The South Carolina port city of Charleston is a wonderful place for indulging in some retail therapy. With its pretty cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel antebellum houses, walking around the city’s most elegant areas, such as the French Quarter and Battery districts, while peering through the windows of the myriad shops and boutiques, is one of the most delightful activities to enjoy in the historic city.
Charleston’s retail landscape is made particularly pleasing by the prevalence of independent stores to be found here. With everything from quirky gift and bike shops to vintage clothing boutiques and design stores, there’s something to interest every taste. If you’re planning to visit Charleston and would like to include some casual shopping in your itinerary, we’ve picked out 20 of the most unique shops and boutiques the city has to offer.
Home to a curated selection of unique handcrafted candles, gifts and accessories, this artisanal haven is a temple to all things candle-related. Opened in 2014, the store has its own on-site fragrance library containing some 100 different fragrances, each hand poured and labelled on-site in the dedicated candle workshop, while regular BYOB classes offer hands-on tutorials on how to become a master candle maker (aka ‘chandler’) in a fun and sociable setting. Customers coming into the store are also invited to work one on one with a chandler to create their very own personalised candles and fragrances.
LOCATION 270 King Street HOURS Mon-Sun 10am-8pm
Christophe Artisan Chocolatier
When French chocolatier Christophe Artisan decided to call Charleston his home several years ago, the city’s sweet-toothed residents did not know the delights that were in store for them. Having learnt his trade in his father’s pâtisserie in Toulouse, France, he pursued his passion all the way to the United States where he would eventually form Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Pâtissier with his wife, Carly. Today their gourmet sweet shop satisfies the cravings of a loyal band of patrons who come here daily to pick up chocolates, truffles, pastries, French-style macarons and gourmet coffee, as well as eye-catching chocolate sculptures and custom logo chocolates.
LOCATION 90 Society Street HOURS Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Voted the number one comic book store in Charleston for more than 10 years in a row, Captain’s Comic and Toys has a huge assortment of comics and graphic novels, ranging from new releases to back issues dating all the way back to the 1950s. As well as its comic titles, the store also sells a variety of action figures and vintage toys, including classic super heroes, Transformers , McFarlane toys and plenty more. Every May the venue also hosts Charleston’s largest free Comic Book Day, drawing comic lovers from far and wide.
LOCATION 1209 Sam Rittenberg Boulevard D HOURS Mon-Sat 11am-7pm Closed Sun
The Island Bazaar
Homeware is a big deal in Charleston, with many of the city’s residents keen to augment their historic, architecturally impressive homes with stylish furniture. For fans of vintage interior pieces, The Island Bazaar is the place to go, with its superb selection of timeless, mid-century modern pieces and funky finds. Combining all the character and charm of a local store with highly favourable prices compared with what you’ll find at bigger retail names, the shop not only sells classic furniture but also quirky novelties, handmade goods, and even glistening rocks and gemstones that will lend your home a unique touch.
LOCATION 1238 Camp Road HOURS Tues-Sat 10am-3pm Closed Sun-Mon
Itinerant Literate Books
Itinerant Literate Books has come a long way since launching in 2015 as a mobile and pop-up bookstore. An instant hit with Charleston’s literary lovers, within three years it had opened a flagship bricks-and-mortar store in the city’s up-and-coming Park Circle neighbourhood, where it joined a growing roll-call of cultural and entertainment spots. Underpinned by an ethos of ensuring everyone has access to books, the store houses a diverse selection of titles, ranging from fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, young adult books, graphic novels, comic books and cookbooks. The venue also hosts regular book signings, story-telling events and open mic nights.
LOCATION 4824 Chateau Avenue HOURS Mon-Sat 11am-8pm Sun 11am-4pm
A five-minute drive from downtown Charleston, in the desirable South Windermere neighbourhood, is this stylish women’s clothing boutique. Renowned for its statement making pieces and flattering cuts, the store sells a huge variety of items, ranging from special occasion outfits, boho chic beachwear, shoes, jewellery, handbags, hats, scarves, gloves and many other high quality accessories.
