Small town charm: where to shop local

Meagan Drillinger

Travel writer

As much as we love to pick up that designer label in Paris or that name brand in Hong Kong, sometimes shopping local adds a whole new level of depth to international travel. So where do you travel for one-of-a-kind items that add a dash of sense-of-place and local charm? Look no further than destinations like Charleston, South Carolina; Goreme, Turkey; and Hoi An, Vietnam. These cities are full of local charm – plus offer the best options for shopping local, featuring small businesses with a creative, inventive flair. From what they’re selling to how they sell it, what makes these small town shops unique from their big business competition? 

Charleston, South Carolina

Lily Charleston South Carolina
Courtesy: Kevin Borkowski

The visuals of Charleston, South Carolina conjure images of long, dusty drives shaded by moss-draped oak trees, Antebellum buildings of a bygone era complemented by white columns and a pitcher of something cold and sweet resting on a porch table. This town emanates memories and visions of the refined and antique South in the United States, picturesque and quaint. And naturally, there’s no better place to celebrate this atmosphere than the small town boutique Lily Charleston.

Located in Charleston’s Historic Antiques District on King Street, Lily Charleston stands surrounded by quaint boutiques whose exteriors reflect the area’s history, with sophisticated shop-front awnings and tell-tale signs of architectural designs of the past. The shop is all about cherishing and touting the elegant, delicate southern charm and beauty associated with the very best of southern belles. Here you will find vintage and artisan jewellery, scarves, stationary and home goods, soaps, French parfums and handbags, all curated by the shopkeeper who takes inspiration from French culture and incorporates the delicate airs of graceful Charleston. Get your hands on a myriad of one-of-a-kind vintage items like an exquisite, beaded evening bag or a stunning jewelled necklace or pin. You’ll certainly be the belle of the ball with any of the bespoke items on offer at Lily Charleston.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Reaching Out Vietnam Hoi An Vietnam

The poetic and historic Hoi An is a once-riverside port turned sleepy fisherman village, replete with grand architecture, old-town character and even standing strong as a culinary mecca. One of Vietnam’s most important tourism centres, it is also one of the country’s most affluent communities – thus the shopping options are seemingly endless. Veer from the standard tourist shopping and souvenirs, though, and consider Reaching Out Vietnam, a fair-trade crafts shop and local teahouse.

Reaching Out Vietnam was created to provide opportunities to people with disabilities, allowing them to learn skills and gain employment. Local artisans, both able-bodied and disabled, work in the workshop onsite to produce everything from dishware and linens to jewellery and home decor, all of which can be purchased in the shop. Visitors can even take tours of the workshop, giving travellers the opportunity to put a face behind the products on offer. The shop also has its own tea house serving coffee, tea, fruit juices and biscuits. So take a break while you’re searching for the best souvenirs with a cup of Vietnamese green tea or coffee in the tea shop, all locally-sourced and perfectly paired with seasonal snacks.

Göreme, Turkey

Goreme Turkey

Among and surrounded by cone-shaped rock formations known as “fairy chimneys” of the Cappadocia region is the historic village of Göreme. This awe-inspiring village is built straight into the rock, with homes and buildings carved directly into the natural surroundings. Home to the Göreme National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Göreme dates back to the 4th century, teeming with historic architecture and original erosion-formed rock pillars.

Although taking in Göreme is arguably best done via hot air balloon, a walk within the cavern-like village is a must to take home a piece of its history. Look for Tribal Collections, an oriental carpet gallery built from a restored cave house, helmed by Ruth Lockwood. Ruth was one of the first women and foreign carpet dealers in all of Turkey, and has since garnered 30 years selling them from Göreme. She selects from craftsmen and women who embody the history and authenticity of traditional Turkish weavers, who’ve historically hand-woven pile rugs and Kilims. Tribal Collections purchases these from local villages, meaning each handmade rug on offer reflects the individual weaver.

Add these three cities to your travel itinerary and take home some local treasures. Search your dates here.

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