Shopping in a smaller town usually means one of two extremes: proximity to huge outlet malls with national brands galore, or an eclectic selection of local shops that offer hard-to-find products appealing to certain tastes.
Summerville’s historic downtown shopping district definitely falls into the latter category. Gifts and souvenirs, quilts and even toy trains combine for a unique shopping experience. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.
No visit to Summerville is complete without a stop at Guerin’s Pharmacy & Soda Shop, a city institution since 1871 and the oldest pharmacy in South Carolina. Shop for souvenirs, postcards, books written by local authors and T-shirts, and then visit the old-style fountain, serving floats, milkshakes, hot dogs and lemonade, and featuring the “best candy counter in town.”
People, Places & Quilts traces its roots in the fabric sales business to 1990 when the store opened in a historic building in downtown Summerville, selling only antique quilts and folk art. Then a friend of owner Diane Frankenberger complained that all the town’s fabric stores had closed and encouraged her to open one. In 1993, she began offering the expanded inventory, and today buyers can find Australian, Oriental, 1800s reproductions and more, as well as instruction books, patterns, sewing machines and best of all, classes and encouragement. If quilting is your thing, this is your place.
Looking for boutique clothes shopping? Check out FLY Modern Apparel, with stylish looks for women of all ages; Maggie Rose Boutique, a place for clothing (including University of South Carolina and Clemson apparel for women), hats, jewelry and more; and East Winds, featuring hand-selected jewelry, apparel and gifts that combine old-style Southern charm with modern attitude.
Another stop for an array of antiques, candles, jewelry and more is ETC (Every Thing Chic). It's a fun spot to browse for hard-to-find and unique buys.
Home furnishings and gifts are always popular with travelers and Summerville has a trio of interesting offerings. Piazza Home is a local destination since the mid-1990s for interior design, representing more than 100 manufacturers of upholstery, case goods and occasional furniture. Cotton Down South is a home decor boutique specializing in farmhouse, vintage, shabby-chic and rustic home designs. And Four Green Fields Gifts is a cozy shop with art, gifts, gourmet items and more. Looking for unique South Carolina gifts, such as all-natural insect repellant? You'll find them here.
Nailed It DIY Studio opened its doors in 2014 after Shannon Evans was asked to lead a group of church women in creating a do-it-yourself project for their homes. That year, DIY Studio held its first class, and Evans and partner Misty Grant were off and running. Now they conduct open studios, youth parties and camps, and more, helping customers stoke their creative juices.
Prefer to have someone else create for you? Hanebrink Jewelers can help design wedding bands and custom jewelry. The store also offers diamonds, bracelets, earrings and unique items.
MOD Beaute Studio is a hair salon and barber, but also carries clothes by FLY (see above) and shoes. Women—and guys—can pamper themselves here.
Olive oils are all the rage in cooking and Lowcountry Olive Oil has all sorts of flavors, from balsamic vinegar to spicy mushrooms and garlic to bourbon balsamic. Be sure to pick up some of their okra chips to munch on while you're cooking.
If wine is your thing, Accent on Wine offers wine by the glass, craft beers, savory and sweet food items, three departments of wines, candies, pasta, meat and cheese boards … the list goes on and on.
Then there’s Train Town Toy & Hobby for the kid in all of us. Fact is, though, Summerville has a history with trains. In 1830, America’s first passenger railroad service was created by the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company, running from Summerville to Charleston. What better location for a store that celebrates trains? Train Town bills itself as the “best source for model trains” in Charleston, with all sizes and gauges. The store is a member of the Charleston Area Model Railroad Club, and also stocks collectible toys—airplanes, military tanks, ships, etc.—for ages 3 and older.
More? Of course, there’s more in the many other shops found throughout Summerville’s historic downtown district. The malls and chain stores are elsewhere; here, it’s about things that are hard to find.