Spotlight: Local treasures


Charlotte’s celebrates 25th anniversary

by Jessie Ammons

photograph by Missy McLamb

Decades ago, Charlotte Harris was home in Texas for the holidays and in search of a good gift. Her friend told her she must go to Carol’s. “I thought, is that a new store?” Harris recalls. It wasn’t, it was just a woman’s house, but everyone there knew that Carol’s was the place to go for of-the-moment jewelry. It wasn’t long before Charlotte brought the concept back to Raleigh; within a year, she was providing jewelry to local retailers here, too.

A former schoolteacher who’d stayed home to mother son Conner and daughter Stephanie, Harris’s next step was to try a store of her own. She opened Charlotte’s in Five Points in 1990, where for the first year, she sold the same jewelry that had earned her following. It was a hit. Charlotte’s then moved to Cameron Village, and with the new space came new wares.

Her friends and customers quickly came to see Harris as a trendsetter, but she demurs, claiming her customers always determined her product. “We’d be at market and my friends would ask me to look for a gold ring, or a gold chain, or something for a christening,” she says. Her tasteful eye didn’t hurt, though. “I just started buying the things I loved. I really still live in magazines – I love to see what’s new and what’s in. And then I try to bring that to Raleigh. I love being surrounded by beautiful things.” Today those things range from jewelry to linens, clothing to home decor.

Now, Charlotte’s is celebrating its 25th anniversary. “Twenty-five sounds like a daunting number, but I don’t see it that way,” Harris says. “It’s happened in a really easy, happy manner. We have been blessed.” “We” means the whole Harris clan, which operates Charlotte’s as a family. Husband Steve Harris has helped manage the business side of things since day one, and daughter Stephanie Sneeden manages the North Hills location. Charlotte’s will soon open a store in Charlotte, too, managed by Harris’s daughter-in-law, Mimi Harris.

Charlotte Harris is looking forward to the Charlotte shop because working with her own daughter here is already a pleasure. “We talk a million times a day and go to every market together,” she says of Stephanie. Plus, “she has such a young, new approach to it. She does most of our buying now.”

It’s perhaps that willingness to reflect changing tastes and trends that has kept Charlotte’s going strong for a quarter of a century. When a bridal shop opened at Cameron Village, Charlotte’s began carrying custom paper goods to cater to brides (the bridal shop has since left the shopping center). When Pinterest sparked a DIY wedding approach, Charlotte’s brought a full-time graphic designer on board for custom invitations. Charlotte Harris says she’s attached to no trend and takes it all lightheartedly, and in stride. “It’s been an education,” she says, “but it’s just been so much fun. It’s invigorating.”

Both locations of the store will celebrate their big birthday October 23. Harris and Sneeden plan discounts, giveaways, and other fun customer thank-yous.

“When you say 25 years, that sounds like a very long time, but it hasn’t been a very long time,” Harris says. “If you’re doing what you really enjoy with the people you really enjoy being with, it makes for a happy day.”  

Charlotte’s at Cameron Village, 2034 Cameron St.; Charlotte’s at North Hills, 4350 Lassiter Mill Road;