Like a lot of locals, I don’t venture down to Market Street very often — I’ve learned to leave the gift shops and seafood chains to the cruise crowds. So I was admittedly a little ignorant of the extent of the construction going on in the historic market. Phase two of the $5.5 million renovations wrapped up last week, and a giddy crowd gathered to see the dramatic changes at the grand opening on Sunday.

The market’s 18,300-square-foot Great Hall building, located between Meeting and Church streets, has gotten an impressive facelift. The enclosed space now boasts air conditioning, a new roof, new lighting, new restrooms, new flooring, and a skylight that runs the length of the building, giving the hall a refreshing splash of natural light. Gone are the crowded tables we’ve grown accustomed to in the market; instead, each vendor is situated in a boutique-like area located off the wide center aisle walkway, which was built with restored bluestone from the original structure. Caviar & Bananas and Food for the Southern Soul are situated on one end of the space, and outdoor seating is available for cafe dining. Vendors include Wonder Works, the Charleston Angler, the Historic Charleston Foundation, At Home, Chuma Gullah Gallery, Charleston Shoe Co., and many others.

Steve Varn, a principal of City Market Preservation Trust, led a short speech segment, thanking the project’s major supporters. Everyone was recognized, from Mayor Riley (who was away on vacation in the mountains but sent his regrets) to the maintenance crew. After Varn rang a bell, declaring the market officially open for business, guests browsed around the shops while drinking wine and La Bubbly. Trays of food from Hank’s, Peninsula Grill, and Caviar & Bananas were waiting at every turn, and we couldn’t help but wish that every shopping experience could be so tasty.

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