It’s a wonderful fact that peninsular Charleston is blessed with 70% locally owned businesses and a spirit of entrepreneurship that gives us a flavor like no other. It’s what makes King Street particularly unique in a country full of newly contrived downtowns and cookie-cutter malls, or worse, failing downtowns and failing malls. No wonder everyone wants to come here.
But wait, there’s more. King Street has national stores culturally familiar to us like Banana Republic, Gap, Lucky Jeans and Juicy Couture. We know what to expect from these places and they are dear to American wardrobes. Don’t you get a little kick out of living in a city that can attract Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Yves Delorme? What a great mix.
King Street is attractive to the expected and the unexpected in retail. For some, it’s a launch point for a new concept or a landing point in a new country.
Established in 1998 in Greece, Oxette has become a leading brand in global jewelry among the fashion forward. Their watch and accessory lines, created by Greek and Italian designers, constantly renew, adjusting to fashion and market trends. The pieces are unique, original and creative, kind of like Charleston. Oxette stores are scattered throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East and they have one U.S. flagship… King Street.
Roberto Coin began in 2007 with seven boutiques worldwide, all flagships in exotic destinations like Venice, Rome, Azerbaijan, Moscow, Dubai, and Macau. Their tagline is: “We want to do things that haven’t been done by anybody else.” Their exclusive signature is a ruby, tucked inside each piece in a hidden position to allow direct skin contact, a secret gift of good wishes from Roberto to the wearer. Did I mention the only American Roberto Coin Boutiques are Fifth Avenue, NYC and King Street, Charleston?
Australian Designer Callie Tien created her Modern Trousseau couture bridal collection using fine French laces, imported silks, and delicate beadwork. Sounds like your average wedding gown except that Callie’s designs were quite unique and quickly picked up by wedding boutiques in America, Canada and Europe. Time to launch a flagship Modern Trousseau Boutique in New York City and one on—where else—King Street. Lucky us. Modern Trousseau is at 418 King Street in a historic brick and wood building with a beautiful courtyard. The windows are a fairy tale inspiration. They plan to open in San Francisco next.
At 318 King Street there is a deep, skinny shop that’s easy to miss if you’re walking quickly down Middle King. It once housed our beloved Mary Norton and has had a few brief encounters with unlucky Great Recession tenants since she left. Bottega Brandina might be a keeper. Italian designer Marco Morsini creates handbags and accessories in lively, constantly changing colors and fabrics that are “traditionally used to build sun lounger chairs along the Adriatic.” They launched their U.S. presence in the Grammy Awards Gift Lounge, collecting celebrity endorsements and photos. They also launched their U.S. flagship store, just one, here in Charleston.
If you were wondering about the future of King Street after Ralph Lauren’s departure to the Tanger Outlet Mall, wonder no more. Long time RL King Street manager Suzanna Bryant is now manager at Rapport, 235 King Street. Rapport collected some of Saks most personable staff and excellent wardrobe lines. This fall they will reintroduce Ralph Lauren Black Label. Sounds like a romance novel. Ralph and Suzanna return to King Street. Isn’t it perfect?
It’s been said that the Big Birthday Years, those ending in zero, cause us to be reminded of our mortality, reflect on where we’ve been and change our futures for the better. That’s all well and good but for those of us willing to admit it, BBY’s are a real slam in the vanity department.
Fortunately there’s help right here on King Street. Salon Couture at 302B King is a beautiful old building with wood floors, expansive windows and hip, minimalist décor. Carol Hammond copes with southern frizz, stubborn greys, dulling highlights and uncurling curls with ease. She gives great haircuts for women and men. Isn’t that what we all want? Coupon, schmoupon, give me a good haircut!
As our aging faces migrate southward, all sorts of spots and lines show up where there just shouldn’t be spots and lines. Relax; there are things that can take years away and you don’t need a second mortgage to afford them. Taunya White at Natural Hideaway MediSpa, just West of King on Calhoun, can arrange Intense Pulsed Light treatments that remove spots, soften lines, tighten skin, remove hair and do all sorts of other good things in short order. For guys, too. There’s an entire menu full of neat treatments plus an eye cream that makes your before-and-after look like the before-and-after on the package. Really.
