Voices of Charleston – Lois Daughtridge
preservation-admin , January 5, 2022
By Courtney Theis, Acting Director of Advancement
Since our inception in 1920, the PSC has relied upon public engagement on issues that matter most for Charleston. The organization’s grassroots principles and community-driven activism still form the foundation of our work today. The Voices of Charleston series tells the stories of residents, business owners, and entrepreneurs along one of the nation’s oldest urban corridors. The range of backgrounds and perspectives reflects the diversity of King Street from the Battery to North Central.
Seven years ago, Lois Daughtridge took the helm of The Boutique, a local retail shop that has been in business in Charleston for nearly 70 years. While proudly listing the names of all the prior owners back to the original founder in the mid-1950s, Lois explained that while each woman has put her own stamp on the business, it has always drawn inspiration from Charleston. A case in point are the hand-made Charleston Bonnets that have been sold at The Boutique by the same maker for 50 years, in addition to the local books, scarves, prints, and photographs that Lois carefully curates. The shop has occupied multiple locations on both Church Street and Broad Street, but has recently opened its doors at 302 King Street in an area nicknamed “MiKi” or Middle King. Lois remarked, “We have the best neighbors, we’re between Croghan’s Jewel Box and M. Dumas & Sons, each legacy Charleston businesses in their own right. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect location.” The historic storefront at 302 King was built as the Title Guarantee Building in 1915-16 by architect, John D. Newcomer in the distinctive Beaux Arts style. Lois observed that the beauty of the architecture and character of King Street bleed into her home wares on display. “The store has beautiful tall ceilings, detailed moldings, and it absolutely ties in our merchandise to the place itself.”
According to Lois, the biggest advantage to being on King Street is the exposure. As the city’s main retail corridor, there is no better place to capitalize on foot traffic. Sounding a cautionary note, however, she is careful to touch on the balance needed in the tourism industry. For retailers like The Boutique, attracting the right kind of visitor, one who is investing in the local community and respecting the city, is essential. Being on the front lines, Lois has observed all the changes happening in Charleston in just the past few years. She noted that by far the biggest shift has been in new people moving to Charleston from all over the country. She views her shop, and other local businesses like hers, as a place where new Charlestonians can learn and educate themselves on the city’s unique customs and traditions. Despite the hardships that King Street has experienced in recent months, things appear to Lois to be taking a turn for the better. She reflected on the King Street of “long, long ago, when it was a place that was filled with little shops like mine, where you knew the owners and they had cool stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else,” as a King Street worthy of modern-day aspiration. For Charleston to realize that vision of a local and uniquely merchandised retail corridor, there must be significant improvements to both the cleanliness and safety of King Street, and Lois will continue to press with her fellow merchants for downtown revitalization. Preserving the special character of Charleston has always been a founding principle of the PSC, as Lois echoed in her parting comment, “Whatever brought you to Charleston, whatever you like about Charleston in the first place – those reasons are steeped in preservation.”