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Tamu Curtis, owner of The Cocktailery in Charlotte, steps behind the bar, pours a sample of Apricot Vanilla bitters into a small paper cup and passes it to a customer. While he sips, Curtis explains that these bitters pair well with whiskey, vodka, and gin — the perfect “seasoning” to polish off a cocktail.
“When it comes to making cocktails,” Curtis says, “bitters are something people are intimidated by.” Part-teacher, part-mixologist, Curtis is on a mission to help demystify cocktails. In her efforts to take the mystery out of mixology, she invites her guests to try any of the bitters before buying them.
The vintage sofa and oversized coffee table in her shop create a living-room vibe that invites visitors to shop, learn, and relax. Her store offers cocktail-making classes and everything you need — professional barware, shakers, jiggers, muddlers — to make the experience one-of-a-kind.
From its home in Charlotte’s Atherton Mill, The Cocktailery is one of many locally-owned shops across the city that depart from the expected. From culinary items to home decor and fashion, read on for our guide to finding your next great gift idea in the Queen City.
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Fashion-forward boutiques make Charlotte a hotbed for haute couture, and exclusive brands make it a destination for high-end finds.
First stop: Capitol, a boutique that displays luxurious clothing in an inspiring setting. Whether you’re drawn to bold looks or more understated fashions, owner Laura Vinroot Poole has curated a collection that will allow you to create a style that’s all your own. And when the weather is just right and the doors surrounding the store’s inner courtyard are flung wide, you can shop with an unobstructed view of the lush, two-story vertical garden that grows up one wall of the sunny space.
Upstairs, Capitol’s sister store Poole Shop offers a selection of clothes, shoes, and other accessories from emerging and contemporary designer brands, such as dresses by Alix of Bohemia and Mansur Gavriel handbags.
For gentlemen, head to Taylor Richards & Conger, which was opened by three friends in 1986 to bring men’s European fashions to Charlotte. Thirty-five years later, the 6,000-square-foot store also has women’s fashions in its repertoire. The locally owned upscale clothier features designers like Brunello Cucinelli and Dorothee Shumacher and provides made-to-measure suits for men.
At The Sporting Gent, you’ll find built-to-last menswear, sporting goods, and accessories. From fishing and hunting gear to clothing and hand-crafted leather belts, the Sporting Gent has everything for those who live the sporting life — or just want to look like they do. While you’re there, pick up a bow tie adorned with hand-selected pheasant feathers or a new reel for your next fishing trip.
At The Sporting Gent, you’ll find built-to-last menswear, sporting goods, and accessories. photograph by Kate Magee Photography
For attainable women’s fashion, stop into nearby Boem, a clothing boutique featuring the latest chic Boho looks selected by owner Megan Orrell. Boem offers everything from elegant evening looks to casual weekend wear, so you can find a slinky slip dress for a night out, an oversize Cabin Fever coat to snuggle up in, and a smiley face beanie for your bestie. Be sure to check out their South End location when you’re in the neighborhood.
Boem offers everything from elegant evening looks to casual weekend wear. photograph by Kate Magee Photography
The area’s long history with furniture production makes it a great place to find a wide selection of high-quality furniture. An hour’s drive from Charlotte’s city center, you can shop for furniture from nearly 1,000 manufacturers at Hickory Furniture Mart. The more than 1 million-square-foot destination with custom-order showrooms, outlets, and factory-direct outlets, sits in the heart of the region that was once the center of the country’s furniture industry.
Back in Charlotte, B.D. Jeffries offers a more intimate shopping experience with unique furniture, one-of-a-kind antiques, and elegant home accents. The designers on staff and the store’s mix of timeless and up-to-date pieces can help bring style and sophistication to your home. Add a rustic 18th-century table to your den or complete your living room with a bench carved from the rich tones and natural grains of reclaimed elm.
For finishing touches indoors and out, head to Blackhawk Hardware. Sure, the Charlotte institution has tools and an extensive selection of door and cabinet hardware (one of the largest in the South), but you’ll also find soaps, hand towels, and housewares. In addition to a comprehensive garden center and a coffee shop upstairs, there’s a toy section that sits under the watchful eye of Pickles the T. Rex.
At Blackhawk Hardware, you can find finishing touches for indoors and out. photograph by Kate Magee Photography
Cocktails aren’t the only thing Tamu Curtis has a passion for. “I like all things for the home,” Curtis says with a laugh. Some of her other favorite area home goods stores include Slate, Moxie Mercantile, and Dressing Rooms Interiors Studio, whose owner, Ariene Bethea, designed the interior of The Cocktailery. “She does a beautiful job of curating vintage pieces.”
“I like Moxie Mercantile for unique little finds,” Curtis says. These finds — like cloth napkins illustrated with garden herbs and acacia cutting boards — fill the shelves and walls of a charming bungalow. The store opened in 2015 after owner Michelle Castelloe restored the home and filled it with vintage and modern home goods as well as personal accessories from local vendors.
A Few For the Road
You’ve taken a shopping tour of the city, but there are still more places to pop in before you go. A nod to the city’s area code, 704 Shop highlights Charlotte’s streetwear at its best. Choose T-shirts with a nod to Charlotte staples like Cheerwine, the Carolina Panthers, and the Queen City skyline or athletic shorts with the UNC Charlotte 49ers logo while you shop the store created by three former UNC Charlotte roommates.
A nod to the city’s area code, 704 Shop highlights Charlotte’s streetwear at its best. photograph by Kate Magee Photography
For an extensive array of cards and a bit of just about anything that would make a great gift, check out Paper Skyscraper. You’ll discover journals, toys, home goods (think kitchen towels with irreverent sayings), popcorn flavored with pimento cheese, and so much more. Don’t know what you’re looking for? Once you step under the yellow awning, you’re sure to find something silly, inspiring, or thoughtful to fit the bill.
With journals, toys, home goods, and so much more, Paper Skyscraper has an extensive array of just about anything that would make a great gift. photograph by Kate Magee Photography
When you’re in Uptown, make sure to stop by the WelcomeCLT Visitor Info Center on Tryon Street for mementos. The center sells hand-crafted leather coasters, 3-D skyline ornaments, and cutting boards crafted by local and regional artists, as well as other Charlotte-themed products and gifts.
Before you leave, buy a chocolate bar made by Secret Chocolatier Charlotte, sit outside in the plaza, and soak in the city. You might see a vendor like Andrew Wilen, co-owner of Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, setting up tasty samples for a pop-up event.
The entrance to the Market at 7th Street faces the commuter train line and the Charlotte Rail Trail, providing easy access to the city’s original food hall. Enjoy a bite and peruse the locally owned shops among the market’s culinary delights.
At CLT Find, discover all-things Charlotte from more than 80 regional makers and artists. Visit Assorted Table Wine Shoppe, the most comprehensive treasury of international fine wine in the Queen City. And lighten your impact on the environment with beauty and lifestyle products from Good Earth Essentials that all eschew plastic packaging.
At CLT Find, discover all-things Charlotte from more than 80 regional makers and artists. photograph by Kyo H. Nam
Before you leave the market and wrap up your Charlotte shopping spree, add some treats to your bounty — like a half-gallon iced latte from Not Just Coffee. Or sample the fried chicken popcorn at It’s Poppin! Gourmet Kettle Korn and buy a bag for the road.
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