Marshall Simon, the owner of Gwynn’s in Mt. Pleasant was one of the first people I met when I moved to Charleston ten years ago. His well loved department store Gwynn’s, was hosting a charity run benefiting the MUSC Children’s Hospital called The Stiletto Stampede that I was participating in. His name is familiar around town and always associated with different philanthropic endeavors and Gwynn’s quickly became of of my go to stores that had a wonderful combination of local hospitality – he is almost always in the store greeting his customers – and sophisticated merchandising. You can find anything from local brands he supports to luxury bath and beauty products, high fashion lines and even vintage CHANEL handbags. When I started Candy Shop Vintage, Marshall was one of the first people I went to for advice and of course, to try to sell my line. Before he owned Gwynn’s, he was one of the sales reps for the original, vintage lines of Charleston Rice Beads ours are modeled after. He was the first person to tell me the story behind them!
The entrance to Gwynn’s at 916 Houston Northcutt Boulevard in Mt. Pleasant.
Since picking up the Candy Shop Vintage line three years ago. Gwynn’s can hardly keep it in stock. I am so grateful for them as a retail partner and to have Marshall as a friend. So it seems only fitting they be the first retailer in our monthly retailer partner spotlight. It also happens to be their 50th anniversary and they recently underwent a huge renovation inside and out. He runs the store with his beautiful daughter Madison and I met with them this week to take a peek in the store and learn a little bit more about his successful family business.
Marshall and Madison Simon, the owner and his daughter who jointly run the department store.
Any special pans for your 50th Anniversary year?
Our 50th Anniversary was actually on July 27th, but we will celebrate in September with a party at the store.
Has Gwynn’s always been in the same location?
No, Gwynn’s was in 3 other locations in Mount Pleasant, but has been here for the past 25 years in a spot that we own.
Was Gwynn’s your first venture into retail?
I bought this store 27 years ago, but I grew up in the industry and my family had a store in Greensboro, North Carolina called Laurie’s. It was very similar to Gwynn’s, so it’s always been in my blood. In my early days (after college), I was a wholesale manufacturer’s representative for women’s apparel and jewelry where I traveled and worked with stores in the South East.
What is your favorite thing about owning a store?
I love meeting our interesting and talented clients. They all have such intriguing stories to tell. It’s always been fun getting to know these people. My talented employees makes it all worth while too.
Where do you do most of your buying?
Mostly NYC. A little in Las Vegas and Atlanta.
What the best selling small designers you carry/top three large brands you carry?
The top three small designers are Candy Shop Vintage, Leo + Sage, & Christy Jervey. Our top three larger brands are: Lafayette 148, Trish McEvoy, & Emenegildo Zegna.
What is your history with selling Charleston Rice Beads? (i.e. the original ones then ours)
In the early ’80s I worked for a large costume jewelry house selling rice beads, which was our most popular item, especially here in Charleston. 36 years later and I’m still selling rice beads!
Marshall told me how he used to walk up and down King Street selling the Rice Beads to almost every boutique Downtown. They were hugely popular in the Southeast until the original company making them was acquired and discontinued that line!
What is your favorite time of year/season at Gwynn’s?
Spring when everything comes alive, and also Christmas when business follows suit.
Our Charleston Rice Bead display in the Gwynn’s jewelry department.
I think this jewelry box is just about the right size for me…
Thank you Marshall and Madison for having us! We’ll be back this holiday season for our annual Holiday Trunk Show just before Christmas. Stay tuned for the dates later this fall… Photos: Clay Austin