If makeup is an illusion, David Copperfield and his friends are at Cos Bar. They have all the best products, the most toys and the most fun. Pop in for a little lipstick or a nice blush and you’ll get a full demonstration. Everyone is beautiful, competent and knowledgeable. I love places where I feel welcome, and Cos Bar is one. Someone recently told me my makeup looked wonderful. “Cos Bar,” I said and she replied, “Thought so.” Don’t think Cos Bar is just for BBY’s; they make everyone look good.
Up King next to Halls Chophouse is Canvas Haircolor and Design. Turner Watson and Marie Lorenz opened the space two years ago. They kept its character in gorgeous tact, brought expert services with them and they thrive. That is no mean feat, considering the Great Recession got started at the same time they did. Recently they opened Upstairs at Canvas to provide nail and spa services in an intimate and stunning space.
Aqua Nail Day Spa and Nails is at 401 King is King Street’s answer to the suburban walk-in salon, with everything you’d expect in a classy location including stone, wood, waterfalls, wine, parking, and talented, friendly technicians. You can get a mani-pedi with little wait time, or you can escape to their luxurious Spa for some seriously pleasurable treatments.
Seeking Indigo at 445 King has always had lots of wonderful services like massage, facials, Japanese Facelift Massage, footbaths, and Far Infrared Sauna in a beautiful, unique and spiritual atmosphere. Have a ginger compress; you’ll never forget it. There’s nowhere on earth like Seeking Indigo.
Always ask the locals. Gerry Schauer’s Spa Adagio in the Francis Marion Hotel has been a favorite since the award-winning spa opened 14 years ago. The full service spa does absolutely everything well and caters to a loyal base of followers, not to mention the lucky patrons who pop in from The Francis Marion.
Happy Big Birthday Year if it applies to you. Stay beautiful.
On Friday, May 6 between 5:00 and 6:00 PM, Mayor Riley will perform the ceremonial cutting of ribbons for two new Lower King Street businesses, each unique, special and locally owned, each an asset to the community.
Reinert LePrince Gallery is at 179 King Street, just South of Market. Rick Reinert and Kevin Le Prince are two of our finest artists. Bravo for the launch of their new gallery that will also serve as a working studio. I am charmed by Rick’s downtown scenes; they are beautiful impressionist pieces with color that catches and holds the eye. If Charleston is America’s Paris, this is where you’ll see it. Kevin’s work is also lush and beautiful, sometimes with a little whimsy. Stack of pancakes anyone? These artists paint their lives and let us watch. We are lucky. Their opening begins at 6:00 PM and will be catered by the Woodlands.
Salt & Seaweed is another gallery, this time wearable. Jesse Nersessian describes her shop as a beachy boutique, combining the lifestyles of the sand and the city. She’s a cutie and wears the fashions well herself, if you are like me and need inspiration. There are lines you won’t see just anywhere; Jesse is a pro at finding them. She calls her fans her mermaids. It’s a shop that will grow on you quickly and keep you coming back. Ribbon Cutting at 5:30. Mayor Riley will be busy that night.
Speaking of art, I recently discovered the delightful work of John David Duncan. He modestly calls his pieces three-dimensional home portraits. They are miniature miracles of skill, joy, a competent eye and a steady hand. Think dollhouse or other miniature representation, but in a robust, three-dimensional slice made up of thousands of tiny hand cut, sculpted, formed and painted pieces of cotton paper. They are alive, exact, charming and perfect in every detail. John does these pieces by commission, but now and again he will create one for posterity, like the St. Michaels you can see in the St. Michaels gift shop, or the two exceptional pieces on display at the Harbour Club, or on his website www.jdhomeportraits.com. Wouldn’t you love your home done tiny? I’d like a mini City Hall.