LOCATION 36 Windermere Boulevard HOURS Mon-Fri 10am-6.30pm Sat 10.30am-5pm Closed Sun
The Skinny Dip
A quirky concept collective, The Skinny Dip’s Charleston outpost is far more than a place to shop for the latest hot designs – it is also home to its own wine & coffee bar. Placing a strong focus on providing a platform for new and emerging American designers, the store on King Street is the second opening following the success of their inaugural retail outlet in Nantucket. Spread across two floors, the first floor features apparel and design pieces from both establishing and up-and-coming brands, as well as a dedicated section for home grown designers hailing from the Charleston area. On the second floor, customers can kick back with a bar drink on the outdoor patio.
LOCATION 345 King Street HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-6pm Sun 12pm-5pm
Housing over 30 nationally known artists, and top-tier brands including Baker, McGuire, Hickory Chair, Swaim, Made Goods, Arteriors, and Julian Chichester, Mitchell Hill is at the beating heart of Charleston’s vibrant creative and design scene. The brainchild of Michael Mitchell and Tyler Hill, who combined their passions and expertise to create an acclaimed design consultancy and gallery space on King Street, their bricks-and-mortar venue is packed full of unique, high quality furniture, accessories, and textiles, attracting a steady stream of design-conscious types keen to add a special touch to their homes.
LOCATION 414 King Street HOURS Mon-Weds 10am-6pm Thurs-Sat 10am-9pm Sun 11am-5pm
Lowcountry Olive Oil Shops
Dedicated gastronomes know the importance of using top quality olive oil and in Charleston the place to go for the good stuff is this cosy store that sells over 60 olive oils and balsamic vinegars in a variety of curious and creative flavours. Founded in 2011 as a farmers market based business, the company has grown to become a major regional purveyor of locally blended and infused oils and vinegars, supporting local food artisans and family-owned olive farms across the Lowcountry. Customers who visit the store in downtown Charleston’s historic Ansonborough district are encouraged to ‘try before they buy’, with samples of herb olive oil, smoked olive oil, Georgia pecan and green peanut oils, strawberry champagne vinegars and bourbon balsamic vinegars among the delectable delights on offer. The store also sells locally infused honeys, dipping spices, candles and other gourmet treats and gifts.
LOCATION 272 Meeting Street HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-6pm Closed Sun
Charleston Amish Furniture
Founded by a former member of the Ohio Amish community and his wife, Charleston Amish Furniture houses a vast collection of handcrafted, Amish made, solid wood furniture. The second of two outlets in the city, the store on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard is the original venture and offers everything from dining room tables, bedroom sets and quality leather recliners to outdoor poly and wood furniture. Customers can also request customised pieces that reflect their personal style.
LOCATION 1401 Sam Rittenberg Boulevard HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-6pm Closed Sun
There’s no better way to get a sense of a city’s character than by visiting one of its markets. Nestled in Charleston’s hip and happening Mixson neighbourhood, Mixson Market is a microcosm of the gentrification that the area has seen in recent years. A bustling foodie hotspot, the unique space is divided into a sandwich shop and market with both indoor and outdoor seating areas. In the pantry section you’ll find locally sourced, high quality produce including a wide variety of meats and cheeses, along with artisan sandwiches, gourmet coffee and craft beer, and there’s even a dedicated section for homeware goods.
LOCATION 4338 McCarthy Street HOURS Tues-Sun 8am-3pm Closed Mon
George C Birlant & Co
Founded in 1922, this upscale shop is a veritable mecca for antique enthusiasts in Charleston. Specialising in 18th- & 19th-century English Georgian furniture & housewares, the family-owned business offers the very best in antique furniture, silver, porcelain, crystal, brass, fireplace accessories, longcase clocks, and impeccable reproductions, as well as hosting regular estate auctions both in-house and on location throughout the southeast.
