The South Carolina school recently opened its newest store, The College Corner, in October of last year. “It’s not meant to compete with the bookstore; it’s designed as an offshoot, a higher-end retail and gift shop for alumni, athletic fans and, of course, the general public,” said Stephen Jones, general manager of both the campus bookstore and The College Corner. The new store anchors the College on King Street in downtown Charleston, which was recently voted one of the country’s best shopping districts.
“The store will enable members of the college family to showcase their Cougar pride and significantly elevate the College’s presence and visibility on King Street,” said College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell. “It also will serve as a gateway to the College for tourists and community members shopping at or walking along one of the top retail districts in America.”
With its fashionable boutiques, trendy restaurants, and brimming with southern charm, Charleston attracts scores of tourists to the historic city every year. The store’s location as part of the Sottile Theater at King and George Streets serves as an entry to the campus, making it a de facto welcome center. “The city and the college are so closely entwined that folks sometimes don’t even realize they’re walking on the college campus,” said Jan Brewton, the college’s director of business and auxiliary services.
At The College Corner, shoppers find Charleston-branded polo shirts, jackets, high-end fleece pullovers, mugs and bar wear, as well as leather goods, and jewelry, in line with its upscale retail neighbors on King Street. Brands including Vineyard Vines, Ben Silver, Ralph Lauren, Cutter & Buck, Columbia, Nike and Under Armour fill the shelves and line the racks.
Shoppers will also find a friendly face and a knowledgeable staff. “People come into the store as they’re walking down King Street and we get the opportunity to speak with them about the school and direct them onto the college campus,” said Anne Marie Vertucci, who graduated from the College of Charleston in December and continues to work at The College Corner store. “And the alumni love the high-end merchandise. It’s been great meeting so many of them,” she said adding, “I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations as people tell me about their college days here at Charleston.”
College memories may go back decades, but the building that houses the specialty store dates back 160 years. “The building itself is very old and very historic,” Brewton explained. With its original exposed brick and reclaimed heart-of-pine flooring, the new boutique brings both the city’s charm and the school’s long history front and center. But the building is young in comparison to the city it resides in. “Founded in 1770, the College of Charleston is actually older than our country,” said Vertucci. “There’s a lot of pride in that fact.”
The building that houses The College Corner was constructed by John D. Meyer, an affluent German grocer, with the façade remodeled in the late 19th century. From 1960 through 2005, the space was leased to Barton’s Candy, Cards and Gifts Shop, with The Silver Puffin, its sister store, taking up residence until the College of Charleston decided to restore the space as a gift shop. The storefront still evokes characteristics of the original building with cast-iron pilasters and wood shop windows.
“There’s just so much history,” Brewton recalled. “When we were improving the acoustics in the theater, we discovered murals by an Italian artist dating from the 1920s. Someone had affixed a sound barrier to them, but we’d like to have them restored.”
Future plans also include reinstating the Sottile Theater’s main entrance on King Street (it’s currently tucked away around the corner on George Street), converting the top two floors into a meeting facility and adding a rooftop bar as entertainment space. Other proposals include opening up an entrance to The College Corner directly from the Sottile Theater.
For now, there have been rave reviews for the store just the way it is. “We’ve gotten a great response from the community — and the alumni love it,” Brewton said. “In fact, before we opened The College Corner, we spoke to alumni and board members about what they envisioned for this store. We even have a digital kiosk with information about the college.”
The store is a seamless blend between city and college, modern and historic, and students and community. “The response,” declared Store Manager Jones, “has been overwhelmingly positive.”