North Charleston’s Park Circle is known for its charming eateries, growing beer scene, eclectic personality and affordable living without peninsula prices.
But for local Park Circle businesses and residents, it’s much more than a hip spot to live or grab a bite to eat. It’s a neighborhood filled with passionate entrepreneurs who are driven to bringing a different, hyper-local perspective to the status quo.
“When I think about who lives in the neighborhood, I think of the creatives. Chefs, artists,” said Steven Ortego, owner of home furnishings shop Iola Modern. “Here, they can stand out a bit bolder. Since [the neighborhood is] so different and unique, they can explain why they’re different and people listen.”
The neighborhood is innovative and creative. Local businesses help to give the area its fun, quirky edge. Ortego has seen the neighborhood evolve over the last four years that he’s operated Iola Modern.
“A lot of the development that has happened has been very thoughtful,” he said. “There have been many people who have done a good job at creating adaptive re-used spaces.” For Park Circle, it’s not only the businesses themselves, but also the people behind the businesses that make the community so unique.
For Park Circle businesses, “buy local” is more than a buzzworthy mantra, it means livelihood.
“In my own case, I’ve been able to employ neighbors. If we weren’t here, there would be four fewer jobs in Park Circle,” he said.
“Pat yourself on the back” when you shop locally
Lowcountry Local First’s Jordan Amaker said shoppers who buy through local small businesses allow local money to recirculate three times more than dollars spent at national businesses or chain stores.
“Beyond the qualitative impact that supporting your neighborhood businesses has, there is an enormous economic impact happening behind the scenes,” she said. “Pat yourself on the back every time you make a conscious choice to spend with a local business because you’re not only supporting that business owners’ livelihood and family, but your dollar is likely also being passed along to a local marketing firm, bookkeeper, web designer and other service providers that support that business. It goes on and on.”
Ortego agreed. “Supporting these local businesses not only gives these shop owners and their employees a way to continue working, but it also pumps money back into the community,” he said. In the days of the extreme convenience of online shopping and shipping straight to home, many may wonder why they would choose to support local.
The answer is simple: While prices and convenience are certainly attractive online, the personal touch and curation of products is truly what sets these businesses apart. Customers get direct access to experts in stores, helping them to make the best decisions possible when investing on furnishings.
The personal touch
Online shopping doesn’t give people the expertise of a local team or a setting where they can see and experience retail items like furniture.
“When they come to my store they get magic, experience and passion,” Ortego said.
During the pandemic, people have been spending more time at home, causing them to realize they need a little magic to make their spaces better.
“People were really thinking about how they lived in their homes,” he said.
Other businesses in Park Circle saw changes, from offering more takeout food to filling consumer requests for more American-made products. With shipping delays and travel restrictions in 2020, many consumers enjoyed the idea of not only purchasing domestically, but also enjoying their products much sooner than imported goods.
After having enjoyed designing for a few local businesses, such as Orange Spot Coffee, Fast and French’s patio and the Harbour Club’s rooftop deck, Ortego said he looked forward to the coming year’s possibilities.
“We’re excited for all sorts of different [design] projects. This year we’re working on the peninsula, Kiawah and in Park Circle.”