LOCATION 191 King Street HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-5.30pm Closed Sun
Blue Bicycle Books
Independent bookstores may be an endangered species, but those that remain are much cherished. Founded in 1995, Blue Bicycle Store is Charleston’s premier locally-owned book shop, with a diverse assortment of titles spanning genres including military history, cookery, children’s fiction and paperback classics, as well as pretty much every new and used Charleston book ever written. The store also contains a large event space where regular talks and other author events take place throughout the year.
LOCATION 420 King Street HOURS Mon 10.30am-5.30pm Tues-Fri 10.30am-6pm Sat 11am-6pm Sun 12.30pm-5pm
Charleston Artist Collective
The brainchild of Allison Williamson, a leading figure of South Carolina’s vibrant visual arts scene, Charleston Artist Collective is primarily a web-based art gallery featuring rotating exhibits of affordable, original works by local artists, but also operates out of a bricks and mortar site that serves as an event space and artist studio. The Collective also has a strong philanthropic focus, donating significant amounts to support a range of causes from children’s initiatives to land conservation.
LOCATION 414 Whilden Street, Mt Pleasant HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-5.30pm Closed Sun
The Port Mercantile
Nestled amid some of Charleston’s most historic buildings can be found one of the city’s most unique shopping experiences. Housed within the boutique Restoration Hotel, Port Mercantile is a curio-seeker’s delight with its eclectic mix of often rare and exotic goods, with everything from hand-crafted trinket and glitzy family-heirlooms to everyday essentials and touristy souvenirs on offer in this rustic, quirky store.
LOCATION The Restoration Hotel, 5 Wentworth Street HOURS Mon-Sun 11am-10pm
For anyone seeking decorative lighting in Charleston, Circa Lighting’s upscale showroom is the place to go, featuring as it does a huge range of decorative lamps, chandeliers, sconces and plenty more. The brand has more than a dozen retail outlets across the country and has gained an unrivalled reputation for its beautiful designs and impeccable customer service.
LOCATION 426 King Street HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
Indigo and Cotton
Located in Charleston’s historic downtown district, Indigo and Cotton is at the vanguard of Charleston’s fashion-forward ethos. Offering a curated selection of fine and casual men’s clothing, footwear and accessories, as well as reimagined old school classics, the store has teamed up with a number of other distinguished contemporary brands to augment its traditional, understated apparel with a dash of cutting-edge hipster-chic.
LOCATION 79 Cannon Street HOURS Mon-Fri 11am-6pm Sat 11am -5pm Closed Sun
Library by Lauren Lail
Charleston-based designer Lauren Lail has drawn inspiration from her travels, coastal landscape, and love for “vintage-made-modern” womenswear to create a collection that has gained a loyal local following. Her downtown studio and store features a mix of vintage clothes and accessories hand-picked by Lauren herself, with notable highlights including the Seafarer collection that has been curated to feature pieces that are easily mixed and matched.
LOCATION 1, #204 1630, Meeting Street Road HOURS Mon-Sat 11am-8pm Sun 11am-4pm
House of Sage
Perched between King Street’s shopping district and the College of Charleston campus, independently owned House of Sage stocks a wide variety of bohemian men’s and women’ clothing and shoes along with on-trend accessories, jewellery, homeware and gift ideas. A funky, stylish boutique-style setting attracts Charleston’s edgier and more fashion conscious types, but without the eye-popping prices of many other chic fashion stores.
LOCATION 51B George Street HOURS Mon-Sat 10.30am-7pm Sun 12pm-5pm
Situated among the bars, restaurants and shops of Upper King Street, this contemporary, brick-walled concept boutique is among the more recent additions to Charleston’s retail landscape. Housed in its clean, modern confines are men’s and women’s clothes, bags and other accessories from a range of established and emerging brands, all sharing a distinctively edgy, urban style. Customers can enjoy a drink from the on-site mini bar while perusing the stylish wares, and there are also regular in-store events.
LOCATION 420 King Street G HOURS Mon-Sat 11am-8.30pm Sun 11am-4pm