It’s no surprise that King Street was named one of the best shopping streets in the country by U.S. News and World Report. While plenty of chains live on King, there is also a solid share of locally owned establishments that will make it easy to stick to your Buy Local goals. Here are some of our favorites, divided by area.
Not too long ago, respectable people didn’t go too far above Calhoun on King (we can say that, because our first offices were up there). Now Upper King is arguably the hottest district in town with high-end restaurants, bustling bars, and tons of unique shops and boutiques.
The rambling yet intimate Blue Bicycle Books offers a mix of new and used books including rare first editions from authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pat Conroy. If you really want to break the bank, you can purchase a $2,000 signed copy of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The store also has quirky titles like I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats as well as a large selection of signed books by local authors.
Next door, Felice Designs features vibrant glass bead jewelry made in-store by artist Felice Killian, who has been voted the best jewelry designer in town by City Paper readers time and time again. Though her business first came to King Street in 2004, she’s been crafting and selling jewelry since grade school. Pop into her store if you would like to pick out some beads or commission a custom order.
The recently opened VILN Collective skate shop is all about bringing together Charlestonians who love to shred. Owners Daniel Blackwell and William Zimmer IV offer upscale skater apparel from brands like Obey, Diamond Supply Co., and Supra as well as accessories from Ray Ban, Oakley, and Flud Watches. VILN also has a small but impressive selection of decks, wheels, and trucks. If you’re more of a surfer than a skater, Las Olas has board shorts, bikinis, surfboards, and plenty of cold-weather gear for hitting the waves or just hitting the streets. Stores like Super Bad and Bluestein’s have been outfitting men on the upper end of the street for generations.
If you want to kick it old-school, consider stopping by Honest John’s Record Shop at the corner of Morris Street. They stock classic albums on vinyl as well an eclectic selection of CDs and cassette tapes. The store also specializes in fixing older electronics. Read Brothers stocks stereo equipment as well as fabric and other random goods. Taylor’s Pawn Shop and George’s Loan & Music Co. are two other Upper King mainstays where you never know what you’ll find. In the market for a bike and don’t have any luck at the pawn shops? Head to Affordabike.
If you don’t mind buying pre-worn designer duds, stop by Butterfly Women’s Consignment Boutique, where owner Amanda Rosen offers top-notch brands like Trina Turk, DVF, Tory Burch, and True Religion. For used clothing with a more vintage flair, JLinSnider is filled with racks of stylish gems from the last few decades along with new pieces from both local and national designers. You’ll also find some local designers’ creations at One Boutique.
For home goods, Morris Sokol Furniture is a three-story furniture superstore with something for every style of home decor. Ellington and Lulan both stock eclectic home goods with a boho vibe, and Seeking Indigo has art, clothing, and accessories from around the world, plus a zen wellness center. Sweet 185, which specializes in sugaring, is another great place to chill out on Upper King. Or if hair removal isn’t your thing, stop by The Smoking Lamp for a smoke.
Last but not least, we can’t wait for the Magnifilous Toy Emporium to open in the neighborhood this week.
The middle portion of King Street is typically the busiest, with narrow sidewalks crowded with jostling tourists and college kids. You’ll find some major chains here — Urban Outfitters, Pottery Barn, the Gap — but there are some great locally owned shops as well.
Hampden Clothing has well-heeled fans not only in Charleston, but across the country. The women’s boutique is frequently profiled in glossy mags thanks to owner Stacy Smallwood’s eye for design. Recent arrivals in the store include new pieces from Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone, Rebecca Taylor, and more. And if you stop by and donate a toy to their Toys for Tots drive, you can get a 20 percent discount on any item in the store. Rapport, Willy Jay’s, Anne’s, Nancy’s, Affordables, Thera M., Luna, Copper Penny, Lula Kate, Finicky Filly, and Phyllis are all women’s boutiques in the area covering a wide range of price points. Scout and Molly’s and the Vault carry men’s and women’s clothing.
The Silver Puffin carries an eclectic variety of children’s games, toys, books, stuffed animals, and puzzles. For the month of November, whenever someone buys the Furever Home Animal Rescue Board Game, a portion of Silver Puffin’s proceeds will be donated to the Charleston Animal Society. Robot Candy Co. is a wonderland for kids and those who still wish they were kids.
