A McClellanville boutique is a treasure trove of local talent

A stop at Oscar + Cornelius is all about finding hidden gems.

You will discover the perfect gift for a loved one, your new favorite creator or a unique, handmade piece to add to your home.

For owner Ashley Brook Perryman, the boutique is also a lucky find, which she stumbled across when she least expected it, within the quaint streets of one of South Carolina’s best-kept secrets: the town of McClellanville.

“It’s a place that’s out of a storybook,” she says of the shrimping village an hour north of Charleston. “It’s an experience, and it’s unlike anything around right now; it’s a town that you stumble upon.”

In the center of it all on Pinckney Street is the 2-year-old store Oscar + Cornelius, where customers can discover dozens of local artisans’ work: photography, handmade jewelry, art, coastal-inspired home goods, tea towels, cocktail napkins, colored glass, clothing, and vintage and antique goods. Making the shopping experience one of community and fun, the store also pours complimentary mimosas on Saturdays and carefully gift wraps items for customers—the boutique has become known for having unique hostess gifts.

During the holidays, Perryman hosts special gatherings, such as a Galentine’s party during Valentine’s Day, selling floral arrangements for Mother’s Day and a street fair with fake snow for Christmas. The children of McClellanville also enjoy it when the store hires an ice cream truck during the dead of summer. On social media, Perryman is keen to support the other businesses in the area, referring customers to her favorite restaurants and cultural sites—T.W. Graham for the freshest seafood around or The Village Museum to learn more about the town.

The store also gives back throughout the year with its blessing box, where artisans can donate pieces and proceeds from their sales go toward formula, diapers and other vital items for those in need in the community. At Christmastime, Oscar + Cornelius “adopted” five children from the local school to make their holidays special.

Perryman is constantly on the hunt for new talent and unique merchandise to keep things fresh at Oscar + Cornelius, so even the most frequent shoppers will find something new each time they visit. There are hand-painted oyster shells repurposed into Christmas ornaments, Lowcountry scenes on canvas, treasured gifts for a baby shower, serving platters and other finds. When choosing her vendors, Perryman enjoys discovering local talent and turning their hobbies into a business. For example, she saw handwoven baskets by Lori Garvey and ink drawings by Bud Hill of the local historical museum. She convinced the two of them to sell some of their pieces at the store, and both were a hit.

“I like to inspire other artists to put themselves out there, and that’s what I love to see,” Perryman says. “They’re hand drilling these pieces; they’re hand-painting the clay jewelry. I’m just so grateful for the local community.”

Perryman says that McClellanville and her ownership of Oscar + Cornelius found her. She has 20 years of experience in hair and makeup, with jobs taking her around the country and even the world for special events, fashion shows and music videos. During her travels—she has been to 47 states—she always sought out locally owned shops where she could take home a piece of the city or town she was in. Perryman daydreamed that one day, maybe after she retired, she could open an antiques store in a small town.

She didn’t have to wait so long, though. After a photo shoot in the Outer Banks for a men’s clothing line, she made a pitstop in McClellanville to get seafood at one of her favorite restaurants, T.W. Graham, when she found a “for rent” sign outside of a quaint 1924 two-story building. Perryman peeked inside and fell in love with the rustic baby blue exterior, original hardwood floors and portico over the entry. She grew even more enamored after meeting the owners, and after some convincing from her aunt and cousin, she signed a lease and partnered with them to get Oscar + Cornelius open. It was a childhood joke between the cousins that led to the name of the store, or as the locals call it O + C.

While she still travels often for work, the store is managed by Jenna McClellan, who Perryman calls “the heart of the store.”

“I joke that she gave me street cred because her last name is McClellan,” she says, laughing. “I’m very, very grateful and lucky to have her.”

In just two short years, Oscar + Cornelius has joined in the hustle and bustle of McClellanville as an artist village, a gem unearthed by Perryman from her own fantasy. The 400-square-foot store lives up to its tagline: a little store with a lot of heart.

“We really worked hard. We hustled to get some merchandise in there, and I met my very first artisan, who made these oyster nativity scenes,” Perryman recalls. “I think about how empty we were on day one, and now it’s just exploding with talent. It’s just grown into something special.” *

Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.

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