Exclusive, handcrafted, luxury—beautiful things for a beautiful lifestyle come wrapped in a warm smile and tied with a bow at The Boutique. And in late August, owner Lois Daughtridge’s plan to bring her unique lifestyle aesthetic to King Street came to fruition with a flurry of balloons and bubbly. Named “one of the top 10 shopping districts in the USA” by Forbes Traveler, the street’s retail landscape is anchored by a small cadre of specialty shops that set themselves apart with a winning combination of personality and unique product. Locally owned and family operated, these independent sellers are part of the Charleston story, and they set the tone for both locals and visitors to the Holy City.
“I love their heritage and the fact that they’re continuing a Charleston tradition of small-business ownership,” says Daughtridge, the sixth in a succession of The Boutique owners dating back to the 1950s. “That stores like ours are still around is testimony to the value people put on a good, old-fashioned family business.”
The Boutique’s original owner, Bessie Braid, was the mother of best-selling novelist Alexandra Ripley, whose books include Scarlett, her sequel to Gone With the Wind. “When the store was passed on to me in 2014, Bessie Braid’s son called me, wanting to make sure his mother was remembered as the founder,” notes Daughtridge, who learned the business as a part-timer, working on The Boutique floor and graduating quickly to buyer. “The owner respected my eye.”
From its Church Street beginnings as an “old Charleston home goods shop” to Broad Street and now King, she says each owner has had a different focus, putting their own personality into The Boutique.
“Wedding and bedding are what we do best—that’s my personal tagline,” quips Daughtridge. “In the past, we only did a bit of bridal, and now it’s almost half our business. I love our mix—nobody else does what we do with custom bedding and bath, and I’ve really ramped up the bespoke program. We’re one of the top stores in the nation selling Matouk.”
Matouk enjoys a worldwide reputation for its highly crafted collections of luxury linens and home accessories. “Other stores may carry Matouk bedding, but I don’t think any of them know the line as well as I do,” says Daughtridge. “And they don’t develop the relationships I do, to be welcomed into people’s homes. I really want to satisfy them—they’re spending a lot of time and money on a project—it’s really fulfilling to know they experience a sense of joy from it.”
A completely hands-on owner, Daughtridge enjoys putting potential customers at ease with a chat that prompts a deeper conversation about color and style. She offers a full, complimentary design service that involves coming to a home with thread colors and swatches and creating a distinct, custom look.
“It’s about having a talent or vision for seeing a complete picture when I walk into a room,” she explains. “I can see what it needs to bring something lovely into the home, and then I work with the client’s taste to strike a balance with the existing décor and aesthetic.”
The Boutique’s impressive bridal registry is loaded with more than 50 top-shelf brands—many are European lines for which there is much competition. A client composing a wish list for linens, tableware and home furnishings draws from a myriad of brands—Herend, VIETRI, Waterford, Juliska, to name a few. Whether an entire bedroom suite, a treasured gift or a handmade Charleston bonnet, clients have a wide array of curated items and a collection of The Boutique exclusives from which to choose.
“I love that a human hand touched almost everything in the store,” muses Daughtridge. “Few things are manufactured by a machine—an actual person made or embroidered or painted it.”
Daughtridge’s new King Street shop is a showpiece itself and a reflection of her style and sensibilities. Flooded with light and painted a white that sets off a stunning display of dinnerware, the interior design is her own.
“I did it all myself,” she says. “I walked in and could see what it needed. When I go to market, I’m exposed to the new in New York City. Here at home, I live the Charleston traditional. I tied the cool new things with a century-plus-year-old shell, its beautiful moldings and cornices.”
For those fortunate enough to be in the Lowcountry, whether a local or visitor, for all it has to offer—expertise, unparalleled inventory and services, and a friendly smile—The Boutique is a must-do. And, if you’re lucky, you may meet the shop mascot, a very polite pup named Ivy. *
Wendy Swat Snyder is a Charleston-based freelance writer (sweetgrassandgrits.com).