Stuck in a shopping rut, visiting the same go-to stores month after month?
If you live in Charlotte, a short drive in practically any direction will land you in any number of chic boutiques boasting great fashion.
Trendy shops packed with high-end brands are doing good business on quaint streets in towns like Belmont, Cornelius and Fort Mill, S.C.
As the region has grown, so has the demand for boutique shopping in towns ringing Charlotte. And while the economy has been rocky, the demand for designer jeans and sought-after labels has kept stores in business.
The interest in shopping at locally owned stores parallels the local food movement, with consumers taking an interest in the origins of what theyre consuming, says Maura Bosbyshell, fashion merchandising instructor with the Art Institute of Charlotte.
Its a little more interesting than going to the mall, she says.
Heres a handful of the many fashion destinations worth a few extra minutes in the car. With the holiday season approaching, now may be the time to break out of that rut.
To the West
When Mark and Kathy Williams opened Jolie Boutique eight years ago, downtown Belmont was just beginning to blossom as the trendy spot it is today.
There was nothing fashion-edged and contemporary, Mark Williams says. They decided to change that.
The couple opened the store in the old train depot, and earlier this year moved a few blocks up to a storefront with a more open floor plan and a bright, sunny ambience.
Their offerings have an upscale, on-trend feel. Color is key. Brands include BB Dakota, Parker, Wildfox, AG and Ella Moss.
Mark, who also works as a rep for 14 apparel companies, does most of the buying. Kathy is the face behind the place, helping shoppers and managing operations.
The couple say they draw from Charlotte, Lake Wylie, Cramer Mountain and Gastonia.
Some call it their secret store, because they dont want anyone to copy their look, Kathy Williams says.
We have a combination of medium-priced (clothes) and sprinkle in higher-end brands. We have hard-to-find brands that you cant find anywhere else, Mark Williams says.
• Jolie, 33B N. Main St., Belmont , 704-825-7997.
Tally Ho Clothiers
You cant talk womens fashion in Gaston County without a nod to Tally Ho Clothiers, a womens specialty store in Gastonia since 1985. The outside is unassuming, but the roomy and attractive inside is packed with about 150 lines of high-end frocks, shoes, jewelry and accessories at all sorts of price points.
Styles tend to be a little more conservative than, say, Jolie, but the offerings are diverse from sportswear and shoes to evening gowns and suits.
Owner Susan Joyner says her customers come from an 80-mile radius, and her wide selection of special occasion dresses is a big draw. Weve got a good mix of merchandise from casual chic to sportswear and special occasion. Were kind of like the three bears, laughs Joyner.
• Tally Ho Clothiers, 1013 Union Road, Gastonia. www.tallyhoclothier.com, 704-861-1990.
To the South
Page 6 Boutique
Named for the famed New York Post gossip page, this self-proclaimed boutique for the ultra trendy has two locations one in Fort Mills Baxter Village and the other in Rock Hill.
The owners and salespeople are ultra friendly one recent Saturday found them helping outfit girls for homecoming dances and the looks are extremely of-the-moment.
Many items are refreshingly affordable; some dresses are priced at under $60. For high-end jeans lovers who arent afraid to spend close to $200, the offerings are there as well.
Owners Nancy Russell and Deana Teague, along with manager Courtney Sipes, display new arrivals on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
To the North
Avalillys sells designer labels at sharply discounted prices by rounding up excess inventory and fashion overstock from other boutiques around the country as well as the clothing companies themselves.
Owner Emily Haggart who also owns the retail boutique Fresh in Myers Park says she cultivated relationships with fashion retailers, showrooms and vendors more than a decade ago to sell overstock for them on eBay. In 2004, she opened Avalillys in Cornelius and brought the concept to a brick-and-mortar store.
The fashions feel fresh everything is in-season and in perfect condition. Clothing isnt damaged or irregular. Names include Trina Turk, Ella Moss, Nanette Lepore and True Religion. The day we were there, Paige jeans and Citizens of Humanity jeans were going for $139 pairs that often sell for $200 or more.
Lunas at the Lake
This boutique seeks to connect its customers to their community and the world, with about 75 percent of its offerings made in the United States and most of its jewelry made locally.
Lunas opened in 1998 but is in its first year under the ownership of Christine Rinkert, who is striving to make it a community place by hosting coat drives for children, book signings with local authors and showcasing the work of local artists.
Rinkert describes lake style as slightly more casual than city living, and the boutique reflects that. A wall is devoted to denim, and jeans and cool tops and sweaters are the name of the game, Rinkert says. Hand tie-dyed Brightly Twisted scarves from Michigan ($95) are big sellers this fall.
Jewelry by Davidson jeweler Bonnie Boardman flies off the shelves.
Monkees of Lake Norman
Owner Sandy Bowers and her team of Monkettes have two locations in Davidson a spacious one on Jetton Street and a cozy, 300-square-foot Monkees on Main on the towns Main Street. The shops are filled with on-trend clothing and accessories, but have special appeal to the inner Carrie Bradshaw, with a sizable shoe offering. Shoe brands range from Frye to Tory Burch and Vince Camuto.
Monkees is a regional chain (there is a Monkees in Charlottes Morrocroft Village), but every store is independently owned and operated and no two stores carry exactly the same items. The Jetton Street store has a unique feel, with its signature black and gold decor and crystal chandeliers, and the Monkettes go out of their way to help customers find what theyre looking for.