WHEN JOHN PALMER was a young boy, he loved to cruise around Casco Bay in Maine with his father in their 30-foot working cabin cruiser. Palmer notes he was never any good at boating; however, he vividly recalls having fun with his dad on the slow-moving boat, named Wynsum. The son of two school teachers, Palmer followed his interest in history and architecture to pursue a career as an architect, but his childhood cruises etched an indelible imprint that would lead him to honor his boyhood memories in a meaningful way. (We will get to that part of the story soon.)
After a decade as an architect in New York City, Palmer yearned to emerge from behind his drafting table and reconnect with the boyhood feelings of passion and freedom he felt aboard Wynsum. He teamed up with John Paul Huguley, a friend and business associate who established the American College of the Building Arts, and headed to Charleston in 2014 to create Building Art Workshop, a company that specialized in architectural antiques and high-quality craftsmanship across the traditional building and craft trades.
While busy with that business, Palmer was approached to purchase Antiques and Interiors Market on King (AIM on King), an antiques and interiors collective in which Building Art Workshop was a tenant. “The owners approached me with the notion that I had the energy and ideas to continue moving the store in a positive direction,” says Palmer. He purchased AIM on King in 2017. Palmer notes that when they first launched, it was 60 percent antiques and 40 percent contemporary. “It really wanted to be primarily an antiques shop, though,” says Palmer, who explains that the inventory evolved into antiques and now is comprised of about 15 percent modern pieces and 85 percent antiques.
In 2018 the 3,500-square-foot empori-um was rebranded as Wynsum Antiques & Interiors, reconnecting Palmer with his childhood memories and igniting a pas-sion to unite a bevy of vendors with cus-tomers and designers looking for special pieces to make their hearts go thump.
“There is a wide price range; anyone can find something special—from the tourist who walks in off the street and wants to spend less than $100 to a seasoned collector who wants to find the perfect period Charleston treasure to add to their collection,” says Palmer, noting that Wynsum offers a fun and stress-free adventure to shoppers looking for treasures. Shoppers can find American-made antiques, Charleston curiosities suitable for outfitting a home South of Broad, French-specific relics and eclectic, curated high-style treasures.
“Our vendors take an active part in the business. They don’t just drop stuff off and hope it will sell, but keep their space fresh,” says Palmer, who has cherry-picked the 30-plus vendors at Wynsum. He stresses that the vibe is very approachable and fun. “We are 100 percent customer satisfaction oriented. We want to make sure everyone is happy with their experience,” says Palmer, adding that Wynsum has seen a 146 percent increase in sales from 2018 to 2019.
He works hard to achieve the uptick in sales, hosting pop-ups, parties and special events. Local designer and Instagram sensation Matthew Monroe Bees (the only South Carolina-based designer to have space at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House) had a showcase at Wynsum for a couple of months. New Orleans favorite Lisa Wilson was on hand to help accessorize during a holiday market in November and December, and artist Susan Altman presented Eyes Wide Open 2020 in January. In March an artisan’s market will open, featuring hand-painted silks, jewelry, photography, oil paintings and candles.
“I didn’t expect to have so much fun with Wynsum,” shares Palmer, who says he adores coming to work every day. “It is a beautifully appointed, inviting space chock-full of treasures.”
Palmer gave us a heads-up that Highwire Distillery, which he shares space with in the warehouse, is relocating. “We are taking over that space to create Charleston Union Station, a dynamic venue for corporate events, weddings and festivals, with the capacity to seat upward of 300 people,” says Palmer.
The boy in the cabin cruiser is looking forward to riding the wave of excitement on Upper King Street.*
Stacey Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle, luxury and travel writer. Her works have appeared in Art New England, Boston, Boston Common Magazine, Coastal Design Magazine, Charleston Style & Design, Modern Luxury Chicago, Ocean Home Magazine, Playboy.com, RD.com and many others. A lover of big words and little white dogs, Stacey’s biggest joys are found in life’s simple moments.