Sunday, April 22, 2007

Charleston Envy

In the seventeen-plus years I've lived in Charleston, I've had an opportunity to travel around the southeast quite a bit. It never ceases to amaze me how impressed people are when you tell them you are from Charleston. Even hardscrabble Yankees -- avid Pat Conroy and Anne Rivers Siddons fans no doubt -- are even impressed by the Holy City. The conversation always ends with some version of "OOOOhhh, Charleston!" after I tell them where I live.

So it shouldn't be a shock that Charleston has a far reaching impact across the South. For instance, in Hendersonville, NC (one of my favorite places to visit), there was a large indoor Charleston Market retail store. It was setup like the Charleston Market, with separate vendors in kiosks selling various local art, gourmet food items (including the Benne Wafer), and so on. Each aisle was named for a famous Charleston street (King, Meeting, Broad, Market etc). The entire store was painted in Charleston Rainbow Row pastels. The restaurant in the back of the Market was called the Charleston Grill, and it served Shrimp and Grits and She-Crab soup among some other Lowcounty favorites. A novel idea, but evidently not a profitable one -- it was closed the last time we visited Hendersonville.

Further up I-26, Carolina Crew copied its own famous restaurant-- the Boathouse on Breach Inlet (on the Isle of Palms) and put a Boathouse on Lake Lure. Similar menu, but on a lake off the beaten path and close to Asheville.

Even in tiny Hartsville, we looked in a subdivision that was based on one of the new developments in Charleston. I'm thinking it looked like one of the newer subdivisions on Clements Ferry Road. Small houses -- similar to the traditional Charleston Single floorplan -- on tiny lots, close to town, and painted in pretty pastels a la Rainbow Row. The one big difference is that we could very easily afford this particular house, although it was too small for us.

Lastly, they are re-zoning some old vacant retail stores in the downtown section and turning them into to Condos. According to our Realtor up there, this is something that "is very much like Charleston." She is absolutely correct; most of King Street has been renovated for condos -- at least the upper floors of some of the retail shops.

People just love Charleston.

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