I am one of those people who takes photos of food before I eat it. My friend Evie Nadel said it’s how I say grace. Can’t help it; food is beautiful especially from some of the chefs in this town. Just try ordering a couple of sushi rolls at O-Ku without getting the feeling you’re consuming art. Amazingly delicious art by Chef Sean Park.
Succulent oysters and frosty cold beer are art to me. That’s Amen Street’s specialty as far as I’m concerned but everything is so good and so beautiful there. Drips of infused oils and smears and scribbles of rich flavors decorate each delightful Stephen Ollard dish.
Anything at Caviar & Bananas is artful but if you have an opportunity to cater or be catered to, you’ll see something truly unique. Colors, textures, and garnishes of tiny servings side-by-side en masse. I could watch for hours. They have one of the great websites at www.caviarandbananas.com. Beautiful photography of fabulous food.
So sad for the passing of Judge Steven Steinert. His contribution to our community cannot be measured, nor can we measure the impact of his loss. He loved this place.
Thursday April 21 as with every third Thursday in April and October, Upper King showcases the eclectic side of King Street with Design Walk. Hundreds of strollers come to the Design District for this event, a sizeable fan base that goes back almost a decade. It’s a different scene from larger than life 2nd Sunday on King Street, but no less special or unique. For three hours from 5:00 - 8:00 PM there are light hors d’oeuvres and adult beverages, designers on hand to show you the latest and greatest trends and make recommendations, and shops and restaurants newly opened since last Fall.
Design Walk began more than 10 years ago with a handful of designers, all pioneers on Upper King. Over the years more and more fabulous firms and shops have joined them. Now the “Design District” is a renowned regional center for fashion forward resources for the individual and the home.
Leigh and Tim McAlpin’s Dwelling is still going strong along with Circa Lighting and Haute Design. Lulan still creates wonderful and mysterious fabrics for distribution everywhere. Lamps, mirrors and linens can be found alongside Neal Van Dalen’s original hand-crafted furniture at Lesesne. Ellington carries soft and lovely clothing with a few furnishings thrown in because Cindy Gaetke is also a popular local interior designer. She may even get husband Jeff, a superb jazz musician, to jam during the event. SieMatic’s kitchen designs are state-of-the art functional and dreamy. Ever notice all the faces glued to their windows at night with homeowners longing for the perfect kitchen and frequently coming back in daylight hours to make it happen? Amelia Handegan, one of the most famous designers in the world, still maintains a presence just off King.
New this Design Walk: Modern Trousseau at 418 with beautiful bridal couture by designer Callie Tein, and Sally Bettes Resort Boutiqueat 493 showcases multiple local and national designers. Canvas has expanded with Upstairs at Canvas, a spa and nail salon at 436 King and there’s another one, luxurious Aqua Day Spa and Nails at 401 King, not far from Spa Adagio at the Francis Marion. So many choices!
The most dramatic change on Upper King is the increasing presence of fine dining and nightlife. Osteria La Bottiglia, tucked between Modern Trousseau and Blue Bicycle books is talented restauranteur Massimiliano Sarrocchi’s newest effort. I can’t wait to try it. From theSwamp Fox at Calhoun to the impressive new Barsa at Line Street, expect more food, cocktails and desserts still to come, and expect them to be good.
Park at the Visitors Center Garage on Ann Street. It’s just $2.00 for the whole night.
Everyone’s favorite steakhouse, Halls Chophouse, will launch a new series with King Street Marketing Group called Small Business Lunch at Halls. It’s an opportunity to enjoy Executive Chef Matthew Niessner’s superb fare at lunchtime, hear first-rate speakers on various business topics important to the region, and get downtown’s illusive and coveted prize, free parking. The first of these monthly events will be May 5 with guest speaker Jim Newsome, CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority, talking about the effect of Port and Cruise business on the local economy. Because tickets are limited to 50, it’s an opportunity to relate to the speaker in an intimate setting. Should be a fascinating event. Watch for more interesting speakers (hint: everybody’s favorite mayor), topics and delicious food coming up. Tickets are available at www.smallbusinesslunchathalls.com.