Last week my family and I went on a vacation to Charleston, South Carolina. Such a cool place! Charleston has this romantic Southern charm that really captivates: old scrolled ironwork, hidden courtyards and genteel antebellum mansions (and very nice manners, too!). Windowboxes spill over with vine and bloom onto narrow cobblestone streets. Add to that a hip trendiness that refreshes its antiquity; cute cafes and seriously sweet shops keep Charleston young. And all the while, there is a coastal, low-country culture that sets Charleston apart from Atlanta and Charlotte. It’s laid back. With buckets of peel-and-eat shrimp and salty-rusty beaches.
I loved Charleston.
We packed our four days full of cool Charleston experiences. Wineries, plantations, beaches, city walking, ball games, fine restaurants, civil war forts and one comedy club.
And still I managed to cruise five bead stores while I was in town.
Here’s a run-down of the bead shops I hit – all were good, and all are worth a visit.
1. Beads on Cannon – 87 Cannon Street Charleston, SC 29403 – (843) 723-5648 – www.beadsoncannon.com/. My kind of bead shop. A little two-story house filled with all types of beads. This place is packed with beads and after adding ten customers or so, it was almost, almost too packed to enjoy. But I still did. The first floor housed the basic mix of glass and crystal, mixed with some interesting ceramic and cloisonne finds, too. Upstairs offered gemstones, leather, metal and findings. The whole shop is organized and logically set up – very nice. I picked up some gold plated bamboo-shaped beads that I’ve never seen anywhere else, so that was kind of wonderful. I also liked that employees’ pieces were displayed for sale throughout the shop: besides lending cool inspiration, these pieces gave the shop a real pulse.
2. Country Bumpkin – 217 Lucas Street Mount Pleasant, SC 29464 – (843) 884-8808 – www.countrybumpkinarts.com/. I always like multi-media art supply shops, and this one is worth the short trip out of town. Besides a nice assortment of beads and findings, this shop also boasts polymer clay, paint and local shells. I picked up lots of copper and antique brass findings, including long bright copper ear wires, with reasonable prices. And the shop is situated on a cute courtyard plaza with other shops. My people played Frisbee while I shopped, and that made everyone happy.
3. The Beaded Venus – 1232 Chuck Dawley Boulevard Mount Pleasant, SC 29464- (843) 881-5690 www.beadedvenus.com/. While you’re in Mt. Pleasant, check out The Beaded Venus. Again, this shop had a nice vibe, with lots of beads in a small house. Some interesting pieces and a cool shopping experience. Nice supplies for seed bead workers and weavers. Room for my people to play Frisbee? Check.
4. Daniel Street Beadery – 65 Sycamore Avenue Charleston, SC 29407 – (843) 556-6880 – dsbeadery.com/. This little store-front was a friendly shop with lots of Delicas and Tohos for seed bead workers. I’m not big into seed beads, but the selection was nice and I always like a sweet local shop. I did pick up two hardware-style clamps, that I’ll use for securing the ends of stringing work in-progress. Now why on earth don’t more shops carry these? So brilliant!
5. Charleston Bead Co. www.charlestonbeadcompany.com. OK, I’m not going to lie: when I saw that this shop was a local chain located in shopping malls, I had low expectations. I thought I would find a tired selection of “seen it” beads at bad prices. No. Totally wrong. I was really surprised by this store and it turned out to be my favorite bead shop of the whole trip. First of all, it’s a clean, brightly lit, well organized shop. There’s huge wall of bead strands and lots of center table filled with loose beads, all organized by color. Thank you. I was most impressed with the selection; props to the purchasing guru that pulled so many beautiful beads together. I have done a lot of bead shopping (beads shops, online suppliers, bead shows, wholesalers) and I found lots of beads at Charleston Bead Co. that I’ve never seen before. Very cool. I picked up cute resin cubes and chubby Czech cathedral beads, as well as some interesting lampwork beads that I used as soon as I got home (always a good sign). The prices weren’t cheap, but were definitely reasonable. As for any shop, it’s good to know basic market prices and figure out what’s a “good buy.” I picked up some good deals on longs strands of glass beads, but as always, I stay away from bulk chain and leather. But definitely: a great bead shop, check it out for sure. (Added bonus? My son found a [South Carolina Game]”COCKS” t-shirt at the mall while I was shopping. Excellent.)
Charleston was such a great town that it didn’t even need one bead shop to make it a good destination. But five good bead shops made it awesome.