The last time I caught up with Marshall Simon, owner of Gwynn’s, an upscale shopping mecca in Mount Pleasant, he had just finished helping a client pick out a suit for an outdoor summer wedding. He texted a picture of the young man dressed in a snappy ensemble to his fiancée. She texted back a big thumbs up, and everybody was happy. That kind of customer service is the classic above-and-beyond assistance that’s kept Gwynn’s of Mount Pleasant famous for 49 years.
This year when I meet Marshall at the newly renovated Gwynn’s, he’s clearly upped the game. The store’s exterior is now clad in luxurious Italian travertine, and there are enticing new display windows. Inside, I get to meet Marshall’s daughter, Madison Simon, who has just moved back from New York after a stint in the fashion industry. She’s recently joined Gwynn’s as an associate in the women’s department.
Marshall and Madison lead me through that department to a large gray door that blends into the wall so thoroughly it seems like a secret. When Marshall opens the door, I gasp. Behind the secret door lies a sumptuous, rectangular room lit by an enormous glittering chandelier. This is one of two new, private personal shopping suites. There’s one in the women’s department and a mirror image in the men’s. The décor of both rooms is contemporary, creamy and sparkly, with industrial touches that keep the spaces from feeling overly masculine or feminine. Both are definitely channeling the best of European design. Two cozy imported Italian love seats face each other with a broad coffee table in the middle.
The opposite wall contains a fully loaded wine bar and wet bar with every top-shelf beverage you could want, an eating counter should you need to order lunch in and a TV. There is also high-speed Wi-Fi. The rest of the wall is frosted glass, which illuminates the room with diffused, natural light, a true rarity in department store dressing rooms, where lighting often has a tungsten or, worse, a florescent color balance.
Flanking the room on either end are two spacious dressing rooms with LED lights, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and walls adorned with glass beads and hand-placed Swarovski crystals. Every detail is breathtaking.
The concept of the new personal shopping suites is that customers—and their partners or friends—can simply relax with a beverage while one of Gwynn’s personal shoppers brings ensembles and accessories to them. “We want our customers to be relaxed. We never want them to feel rushed,” Marshall says. The room also features a tailor’s pedestal and wraparound mirror, so the customer never needs to leave the room.
One of the things that sets Gwynn’s apart is that Marshall and his staff understand the emotional experiences and connections that come with clothing and shopping for clothing. For example, in a typical shopping experience there is a distinct lack of privacy that can turn an enjoyable experience into a chore.
“For women, dressing rooms can be horrible,” Madison says. “Finding clothes that you like and look good on you is a personal experience, but you usually have to come out of the dressing room for a good mirror. Once you’re there, it’s like you’re on the runway. Other women are suddenly giving you their unsolicited opinions on what you’re wearing. It can feel like a violation of privacy.”
Marshall agrees. “Here, women can bring their spouses or boyfriends and take as long as they like to try things on,” he says. “The guys can have a drink, watch TV, check email and relax.”
For men, shopping comes with a different set of problems. Men want to buy clothes that look nice, but they often feel overwhelmed. They have to make choices, put together outfits and dress and undress—over and over again. But Marshall and Madison want men to enjoy the process. In the private suite a man can relax while a personal shopper brings selections to him, in his size and appropriate for the occasion for which he’s shopping. Just having choices narrowed down can be a big relief and it makes things go faster. Recently, a customer who took advantage of the new suite said that for the first time he enjoyed shopping and felt like he could confidently buy his own clothes without his wife coming along.
Gwynn’s is the only luxury department store in South Carolina and is the only store in Charleston to carry luxury designers Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli for men, Escada, Marchesa, Collezioni Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Jimmy Choo. It also carries fine jewelry from Pomellato, Yossi Harari and Sydney Evan. With its trademark legendary service, two luxurious private shopping suites and now a third generation Simon on board, Gwynn’s of Mount Pleasant has even more for customers to love.
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.