CHARLESTON — Gwynn’s. The name is synonymous with style and high fashion here. Yet ask its customers, and they will tell you that Gwynn’s of Mount Pleasant is much more than a high-end retailer. And with its recent remodeling inside and out, this landmark boutique has pinnacled in its class above others in the industry.
Gwynn’s story begins with owner Marshall Simon, who grew up “in the business.” His father owned a similar fashion store called Laurie’s in Greensboro, N.C. Simon joked about his humble beginnings, having to clean the restrooms in that store. “But by 13, I knew retail and fashion were in my blood.”
This year marks Gwynn’s 50th anniversary. Simon opened Gwynn’s at another location off Coleman Boulevard — a time when retail space cost a mere $2 a square foot. When the building’s landlord decided to raise the rent, Simon decided to move. In 1992, he purchased the site at Houston-Northcutt Boulevard. Though not located on Charleston’s well-known King Street, Gwynn’s has become a destination for the discriminate shopper, one that provides more than the boutiques and chain retailers found downtown.
The most recent and extensive store renovation boosted the total square footage to 22,000. The store now boasts a sleek and contemporary travertine marble-covered entrance while, inside, there are 2,000 additional square feet of open shopping space, an inconspicuous tailor shop, and two new dressing rooms styled by well-known decorator Kristy Phillips Johnson. These rooms were the brainchild of Simon after one of his customers mentioned the desire for more privacy, a place undisturbed and away from other customers. One is for men and the other for women, and both rooms provide natural light, a fully stocked bar and an overall elegant ambience.
Marshall’s daughter, Madison, who returned from retail in New York for the family business, described the intent of these private shopping spaces: “We wanted to offer an oasis for our clients that breaks down barriers between merchants. These areas are secluded and stress-free, where one can add to and enhance a wardrobe in style and comfort. They offer the class of a hotel suite paired with the amenities of home, and our customers love it.”
One loyal customer, Noula Cumins, agreed. “These rooms are decadent. They’re bringing me gorgeous outfits to try on. I’m drinking Don Julio 1942 Tequila, and tomorrow I’ll leave for Cabo San Lucas with a wonderful new wardrobe.”
Another longtime client, Michele Misais, added, “Their renovation is spectacular, but I’ve also been coming here for 20 years and the staff are wonderful and so down-to-earth.” Misais had just stepped away from the makeup counter. Gwynn’s is the exclusive stockist of Trish McEvoy makeup, the store’s second-highest seller. Trish McEvoy will visit Gwynn’s on April 4 and 5.
Brands that were added following the renovation include St. John and Marchesa in women’s ready-to-wear; Stuart Weitzman and Sophia Webster in shoes; Isaia in men’s wear, and Pomellato, Yossi Harari, The Woods and Sydney Evan in fine jewelry.
Also exclusive to Charleston is the retailer’s number-one women’s line, Lafayette 148 New York, along with Brunello Cucinelli, Loro Piana and Ermenegildo Zegna. In men’s, the store carries brands including Canali, and in fine jewelry, collections include Pomellato, Yossi Harari, The Woods and more. Simon frequents New York, Atlanta and Las Vegas more than a dozen times a year to attend apparel shows including Project, Coterie and Intermezzo and continuously improve the store’s selection.
“Our mission at Gwynn’s is to provide impeccable customer service,” said Simon. “Clients come in, and whatever they’d like, we can give them. Lunch ordered in, access to a full bar, and the best service we can provide. Our store renovation was just one more way to do that.”
The store has a staff of 28 full-time employees, many of whom have been employed for more than a decade.