I had never been to Aiken, SC. Can you believe it? Although my imagination had, for the most part, conjured the lolling Magnolia trees, charming streetscapes, and quaint boutiques. I never do get tired of seeing riders in boots and britches walking down the street. It always feels like home. And with riders like Phillip Dutton, Craig Thompson, Laura VanderVliet, Mara Dean, and Jenn Simmons a stone’s throw from town and each other, it also feels like Eventer’s Heaven. With such a spectacular place I thought I’d go on and visit, and take you, and my dog Simon, with me!
One thing that always intrigue me is the hard rub of horse-haven next to down-home country. I’m talking scrubby cotton fields stretching into a brown horizon and trailer parks always within arms reach. It’s just like Ocala, FL like that (well, not the cotton field part). A towering new, stable will perch practically next door to a greying, groaning shack. I can practically see the ghosts of the past standing on the wooden porch staring back at me. The broken windows whole again and the sunken roof metal again and shining in the sun. It’s like the past sits unabashedly next to the present, unflinching and unsmiling. Make of it what you will. I saw this sign driving into town and liked it so much I u-turned right across the highway to go back and take a picture.
So I spent may day wandering between the ghosts of the past; the manicured, pretty streets of town; and the efficient barn aisles of three-day eventers (more to come on that later!). Today I’ll share those streets of Aiken and a few stores that stood out to me.
I go into every doggie store I can find so this was my first stop with Simon. It was his favorite. I discovered my favorite things about it right off the bat: 1) They have a cute, vintage screen door leading into the shop. A perfect entrance for a sleepy, Southern town. 2) It even smells like a bakery when you walk in!
It’s like a bread bakery but a little bit sweeter. In addition to the freshly-baked hound-goodies there was a selection of toys (I bought one for Simon), high-quality kibble (something I always like to see), and some charming artwork. I wasn’t wowed by the selection of leashes and products but your dog sure will be by the nearly ceiling- high display of treats.
With some cute toys, darling Christmas ornaments (oh dear, another weakness of mine), and freshly-baked snacks this place is worth the stop. And, let’s be honest, a dog-washing station is high on the priority list for our barn dogs. So stop by, even if it’s just to take a deep breath! 127 Laurens Street.
If you have a weakness for home decor, especially equestrian-inspired home decor,then I’d be sure to swing by Nandina. Or perhaps I’d be sure to stay away from it! I couldn’t resist it myself and walked away with a few purchases. How could you not? It’s not cheap, but what in Aiken is? And their items are well-chosen and well-presented. I felt like sitting down in an arm-chair and curling up with a good book. 158 Laurens Street.
Equine Divine is also a home store with clothes and gifts to boot. The clothes didn’t stand out to me but the art sure did. From water colors to vintage prints to modern I spent my time coveting piece after piece.
My favorites were the duo of vintage prints the shop owner had discovered at an auction in their original frames with vintage glass. But a close second was the darling wardrobe with the hand painted donkey peering back at you. How sweet! It would be a great place to find a special gift or that perfect piece of art you’ve been looking for. 126 Laurens Street.
No, it’s no wonder eventers flock to Aiken, SC for the winters given the rolling land, Hitchcock Woods, historic town, and sprawling farms. Maybe I’ll be spending more time there myself, ghosts of the past and all.