Medea Duffy combined her love for local artisanship and sustainability to launch Local Love CHS gift shop on James Island. | Photos by Ruta Smith

James Island resident Medea Duffy settled on the couch with a mug of cappuccino, fresh from her kitchen. 

“This is like my favorite thing in the world,” she said about her espresso machine. The light from the wide windows that overlook a slice of the Charleston Harbor saturates the living room. Her dog Uma lightly snores while she sleeps next to an air conditioning vent on the floor. 

Duffy, originally from Pennsylvania, met husband Brian in Washington, D.C., while she was working in advertising. He’s from Charleston originally and had plans to return to his hometown. In 2004, the couple relocated to Charleston where Brian, son of retired U.S. District Judge Patrick Michael Duffy, went on to establish the Duffy & Young law firm.

Although the couple started raising their three children in another house, the Duffys bought their current James Island home where they now live eight years ago. 

“It was straight up 1970,” she said of seeing the house for the first time. “Everything was exactly as it was since 1970. But we love the water, and so we came back in our boat to see if we could have water access.” Once they determined they could get the boat in and out, it was a done deal. 

The Duffys did some pretty extensive renovations to improve the bathrooms and open up the kitchen and living room area. The old galley kitchen had a wall that split the room in half and blocked the beautiful view, so they knocked it down to create an open floor plan. The view of the harbor stretches out behind the backyard scattered with ancient oak trees.

“We are outside people,” Medea Duffy said, “and so before we did anything with the house, we put a pool in.” The installation was done thoughtfully to ensure no harm was done to the trees, which shade the pool and backyard to bring reprieve from the stifling heat. 

The Duffys’ furniture and decor is a sea of beige and brown hues and textured wood, with pops of color and eclectic vintage treasures. Duffy said she has a thing for swan knickknacks, which decorate the wall shelving around the living room fireplace and are nestled throughout the house. 

“I just put in whatever I like,” she said. “I love vintage, like love vintage, so a lot of the random chotchkies and artwork are vintage, and a lot of local stuff too — I don’t care if it matches.”

“My husband makes so much fun of me,” she said pointing to the wall shelving. “There’s a salt and pepper shaker that’s a dog and cat up there.”

Raising children and a community spot

When Duffy first came to Charleston in 2004, she raised children and worked in the nonprofit sector for several years, including Summerville projects such as Scrumptious Kitchen Tour that raised money for the Dorchester Children’s Center and Freedom Reigns social justice project.

Then Duffy started a subscription flower service in which she sourced flowers locally for subscribers who received the weekly arrangements, depending on what was fresh. As the business grew, running deliveries and balancing schedules with the kids became too much; she ended the business. 

In 2018, Duffy met a friend who lives close to her neighborhood, Shelly Belill, and they entertained the idea of a business venture that would eventually become their Camp Road gift shop Local Love CHS

“She talked to me about doing something together and then it just kind of happened,” Duffy said. “We didn’t even know what we wanted to do when we met, but we both really liked [sourcing] locally and we both loved going to markets and meeting local makers. And it just kind of morphed into Local Love.” 

Duffy and Belill wanted people to be able to buy good local stuff in one place regularly, not just at pop-up events or flea markets. To test their concept, they started with a stall in Patina Market in West Ashley. 

Although the duo had great reception, they knew they would move spaces eventually. But right when they found a space to lease, news of Covid-19 stalled the decision to open a brick-and-mortar location. Instead, they opened up an online store, kept their inventory in a storage space and offered free local delivery. They also incentivized local businesses to provide subscribers with products, such as locally made candles and baked goods. 

Once the duo’s online operation made it through the Covid-related shutdown, they opened a space in Riverland Terrace before moving to the current location off Camp Road on James Island. Local Love CHS has been open at that location since March 2022. 

The shop is an environmentally sustainable gift shop, equally as focused on promoting local artisans and curating handmade products as it is on minimizing waste. The shop is stocked with everything from home goods, accessories and apparel to cards, pottery, artwork, candles and wellness products, and it offers the option to create your own gift box with an array of products. To take a look at the shop online, go to locallovechs.com. 

“I feel like it is matching our vision so far,” Duffy said. “There’s more we want to do.” 

The goal is to host more workshops with different local makers similar to the moon phase watercolor painting class last month, including macrame crafts, indigo dyeing and pottery painting. They also want to offer more options for locals to become more sustainable, like setting up a refill station for hand soap and cleaning supplies. 

“We want to be more of a community spot,” she said.

THE LOWDOWN ON MEDEA DUFFY

Age: 44.

Birthplace: Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University

Current profession: Co-owner, Local Love CHS.

Past professions of interest: I was The Charleston Flower Lady.

Family: Husband, Brian; three tween/teen kids and a dog, Uma.

Something people would be surprised to learn about you: I’m a regular at Goodwill on James Island. My favorite Goodwill employee, George, can attest to it!

Favorite things to do outside of work: Thrifting and going to local markets, yoga, gardening, boating/beach with the family and walking Uma.

Favorite novel: Catcher in the Rye.

Favorite food to eat: Sushi, hands down!

Favorite food to cook: I’d prefer to have someone else cook for me. Otherwise, my favorite thing to not cook is a salad or charcuterie board. 

Favorite cocktail or beverage: The Red Scare at Zero George. So good!

Five foods you always need in your refrigerator: Oat milk, avocado, spinach, cheese and peanut butter.

Three people (alive or dead) you’d like to dine with: Jackie Kennedy, Maya Angelou, Janis Joplin.

What meal would you want served to you for your last supper: Sushi from 167 Raw Sushi.

Something that you have too much of at home: Dog hair and plants, but I wouldn’t want to change either.

Guilty pleasure: HGTV.

Favorite musicians: Sublime, Lorde, Fugees, Bob Marley and so many more!

Describe your best day in 50 words or less: A cool and calm early morning boat ride with the fam after a mosquito-free yoga session on our backyard deck. Grabbing a smoothie for lunch and heading to Pickers Hullabaloo for a little browsing. Ending the day with a take-out sushi dinner, a glass of red and a movie.

Childhood hero: She probably shouldn’t be described as a hero, but man, I loved Madonna.

Pet peeve: When people don’t recycle.

Philosophy: Love your mother (Mother Earth, your mom, everyone’s mom, everyone) and spread it!

Anything about the pandemic affected you in particular: It made me (finally) realize the beauty in slowing down and enjoying the moment. It was really refreshing to have time to do that and to be with family in that way during the heat of Covid.


Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.