Shopping in Charleston, South Carolina, brings a bounty of food, fare and decorative finds that reflect the city’s history and culture and utilize Lowcountry resources from landscapes to produce.
Discover such treasures as museum-quality sweetgrass baskets, the only teas grown in the U.S, feathered bow ties, handmade soaps, art, and joggling boards. Taste buttermilk biscuits, flavored sea salt, Sweet Tea Vodka, and handmade chocolates.
Here are 15 places to shop in Charleston.
King Street was named to honor King Charles II for helping establish “Charles Towne”, whose name morphed into “Charleston”.
The revitalized historic area, one of the best for shopping in Charleston, divides into three sections. Many antique shops line Lower King Street, the blocks from Broad to Market. Be sure to peek into George C. Birlant & Company, a noted seller of antiques for more than 90 years.
Middle King Street, from Market to Calhoun, is known for fashion. Hampden features trendy women’s clothing and M. Dumas and Sons has been offering men’s wear since 1917.
Dubbed the Dining and Design District, Upper King Street stretches from Marion Square to Spring Street. Pause for lunch at El Jefe Texican Cantina, known for its ribeye tacos and award-winning Margaritas.
Read: One Day in Charleston
Charleston Tea Garden, Wadmalaw Island
Buying tea at the 127-acre Charleston Tea Garden, Wadmalaw Island, comes with bonuses. On a tour of America’s only tea factory, you learn how tea is processed.
On the trolley tour, you’ll see acres of tea bushes, the greenhouse and enjoy sweeping views of the lush Lowcountry landscape.
Because Wadmalaw Island has sandy soil and receives 50 inches of annual rainfall, the tea plants flourish.
On a spring visit, you might catch sight of the plants being harvested. Especially for tea lovers, a visit to the Charleston Tea Garden is a Charleston shopping must.
Linger at the gift shop, the best Charleston shopping for the teas grown at the Tea Garden. The teas are unique: the plants are American-grown and have larger than usual leaves to produce what the company calls a “richer, smoother flavor”.
Choose from American Classic, the Tea Garden’s first product, Earl Grey, Cinnamon Spice, Carolina Mint, Peachy Peach, and more.
Charleston Specialty Foods, Ashley River Road
Charleston Specialty Foods stocks its shelves with locally made and Carolina fare, including the company’s versions of area treats. Look for the baked-on-site sesame seed cookies, Charleston’s Own Benne Wafers.
You’ll also find boxes of American-grown tea from the Charleston Tea Company, bags of long-grain rice from Carolina Plantation Gold Rice, jars of specialty honey from Edisto Gold Honey (try the chile pepper infused hot honey), and an array of jams and BBQ rubs.
Charleston City Market
Spanning four blocks, the Charleston City Market, an anchor of Charleston shopping, houses scores of local vendors and artists.
In the historic structure dating to 1841 and the Great Hall, constructed in 2011, you can find food, art, decorative items, jewelry, and clothes made by craftspeople and businesses from the Charleston area.
Peruse handmade soaps from the Old Whaling Company, homemade jellies, Charleston-themed Christmas ornaments, and prints, photographs and paintings of Charleston area sites.
This is also the place to buy sweetgrass baskets, an iconic art form associated with the Charleston area. Enslaved West Africans brought their skills in basket-making to the Carolina coast in the 17th century.
Originally fashioned to winnow rice, the baskets, among the oldest surviving African art forms in the U.S., are primarily decorative nowadays.
To create the pieces, artisans carefully coil and weave local sweetgrass, bulrush, and palmetto, a skill passed down within families.
Among the crafters at the market selling baskets are Corey Alston, a fifth-generation basketmaker, Andrea Cayetano-Jefferson, a sixth-generation weaver, and Tonya Aiken, who has fashioned baskets for more than 30 years.
City-Wide Art Galleries
With more than 40 art galleries all over the city, shopping in Charleston for art is a joy for any collector. In paintings and photographs, many artists interpret the region’s Lowcountry landscape of marshes and tidal creeks and the city’s vibrant life.
Browse the galleries for work by noted local artists. Fred Jamar, originally from Belgium, infuses the street scenes of his adopted city with chords of electric energy created by vivid colors and intensified, sometimes whimsical shapes.
Chuck Morris creates oils and watercolors of tidal marshes and waterfowl. Jonathan Green’s work depicts aspects of Gullah life and culture.
Not all artists or galleries display only local work or pieces representing Charleston scenes. Look for works by emerging artists at the Ruth and Bill Baker Art Sales Gallery at the Gibbes Museum of Art.
The Corrigan Gallery features contemporary Charleston Fine Art, including printmakers and photographers. The Miller Gallery showcases contemporary work by local and international artists.
Find works by Karen Hewitt Hagan and other artists at Hagan Fine Art, and peek into additional galleries in the historic French Quarter.
Brackish Bow Ties, Wallace School Road
There’s nothing quite like a feathered bowtie to spice up your wardrobe. The handmade neckwear from Brackish is chic.
Bill Murray wore one to the Oscars in 2014, and many Hollywood, television, and music stars sport the stylish bow ties. The unusual item, a Charleston shopping discovery, started as a gift in 2007 from a groom to his groomsmen and took flight as a Charleston business five years later.
Artisans and designers meticulously craft the neckwear, creating patterns based on nature using feathers from turkeys, peacocks, guineas, and pheasants.
You can also purchase feathered lapel pins, cummerbunds, pocket squares, cufflinks, and women’s feathered earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. Find your new feathered friends at Brackish’s Charleston showroom.
