When a friend is in town for a visit, our go-to place is downtown Greenville. We meander our way from the northern part of downtown all the way down to the West End, finding affordable treasures and offbeat delights in the boutiques and shops that dot this quaint and very cool city!
First Stop: Wade Hampton Boulevard
The perfect place to fuel up is a quirky little coffee shop on Wade Hampton Boulevard called Java Fix Coffeehouse. From the outside, this wedge-shaped building doesn't seem large enough to step into, but you'll be surprised once you're inside. Order a Dirty Hippie (hot or cold) and while you're waiting, climb the tightly wound circular stairs to the cozy loft and check out the retro album covers pasted to the ceiling! With your to-go cup in hand, hop across the narrow street to slowly peruse the eclectic vintage treasures mecca at Shinola Antiques. There are layers and stacks of cool finds jam-packed in a maze of rooms, so make sure you explore every nook and cranny. You might find a 100-year-old oak dresser for the guest bedroom, a graceful cabinet to paint for the powder room or a sea chest to use as a coffee table. If you're lucky, you'll see the resident rooster strutting around. Shop owners Michael and Ben are delightful bargainers that love to negotiate. Insider's tip: Be sure to check out the garden where you'll find gracefully weathered "objets d'art" and a bottle tree, to boot!
Second Stop: Stone Avenue
Now it's time to visit We Took to the Woods! Park in the back then walk in through the handsome front door of this shop. You will feel as if you've escaped to a rustic, yet elegant, cabin in the mountains. Along with nostalgic vintage gifts, you'll find seasonal goods that include barrel-aged maple syrup, ethereal bouquets of flowers, luxurious cotton weekend-wear and pine-scented candles. Insider's tip: Don't miss this shop at Christmastime for unique ornaments, delicious treats, and freshly made Frasier fir wreaths.
Third Stop: West North Street
You'll love Green Eyed Girls Boutique's collection of flirty skirts, unique scarves and offbeat jewelry, but most people's favorite find is a lamp whose base is a well-dressed hare from a turn-of-the-century children's book. It's their best-selling item! Insider's tip: This shop is just down the street from Charleston Cooks! Plan ahead and book a morning or afternoon cooking class with fabulous chefs; there are plenty of opportunities for great eats in the sleek kitchen classroom! Be sure to shop for that perfect kitchen gadget after class in their well-stocked kitchen store.
Fourth Stop: Main Street
Take a right on Main Street and mid-block you'll find the Mast General Store. You'll enjoy ducking in here for the proper gear for hiking, camping, or fishing in the nearby mountains. Head to the back of the store for shelves full of of fun, nostalgic toys, kitchen items, and a candy section with more than 500 old-fashioned, hard-to-find candies. Be sure to exit out the back of the store onto ONE City Plaza...and then you'll see it. Anthropologie. Need I say more? Just entering this girlish store can lift anyone's mood; you just can't go wrong in this store. You'll find bohemian chic outfits for you and equally chic accents for your home-think of a light-filled Parisian apartment. Insider's tip: After shopping at Anthropologie, stop in for lunch around the corner at Tupelo Honey Café and enjoy their locally sourced food and delectable gigantic biscuits served with fresh wild blueberry jam and honey. If you prefer a coffee shop, cross Main Street at Coffee Street and go down the flight of stairs-no, you're not going to a subway, you're about to enter the coolest coffee house: Coffee Underground! This locally owned, one-of-a-kind café serves up roasted beans in hot Caffè Breves and lattes or if you're in the mood, cold, thick shakes. They have good eats, too! Check out their hearty sandwiches, soups and homemade desserts. Insider's tip: If you find yourself at Coffee Underground in the evening, be sure to check out Alchemy Comedy Theater, Greenville's only weekly improv comedy show.
Final Stop: West End
Take a stroll south along Main Street and after crossing over the Reedy River, you'll enter the district called the West End. Start by stopping in at the Christopher Park Gallery, which is a retail shop that feels more like an art gallery. You'll find earrings crafted from pieces of vintage jewelry by one of my favorite artists. Be sure to check out the Chicken Man paintings, funky art made from soda bottle caps, and unusual pottery from South Carolina's world-renowned artisans Winton and Rosa Eugene. Insider's tip: Need a snack? Connected to Christopher Park Gallery is the delightful café, Rainer's. Homemade beanie wienies, anyone? Made by Bill...just like mom used to make.
Cross South Main Street and bear left at the intersection to continue on Augusta Street. On your left is The Emporium, which is housed in the West End Market (a historic building that once was a cotton warehouse). You'll love walking on The Emporium's worn oak floors as you peruse the funky garden art and tea towels, but it's their clothes that you'll love most. You're sure to find a fun top to wear and some affordable unique jewelry to go with it.
THAT Something Extra:
Art Fair Affair
Plan a trip to downtown Greenville, SC in May to coincide with the weekend-long art festival, Artisphere. This award-winning family event celebrates a myriad of art-visual, performing, multi-cultural, local, and international-all in a colorful street festival.
Reader's Paradise Found
If you love to read and you're in Greenville around the third weekend in August, do not miss one of the nation's largest book sales! The Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale is a massive new and gently used book sale to help raise money for the Greenville Literacy Association's drive to improve adult literacy levels in Greenville County. There are over 120,000 books at the sale-fiction and non-fiction, modern and classic, hardbound and soft cover-all at ridiculously low prices. The sale takes place at McAlister Square, just 2.5 miles from downtown Greenville.