There is only one place in town — maybe the entire world — where you can get collectible art prints, gourmet coffee beans, Titanic memorabilia and a Confederate flag cummerbund all in the same building.
And in another month, there won't be any such place.
After 20 years, CSA Galleries is closing its doors, liquidating its stock and going the way of the Confederacy.
It was a tough decision for the McConnell brothers, Samm and Glenn, who have put their hearts and much of their time into building an impressive stock of art, a custom frame shop, antiques and their own lines of South Carolina and historic collectibles. Despite the economy, this was more about the two brothers finally retiring after two decades of working nearly every day.
"It's sad," said Glenn McConnell, who also is state Senate President Pro Tem. "We could have kept on, but the gift market is changing, not just for us but for everybody. The price of gasoline and electricity changed the market, I think, forever. It's hard for people to have discretionary income."
The store — in the Gaslight Square shopping center at Rivers Avenue and Remount Road in North Charleston — is as much a gallery and museum as a store. In addition to its own line of glasses, Christmas ornaments and clothing that sport the state symbol (a palmetto tree and gorget), CSA Galleries sells historic documents, many signed by Confederate officers, and nylon and cloth flags, as well as such specialties as "Gone With the Wind" collector plates and figurines and "Titanic" music boxes.
McConnell keeps glass cases in the store filled with display-only pieces from his own collection — a 19th century naval telescope, an Enfield musket used by Confederate soldiers and a replica gun used by actor Armand Assante in the made-for-TV movie "The Hunley."
"I'll keep that one," McConnell said of the replica gun.
But mostly, the store — which has been located at several places, including Mall Drive and Northwoods Mall — is known for selling prints from the top collectible historical artists, many of them custom-framed in the store.
On Monday, the store was filled with folks trying to pick up a few last pieces from their favorite retailer.
"I'm going to miss this store. It's like a second home for me," said Cynthia Barrineau of Goose Creek, who has dozens of historical prints from the store. "The work and the quality is just exceptional. It just makes your home beautiful."
Barrineau was buying a couple of prints Monday, not because she needed them, she said, but because this will be her last chance to buy artwork framed so beautifully. Others in the store agreed.
"Never have I seen the quality of work I get here," said Peggy Gagne, another regular customer.
Although McConnell concedes many of the wares he sells, some of which sport the Confederate battle flag, are not politically correct enough for other stores, he said CSA Galleries is not a one-trick pony. This is about history, a point he makes by pointing out World War II memorabilia and prints, as well as a large collection of civil rights and African-American art, depicting everything from the 54th Massachusetts infantry to Martin Luther King Jr. to Gen. Colin Powell.
But he notes that many of his customers have their Southern learnings. He points out one framed print on the wall called "The Forlorn Hope."
"It's a Union print," he said. "We were never able to sell it."
McConnell said there is no set final date for CSA Galleries, but it likely will come at the end of March. To move their merchandise, they have most things marked down 50 percent, but he doubts they can sell it all in a few weeks.
And then there is the rest of the stuff.
"We're trying to decide what to do with a lot of the artifacts," McConnell said. "We may donate some things to a museum."
Reach Brian Hicks at 937-5561 or email@example.com.
Longtime CSA Galleries customer Cynthia Barrineau of Goose Creek said she is sad to see the store close. 'It's like a second home for me,' Barrineau said.×
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