Shopping in Charleston

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Charleston Shopping

The shopping scene that exists today is a far cry—more like a shout for joy—from what existed here in the 1980s. In the not-so-distant past, King Street was still lined with retail shops with 1950s' facades, which sold merchandise that was not much more current. When Charleston Place (then the Omni) first opened its gallery of upscale shops in 1986, a spark was ignited that has continued to fire up a whole new generation of shops.

One-of-a-kind, locally owned boutiques, where the hottest trends in fashion hang on the racks, make up an important part of the contemporary Charleston shopping experience. Long-established, Christian Michi anchors the corner of Market and King across from the former Saks Fifth Avenue; its window displays are like artworks, and its innovative and European designs are treasured by well-heeled, sophisticated clients. Forever 21 has replaced Saks, which is indicative of Charleston's demographics. More mature shoppers are pleased to find such high-end shops that sell either their own designer fashions or carry names that are found in Paris, New York, and South Beach, like Kate Spade in the Shops at Charleston Place.

High-end shoe stores make up a category that tends to draw repeat visitors. The number and quality of shoe stores on King Street is surprising for the city's size. Family-owned shops like Berlin's are city institutions. Newer is Farushga, which is turning heads with its emphasis on handmade, cutting-edge Italian leather shoes; you'll often see boots and accessories there that are usually found only in Europe.

The Upper King District has furniture shops interspersed between the clothing boutiques and restaurants. These locally owned shops give the personal service that has always been a hallmark of existing King Street merchants in this area. The revival of this neighborhood has sparked a new wave of home-fashion stores; long-term antiques hunters, accustomed to buying on Lower King, have been lured uptown as well. Haute Design is one of the most tasteful of these shops, offering a wide selection of antiques, particularly lighting, imported from France and Italy. Charleston has more than 25 fine-art galleries, making it one of the top art towns in America. Local Lowcountry art, which includes both traditional landscapes of the region as well as more contemporary takes, is among the most prevalent styles here. Such innovative artists as Betty Smith and Fred Jamar, a Belgian known for his whimsical cityscapes, can give you a piece of Charleston to keep close until your next visit. Collectors will find high-end nationally and internationally renowned work in such exquisite galleries as Ann Long Fine Art and the more contemporary Martin Gallery.

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