Along with its history, charm and scenery, Charleston is home to one of the most famous shopping streets in the country. The second-most historically and architecturally significant street downtown after Meeting Street, King Street originated as the main road in and out of the city. Though people from every walk of life enjoy King Street, it is a place that calls to women as both a stomping ground and land of opportunity.
From the beginning, the street centered around trade. Until the late 18th century, this was mostly port trading. It was not until after the railroad was built that the street turned toward retail and dining. It then started focusing on creating an enjoyable atmosphere for locals and tourists. It also became the site of some of the first female-owned businesses in the area, as women were only permitted to run retail shops or bakeries in Charleston’s earliest days.
Today, King Street has blossomed into one of the most iconic places to visit in Charleston and is consistently named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the country’s “Top 10 Shopping Streets.” On any given weekend, King Street attracts thousands of people, largely because of the variety of stores represented in an area that is also rich with culture and history. There is no place quite like it. It is a place to gather where women shop in packs, families explore and businesses thrive.
There is something for everyone along the famed cobblestone streets. Everything from independent art galleries to luxury brands is showcased. King Street is divided into three distinct sections. Lower King spans from Market to Broad and is known as the antique district. Dozens of antique stores can be found, offering a beautiful walk down memory lane. Middle King is the fashion district. It is complete with a variety of different types of retail stores, from average to the high-end price points. Upper King Street is known as the design and dining district. It highlights both the swanky and quirky sides of Charleston fashion, along with high-end dining experiences.
Beyond the goods available, King Street has a friendly feeling that is undeniable. Visiting Florida residents Lily Dechen and Hailey Hartle were amazed by their unique shopping experience.
Dechen said, “When you are inside the stores, you feel like you are at the average mall, but the second you step outside, you are back in the historic, beautiful streets, which make it a cool experience.”
Hartle of Jacksonville said, “I really liked the layout of King Street and how you could go in between stores that everyone knows and boutiques that are unique to Charleston. It created a different type of shopping experience.”
Although it has almost every national brand imaginable, what makes King unique are the stores that can only be found in downtown Charleston. One of these local favorites is Collard Greens, an American-made clothing brand that captures the preppy fashion of Charleston. The owners are a married couple who moved to Charleston from Virginia and fell in love with that King Street factor.
Co-owner Sally Bullock described her love for King Street when she said, “It is not an outdoor mall, but you get that experience, and you get stores that are unique to Charleston. We wanted to be on a premier shopping street in the country, and I think that’s what King Street is.”
Little stores like Collard Greens that appreciate how special King Street is to the community allow for the street to grow while retaining the small hometown feeling that it always had. They also pay homage to the countless family-owned businesses on the street, not to mention female-owned.
Even though it has attracted nationwide fame, King Street is attentive to its locals and hosts events to help bring the community together. The most well-known event is the monthly Second Sunday on King Street. On the second Sunday of every month, the street is closed off to car traffic from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m., allowing shoppers to stroll down the historic road while enjoying special shopping events and festivities. It is ultimately a fun day of food, shopping and entertainment that beckons people from many places to come support local business and appreciate a preservation of history. It is a history rooted in creating smiles, providing goods and offering business opportunities to all…especially those tenacious Charleston women we so enjoy celebrating.