Tammy Connor has traveled back and forth from her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, to her new town of Charleston, South Carolina, for the last 15 years. No matter which home she’s in, there are a few must-stop spots on every visit. Here are her favorites for clothes, gifts, antiques, the occasional lazy afternoon, and more.
Where to Shop
- At RTW Charleston, Janyce McMenamin curates her offerings by personally selecting collections from Italy, France, England, and the U.S. I love their personal shopping service, and they always have amazing handbags and shoes.
- Pronounced ee-boo, the IBU Movement boutique gets its name from the Indonesian word meaning, “woman of respect.” The items are created by women artisans across the globe, so everything is one of a kind. Ibu recently partnered with Charlotte Moss for a collection inspired by her travels. I especially love the sphere horn bracelet I have from her collection. (For more on Moss’s collection, see “Charlotte Moss’s Global Glamour.”)
- With headquarters in Florence, Alabama, fashion designer Billy Reid’s custom clothing, eyeglasses, shoes, and accessories collections nod to Southern style. They are my go-to for casual, elegant comfort. (Billy Reid is slated to open a lifestyle retail store in Birmingham’s Pepper Place, a market and entertainment district.)
- With two under the age of 10, it’s hard to resist the vibrant, happy, beach-inspired clothing for kids at Pink Chicken. I love their prints and the tunic dresses for little girls.
- Gus Mayer, known as Birmingham’s high-end specialty department store for almost a century, locals and visitors alike love the designer fashions and visiting trunk shows. The shoe department alone is worth a stop, and I never seem to leave without at least a pair.
- From holiday season to vacation wardrobes to everyday comforts, Village Sportswear (205-879-5748), located in Birmingham’s charming Mountain Brook Village, offers style and service to match. Look for regionally made clothes and artisan jewelry among the mix of high design. I like to stop in for easy, classic pieces that travel well.
- Just around the corner, Etc. Jewelry is a housed in a historic Tudor storefront. From designer costume and fine jewelry to cashmere wraps, something usually finds its way onto my wish list.
- Jordan Alexander, located in nearby English Village is home to jewelry designer Theresa Harper Bruno. Her style is classic with a fresh twist. My white pearl wrapped chain bracelet is a go-to accessory for a night out.
GIFT / SPECIALTY SHOPS
- Preservation Society of Charleston Book and Gift Shop is a nonprofit with a shop that offers authentic Charleston souvenirs along with a bit of history. It’s a great source for local art and books and gifts with a Low Country twist.
- I’m not sure what’s better, the super-charming shop, The Hidden Courtship, or the story of this Italian couple who brings Italian crafts and products to the United States.
- A thoughtfully written note is a precious a gift—especially in this digital age. I can always find a reason to write a sentiment on one of the unusual or amusing cards at Mac and Murphy. I also like to buy their notepads and stationery to tuck in to desk drawers for my clients.
- In Birmingham, Please Reply (205-870-4773) is my favorite spot for monogrammed stationery or cards for handwritten notes.
- I love natural, loose and not too arranged flowers. My Charleston favorite flower shops: Lotus and Sara York Grimshaw Designs. In Birmingham, I prefer Sybil Sylvester with Wildflower Designs and Leah Hazzard of 3 Graces Design (205-902-3635).
- Charleston is filled with great antique shops with King Street being the center of it all. Be sure to pop in John Pope Antiques. He has a great flair for mixing periods, styles, and color.
- David Skinner Antiques features antique lighting, and some fantastic one of a kind West Indies antiques.
- Another favorite: Tucker Payne Antiques. They always have something unexpected, ranging from fine antiques to quirky doorstops.
- Located in a vine-covered Tudor storefront in Mountain Brook’s English Village, Henhouse Antiques offers pieces hand-selected on European shopping trips by curators Barbara Ashford and Judy Hill. Everyone loves it when a new container arrives. You have to show up early to get first dibs on pieces such as a hand-painted French folding screen or the alabaster urn lamp I found that sits on my bedside table.
- A design boutique and antiques shop, Circa Interiors and Antiques, is the vision of Cindy Smith. (There’s a second location in Charlotte, North Carolina). They have a great mix of fine 18th, 19th, and 20th century English and Continental antiques.
WHAT TO DO ON A FREE AFTERNOON
Each city has its own unique set of offerings. Whether exploring the historic streets of Charleston or the quaint villages of Mountain Brook (a city in the Birmingham area), there’s plenty to see, dine, and do. When I have a free moment, I like to spend as much time as I can with my children. I want them to really get to know these cities that I love so much.
- Visiting the many house museums operated by The Historic Charleston Foundation and The Charleston Museum is a great architectural tour and a way to see inside some of Charleston’s finest old homes. We particularly enjoy visiting during the holidays, they always have festive programs planned with the young enthusiasts in mind!
- The Gibbes Museum of Art was recently renovated and boasts an impressive exhibit lineup.
- For a fun afternoon, take a walk down the South of Broad. Church Street is my favorite. I see a new architectural or garden detail every single time.
- If you want to get out on the water, you can’t beat an afternoon cruise on the harbor. The sunsets, warm breezes, and jumping dolphins are a great way to wrap up a long week.
- For a casual lunch, I take the kids to Gilchrist, an old-fashioned drug store turned lunch spot that is known for its Cherry Limeades.
- Or, try brick & tin, a farm-to-table option with an especially good Sunday brunch. Don’t miss the bakery in the back corner. We love their cookies.
- After dining, visit the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. They’re beautiful and just a short walk from Mountain Brook Village.
For Connor’s designs and and an inside view of her Charleston offices, don’t miss “On the Move with Tammy Connor.”
By Cathy Still McGowin