t see it upstairs, ask about the basement sale racks.
Mac & Murphy
Mac & Murphy is a paper goods heaven and a graphic design delight. If you’re into printed matter, this shop is full of character, color, and pure Charleston. It’s a tiny storefront on offbeat Cannon Street, but you can tell each charming piece of stationery, gift wrap, and notebook was hand-picked.
Blue Bicycle Books
The literary line-up in the Lowcountry is impressive, from Pat Conroy to Dorothea Benton Frank, but we don’t have many bookstores—anymore. A holdout is the Blue Bike, owned by writer Jonathan Sanchez. It was just renovated in 2014 and stocks “used, rare and local” books. Expect lots of readings and new titles, too.
For more than 20 years, this unlikely King Street boutique in a 19th century seed store has filled its wooden display cabinets and vintage-industrial clothing racks with avant-garde apparel and footwear, necklaces, books, candles, and soaps—Charleston women buy their best friend’s birthday presents here.