M. Dumas & Sons has built quite a reputation among the frat boys and Southern gents of Charleston. If you’re a man who’s unopposed to wearing pastels — even when they clash with the colors of your SEC football team’s visor — this is the store for you. Head to one of Dumas’ November Trunk shows where they’ll be selling brands like Southern Tide and Vineyard Vines at generous discounts. And they easily carry the best selection of Barbour jackets in town. 319 Men and Grady Ervin & Co. are two more menswear stores in the area.
Bits of Lace is a locally owned alternative to corporate behemoth Victoria’s Secret, located a few blocks down the street. They offer a variety of women’s sleepwear and sexy lingerie. Throughout the month of November, if you donate an item to their bra drive to benefit the Free the Girls nonprofit initiative, you can get a discount on new merchandise.
Outdoor enthusiasts have been flocking to locally owned Half-Moon Outfitters for years. They have a killer selection of outdoor, travel, and adventure gear and apparel. Until Nov. 21, all Marmot products are 25 percent off and all Patagonia products are 20 percent off. The Extra Mile is a must-visit for running fans.
Some other favorites in this area include Worthwhile for unique artisan clothing and gifts, Stella Nova for cosmetics, Bob Ellis Shoes for high-end footwear, Croghan’s Jewel Box, and Parham & Co. for antiques. And be sure to head upstairs to Novel at 341 King St. (the entrance is on the street) for clothing from Library Vintage, stationery from Bon Vivant, art from Blue Chickadee, and Jane Pope jewelry.
Lower King is where you’ll find a bunch of high-priced antique shops and high-end chains (Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Gucci), but it’s also the site of some of the street’s best gems.
We mean that literally at Joint Ventures Estate Jewelers, which has been operating on King Street for more than two decades. They’re a consignment shop, so much of what you see in the display cases first belonged to a native Charlestonian. They have plenty of jewelry for the ladies in the way of earrings and necklaces, and some beautiful refurbished men’s watches. On the other end of the spectrum, Dixie Dunbar carries unique jewelry made by local designer Soteria Kontis.
Since the late ’70s, Janyce E. McMenamin has been running RTW Charleston, where she strives to provide her shoppers with refined and unique wardrobe items, most of which come from either New York City or Europe. Shop the Brunello Cucinelli trunk show Nov. 28 and 29. Other Lower King clothing boutiques include Warren on King and Berlin’s, with their signature neon sign. It’s where the South of Broad set has shopped for Southern staples since 1883.
History buffs should definitely check out the Preservation Society of South Carolina‘s King Street store. They have a variety of Charleston and South Carolina-themed books and gifts as well as locally made snacks and sweetgrass baskets. All proceeds from the Preservation Society’s store go toward the organization’s mission to revitalize and restore dilapidated architecture in Charleston. See their website to learn more about their Seven to Save historic preservation initiative.
George C. Birlant & Co. is one of Charleston’s oldest stores, and they’ve been locally owned since the 1920s. This impressive antique store offers a comprehensive selection of truly regal items ranging from antique furniture and brass to silver, china, and crystal pieces. They’re probably most famous for their one-of-a-kind reproductions of Charleston Battery Benches, which are nearly identical to the benches that have lined the Battery since the 1800s. Also stop by Alexandra French Antiques and Golden and Associates Antiques for historic treasures.
Lily is a teensy little place chock full of pretty luxuries like letterpress stationery, handmade hats, jewelry, candles, and soaps. The same sweet couple runs Old Road Mercantile just next door. This shop has more of a modern, international vibe, with Forage bow ties, Jack Rudy tonic, Le Jacquard Francais tea towels, and colorful Gurgle Pots. The recently relocated Dwelling is a great stop for housewares and furniture, while Vieuxtemps and Christian Michi are great for thoughtful gifts.
Sugar Snap Pea is a popular stop for the underage crew with everything from toys to clothing to car seats, and the newly opened Sneaker stocks the latest in — you guessed it — sneakers. Down near the end of the street, Heirloom Book Co. specializes in cookbooks, including both new and rare antique editions, while the Daughters of St. Paul Bookstore stocks mainly Christian titles. Julia Santen Gallery has a huge selection of vintage prints and posters.