Specialty shops of downtown Spartanburg

Monday, February 09, 2015

Specialty shops of downtown Spartanburg

Posted on Monday, February 09, 2015

By Whitney Rauenhorst
Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.

The revival of downtown Spartanburg is being led by specialty shops and niche retailers that are filling up grand old buildings, catering to locals and visitors alike.

I’m a military child, which means I moved around a lot, constantly starting over and getting to know a new place. I’ve learned that locally owned businesses help tell a story about the place you’re in. So as a relatively new resident here, I set out one warm January day to experience the story of downtown Spartanburg and find out what all the new stores have to offer.

I’d heard about the Main Street Challenge, a city program that provided start-up money for such new stores as the Paisley Paw pet boutique, Haute Mama maternity wear and The Local Hiker outdoor shop. I knew there were other new stores too: the Olive and Then Some olive oil store, and the dress shops like Petit Armoire, Two Doors Down and Pink on Main. On this day, with almost every store I visited, the owner was at the front of the store or lingering nearby. They greeted me with a smile, asked me how my day was and if they could help me find something. For the owners to be in the store, this first impression showed me that they genuinely care about a) their store and b) their customers, because let’s be honest for a minute. How many times do you walk into a chain store, like Wal- Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods or PetSmart and see the owner there? For me, I have yet to meet them.

I stopped in at Haute Mama, 154 East Main Street, and met owner Sara Riddle. She said she wants to bring moms a comforting and inviting place and experience, before and after pregnancy. “When I was pregnant here, I was really disappointed with the options that Spartanburg had to offer to the mamas, and it doesn’t feel good to wear clothes that you don’t like because that’s your only option,” Riddle said. “I wanted to have a place where women can come and get clothes that look and feel good; it’s also important that women don’t feel like they have to spend a ton of money on clothes.”

Her airy store sells designer lines, like Zutano and Lilac, from jeans to “fancy duds.”

Robin Snelgrove, the owner of Paisley Paw at 155 East Broad Street, had a similar desire to bring new products and services to Spartanburg.

“We got a dog a few years ago, and we started taking him places with us. We would find cute little pet boutiques that had different things that you couldn’t find at places like PetSmart or Petco, so my husband and I thought Spartanburg would be a great place to have one of these.”

Paisley Paws offers various brands of toys, homemade treats, grooming items, premium pet bowls, a spa-like dog wash and much more. But her store doesn’t stop there. She also has several cat items, such as organic, grain-free treats, which my cat highly approves of!

Just around the corner at 173 East Main Street is The Local Hiker, a beautiful, spacious retail store stocking outdoor gear and clothing. From headlamps to Eno hammocks, Merrell boots to Smart Wool socks, this store has what you need to hit the trail for an overnight camping trip. “We sell a wide variety of things,” said owner Kathy Silverman, “for people who are just walkers, to hikers, to runners, to snow skiers and climbers, so I think that’s unique to this area because there’s not really a store that offers that as well as the education that goes along with it.”

And just then I realized what makes downtown Spartanburg special. At all the stores I visited, the owners wanted to do more than sell products. They wanted to educate their customers.

Local Hiker offers classes in gear maintenance, wilderness first aid, cooking outdoors and more, catering to the variety of interests and needs of the community—something you cannot get at chain store, like Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Likewise, Haute Mama offers support and various kinds of classes that may not be offered at local hospitals. Riddle offers breast feeding and natural comfort measure classes, support groups, a childbirth education series and fun activities for moms, such as photography classes with a newborn photographer that teach moms how to take photographs of their newborns.

And at Paisley Paws, the owners know dogs and cats and are there to make recommendations about services for pets. Owner Robin Snelgrove said that putting her store in downtown is a way to give back to the community. “I think local businesses bring unique items, and people get more specialized customer service. Customers get to know the people who own the store, and by shopping local, you get to help the economy here, downtown,” she said.

The owners of these three businesses were so personable it filled my afternoon, so I put the other downtown retailers to on a list to visit another day. I highly recommend a stroll through downtown Spartanburg—whether you’re looking for premium wines (Carriage House and Refuel Wine Bar), the latest Stephen King novel (Hub City Bookshop), locally made coffee (Little River Coffee Bar), sweet treats (Dottie’s Toffee), or specialty pickles (Café Around the Corner). Step out in downtown, find exactly what you’re looking for, and dive deep into the roots of Spartanburg.

Whitney Rauenhorst, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.

Whitney Rauenhorst is a recent graduate from Clemson University. In her spare time she loves to read, travel, and cheer on the Tigers!

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