Relaxation, escape, entertainment, and rejuvenation. When asked to identify the benefits of mountain living, these answers often come out on top. According to researchers who study the psychology of marketing, they’re the same things that top the list of “the positive effects of retail therapy.” Or, to put it another way, the happiness you experience by living in the mountains is a lot like the happiness you feel when shopping.
We’re no scientists, but that sort of thought-provoking formula leads us to only one conclusion… We should all go shopping in the mountains! What better way to double your happiness quotient? And these days, we can all use a little extra happiness.
Well, guess what, science! We’re a step ahead of you. We’ve already scoped out the shopping scene in the mountain towns in North Carolina. And our research points us time and again to one of our favorites – Hickory, NC.
Hickory’s city officials use the phrase “small town values with big city drive” when describing this charming mountain oasis that’s managed to maintain its rich history and down-home warmth even as it’s grown to become the country’s most sprawling metro area, the “retail hub of the foothills,” and home to the largest shopping mall in the region.
A three-time winner of the All-American Cities Award, and the 10th best place to live in the United States according to Reader’s Digest, Hickory is best known for its finely crafted American-made furniture. But, more and more, Hickory is becoming known as a favorite Blue Ridge destination thanks to its seasonal art, music, and food festivals, its vibrant night life, Art Walk, Farmer’s Market, and a fabulous line-up of cafés, restaurants, and craft beer pubs and breweries. This town also comes with a special events calendar that’s nonstop packed with fun things to do in Hickory North Carolina.
But our favorite thing to do in Hickory is shop! And, now that we have scientific proof of its therapeutic benefits, let’s get started. Here are some of our favorite retail destinations in Hickory, NC. Grab your holiday shopping list, and make your way downtown. There are plenty of seasonal specials this time of year. But this town’s treasure trove of shopping options is enough to satisfy shoppers year-round:
ELLA BLU (214 Union Square NW)
This is the go-to boutique for fashionistas living in Hickory and the surrounding mountain towns in North Carolina. But the global appeal of Ella Blu extends far beyond the Blue Ridge. “It’s still my favorite store and I live in Dubai,” says one online reviewer, “I can’t wait to come back and do some power shopping!” Ella Blu keeps its inventory constantly updated by visiting trunk shows and fashion events across the country, then hand-selecting the hottest clothing, jewelry, shoes, and accessories. There’s even a consignment section that features gently used high-end fashion finds. Shoppers love the unique inventory of chic clothing and accessories at affordable prices. And they rave about the friendly one-on-one customer service Ella Blu.
THE NATURAL OLIVE (216 Union Square NW)
Have you ever walked into a charming Italian olive oil store where your senses are treated to the vibrant tastes and aromas of infused oils, bright balsamic vinegars, and fresh-baked warm ciabatta breads? That’s the experience The Natural Oil brings to Downtown Hickory in their Tuscany-inspired store with its canister-lined wood shelves, old knotted floors, and high ceilings, accented with mood lighting and piped-in Italian music. This place is heaven for the senses. Or as the Natural Olive calls it, “a fun, taste-inspiring experience” where you sample, smell, and sip your way through 50 varieties of fresh oils on tap before choosing your favorites to take home in a bottle that’s corked and sealed just for you. There are featured favorites and seasonal selections, and owner Noelle Walker is happy to share her knowledge of each hand-selected product. You can also find sauces, spices, pastas, cookbooks, home goods, and oil-based soaps and skincare products at this elegantly rustic Italian shop.
TURNIP THE ARTS (266 First Avenue NW)
The name is as clever as the shop. This charming gallery of hand-crafted goodies offers a creative mix of gifts, art and events. It’s conveniently located in the heart of Hickory and nestled among some of the area’s best loved restaurants. Turnip the Arts brings its own flavor to Fifth Avenue with a dash of the eclectic. This gallery shows and sells handmade artwork by local, regional, and national artists. Gifts for sale include pottery, woodwork, glass work, jewelry, metal work, paintings, photography, fiber art, and a variety of soaps, lotions and candles. If you’re someone who enjoys “Makin’ the Arts,” they offer a series by that name, which offers classes in jewelry and craft-making. They also offer paint parties, culinary arts classes, and other fun instructional events. With Turnip the Arts in town, you never run out of creative things to do in Hickory North Carolina.
BISANAR JEWELER (226 Union Square NW)
This is not your typical jewelry store. The Bisanar Company upholds a long tradition of excellence dating back to 1896 when Dr. George Bisanar first opened the doors for business. Well over a century later, Bisanar is known as “the highest quality jeweler in North Carolina.” They maintain an antique and estate collection that features Edwardian, Victorian, art nouveau, art deco, retro, and plique à jour jewelry. The designer collection features pearls, diamonds, and other precious gemstones set in platinum, gold, and sterling by acclaimed designers, including Scott Kay, Mikimoto, and Alex Sepkus. Bisanar also has an impressive line of fine Swiss watches from names like Rayond Weil, Mont Blanc, and Cyma. In addition to jewelry, shoppers will enjoy browsing special occasion gifts, including designer evening bags and accessories, as well as fine crystal, silver, and porcelain from top-of-the-line brands, including Towle, Waterford, Lenox, Lunt, Reed & Barton, Cybis, and Boehm. The offerings here are extensive, but shoppers will never feel overwhelmed because at The Bisanar Company, “exemplary customer service is still the number one priority.”
How’s that for a relaxing and rejuvenating retail therapy session! And that’s just a small sampling of what awaits you on the Downtown Hickory shopping scene. There’s plenty to more to explore. Hickory is chock-full of shops to help you check all the items off your holiday shopping list: clothing, jewelry, gifts, arts, crafts, wines, camping and sporting goods, and a whole lot more.
We all know the saying When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. But in our view (from the beautiful Blue Ridge), we’d like to offer an alternative for an even happier lifestyle: When the going gets tough, the tough go to the mountains…. AND go shopping!
When you’re ready to up your happiness quotient, look no further than the mountains of Western North Carolina. You’ll find Smoky Mountain land for sale that’s surrounded by spectacularly scenic landscape and with access to an abundance of shops, restaurants, live music, art, and seasonal festivals and activities all in the Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir area.
We recommend you start your search at The Coves Mountain River Club in Lenoir NC. The beautiful historic town of Lenoir is just a quick drive from Hickory, and it’s one of the most charming mountain towns in North Carolina. When you settle into a home at The Coves in Lenoir, you’re treating yourself to a rare combination of mountain and river living with five miles of pristine river footage, spectacular scenic mountain views, and amenities for days.
Call us at 828.754.0700 to schedule your visit. We’ll be happy to point you in the direction of all the best shopping so you can combine your tour of The Coves with a healthy dose of retail therapy.
If you’re exploring the area for the first time, ask for our 84 page complimentary Western North Carolina Visitor’s Guide which provides more information about living in the foothills.