Toast of the Town

BY KELLY CROOKS | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

Tucked away on Johns Island, off Maybank Highway, sits one of the Charleston area’s newest craft production facilities. Although Carolina Coaster Company has been on the local craft and market scene since 2010, the operation’s recent move from a small 400-square-foot space to a sizable 1,600-square-foot building is evidence of the company’s growing presence in the Lowcountry—and beyond.

Owner Cindy Ellsworth created Carolina Coaster Company on a whim after she and her husband, David, came across photo coasters at an art show in Atlanta. With her husband’s encouragement, Ellsworth brought the idea to Charleston—and Carolina Coaster Company has increased in size and popularity ever since. The handcrafted coasters feature a photograph, taken by Ellsworth herself, of a Charleston-area landmark, restaurant or business. Ellsworth’s vision was clear from the beginning. “I wanted to come up with a process that I would be proud of and make a high-quality product that would last.”

As one of the first steps in the coaster creation process, Ellsworth’s team carefully applies each photograph onto tumbled Botticino marble tiles imported directly from Turkey. After experimenting with other types of stone, Ellsworth ultimately decided to stick with Botticino marble. “Botticino is the one that we liked the best because of the natural edges,” she says, and it gives the coasters an antiqued, rustic look. Ellsworth has perfected her technique over the years, now sealing coasters with an eco-friendly coating. “Not only is it more beneficial for our health, it has a prettier, more natural finish,” she says. As the final step in the process, she autographs the back of each coaster—a sign that each one is handmade with pride and care.

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Carolina Coaster Company is a familiar vendor at the ever-popular Charleston Farmers Market. Ellsworth says the downtown venue has helped her business grow and that she’s enjoyed the interactions she’s had with locals and tourists alike. “It’s so much fun,” she says. “We feel like ambassadors for Charleston. It’s interesting to talk with the people and share information with them.” In addition to the Farmers Market, the company’s creations have infiltrated a variety of Charleston-area stores, including Southern Season, Carolina Clay Gallery and Indigo Home.

Alongside coasters that are unique to the Charleston area, Carolina Coaster Company offers a line of coasters with images from areas such as Hilton Head, Savannah, Chapel Hill and more. Additionally, customers can submit a picture of their choice to have coasters customized for their local business or personal use. Coasters retail for $12, with an extra fee applied for customized projects.

You can admire Carolina Coaster’s wide range of subjects at their Johns Island facility (3241 Maybank Highway), or at the Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square.

Kelly Crooks is a freelance writer based in Charleston.