Firefly Distillery, North Charleston
In a scenic setting of live oaks draped with Spanish Moss on North Charleston, Firefly produces more than 28 spirits, including the world’s first Sweet Tea Vodka, a popular product. Other spirits with a Lowcountry flair are Lemonade Vodka and Blackberry Moonshine.
Book a tour and tasting, or enjoy cocktails, cornhole games, and, often, live music outdoors. For lunch, belly up to the food trucks that usually park onsite.
The Joggle Factory, Edisto Island
Wonder what the long wooden planks on stands are on the front porches of many Charleston area homes? They’re joggling boards, called jostling boards in Scotland. You and your friends sit on them and bounce gently up and down, which is not only fun, but reputedly good exercise.
Constructed from sturdy but flexible Southern pine, the boards bend so they spring down and up when you sit on them. The Joggle Factory, Edisto Island, has been creating boards since 2010. Typically painted Charleston Green, a black with green hues, the boards range from six to 16 feet long.
The first board to be created in the U.S. solved a problem. In 1803, when Mary Huger’s arthritis prevented her from taking carriage rides, her relatives in Scotland sent plans for a joggling board to her home, Acton Plantation, Sumter, South Carolina. After a carpenter built the board, Mary could enjoy bouncing as she did on carriage rides.
Popular in the mid-19th century, especially for couples, the boards enabled a woman and her beau to sit on either end, wiggling ever so slightly toward the middle as they joggled up and down.
Bulls Bay Saltworks, Bulls Bay
When Rustin and Teresa Gooden brined a whole hog with seawater for a roast, they accidentally created their first batch of sea salt. While the guests liked the pork, they raved about the salt. That led to the birth of Bulls Bay Saltworks.
Natural salt, less processed than table salt, contains healthy trace minerals. The name derived from the fact that the company harvests seawater from Bulls Bay, part of the nearby Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
The Bourbon Barrel Smoked Flake salt is wood smoked in aged oak barrels for a smoky aroma with a sweet bourbon note. Shop in Charleston stores, including Burbage’s Grocery and Candlefish, for the bourbon variety as well as other Bulls Bay salts.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, King Street
Flaky, tasty, cheese-infused, or framing a sandwich, biscuits are a Southern staple. Try buttermilk, cheese and chive, black pepper bacon, or blackberry biscuits at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. The eatery also sells its Hot Little Biscuit mix to take home.
You can brunch on scrumptious biscuit sandwiches at several further Charleston eateries. Great places to try bacon, cheese, and egg biscuit sandwiches include Handy & Hot and Clerks Coffee Company and Miller’s All Day, which plates a hearty county fried steak biscuit. Well-known restaurant Poogan’s Porch serves tasty biscuits and gravy.
Charleston offers the biscuit lover another type of biscuit. Sallie Hutson and her mother Anne team up to produce Anne’s Charleston Cheese Biscuits. Instead of puffy and doughy, the unique Charleston product, flat like a cookie, is the Hutsons’ version of an English cheese biscuit with southern seasonings. In Charleston, shop for the pre-packaged biscuits at The Boutique, Madison-Mathews, and the Historic Charleston Foundation.
Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier, Society Street
Chocoholics should head straight to Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier. A third-generation French chocolatier, Christophe Paume with his wife Carly opened their shop in Charleston in 2009.
Treat yourself to heavenly handmade indulgences such as dark chocolate and caramel sea salt bars, chocolate truffles, and the house specialty, hand-painted chocolates on which the sparkles of color make the bites almost too pretty to eat.
Old Whaling Company, King Street
Locals rave about Old Whaling Company’s handmade soaps, body butters, and bath bombs designed with sea-inspired fragrances. The 15 soaps, numerous body butters, and balms harness the power of scents to relax, energize, or just make you feel good.
The Coastal Calm bar soothes with the scent of sandalwood, and Oatmeal Milk & Honey feels as comforting as a bowl of hot oatmeal. Spearmint & Eucalyptus employs its name ingredients and wild mint to reinvigorate you, and Seaberry blends wild berries, plums and vanilla for a fruity summer scent.
Shop in Charleston for Old Whaling Company products in the store on King Street or the Great Hall in the Charleston City Market.
Candlefish, King Street
Candlefish makes it easy to find the scents you crave by stocking a 100-candle library. After inhaling nutmeg, frankincense, ginger, lemongrass, rose, mint, cedarwood, and scores of other fragrances, you know what lights your way.
At this Charleston shop, purchase a readymade candle or create your own. Sign up ahead of time for a candle-making class.
Smithey Ironware Company, North Charleston
Nothing says “love” for a skilled cook like an engraved, handmade skillet, pot, roaster, or wok. Purchase these in cast iron or carbon steel from Charleston’s Smithey Ironware Company.
Use the hand-forged cookware on top of the stove, in the oven, and directly on a campfire. You can purchase the items without the inscription but writing a brief message creates a family heirloom.
Tanger Outlet Center, North Charleston
H&M, Gap, and Saks Off Fifth anchor Tanger Outlet Center, Charleston’s shopping site to look for bargains. Forgot your sneakers? Then go to Adidas and Puma Outlet, and New Balance Factory Store.
For work-worthy men’s shoes, try Johnston & Murphy. Find children’s items at Carter’s Babies and Kids. For women’s clothes, sift through the racks at Talbots Outlet, Ann Taylor Factory Store, and Chico’s Outlet. Along the way, nosh on cookies from Great American Cookies and pralines from River Street Sweets.
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