Longtime South of Broad boutique changes hands, carries on

New owner Lois Daughtridge gives a tour of The Boutique on Tuesday at the store on Broad Street. The Boutique, located in a 150 year-old building, has changed hands six times as it enters 60 years of operation.

Steeped in old southern traditions and a distinct waft of gardenias, The Boutique is everything one would expect from a nearly 60-year-old shop on Broad Street.

The upscale ladies boutique that has served the well-heeled women of South of Broad for generations is festooned with delicate home decor such as fine china and custom-made nursery accessories, and it's been that way for decades.

But for all its unchanging nature, the store has seen a number of different owners through the years, who have all preserved The Boutique like a sacred Charleston tradition.

Last week, the shop at Church and Broad streets was taken over by its sixth owner, Lois Daughtridge.

Since The Boutique was established by Bessie Braid in the mid-1950's, the reins of the business have been handed down only to friends or family members of the previous owners. Daughtridge, who has been an employee of The Boutique for two years, bought the store from her friend and former owner Margaret Smith.

"Margaret has always been so kind and generous, and I'm honored to know she trusts me to carry on this wonderful legacy," Daughtridge said.

Smith had steered the business since 2010, when she took over for her mother-in-law, Jeanne deSaussure Smith.

Although much has remained the same at The Boutique over the years, like the fact that they still carry the handmade Charleston baby bonnet, Margaret Smith said some changes have been necessary in order to stay afloat.

Sign up for our new business newsletter

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.

"When the recession of 2009 hit, my son Park helped me evaluate the business, and notified me that we had $10,000 in handkerchiefs," she said. "We made many adjustments from there, and have managed to stay in business."

While Daughtridge said she intends to uphold the many traditions that have been ingrained in the business, she's also looking to expand some of their offerings.

For example, The Boutique will have a renewed focus on bridal registry services, which offer upscale items such as fine china, linens, and home decor. Daughtridge also wants to improve their custom bedding and home furnishings.

"I really want to serve the ladies of Charleston and make sure they think of The Boutique first, and that they consider it to be a higher level of goods they can get for their homes," Daughtridge said.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail