From a sewing machine in his kitchen to the Sewing Down South store on King Street, it has been a real journey for Southern Charm star Craig Conover. But this weekend he officially opens the door to his company’s brick-and-mortar store and kicked off the celebrations with a private friends and family event Friday night.
“This is amazing,” he told Decider exclusively as we caught up in the back of the store at 493 King Street in Downtown Charleston, where he will soon record episodes of his podcast, Pillows and Beer, with co-star and co-host Austen Kroll. “We didn’t know how chaotic it was gonna get but this is the perfect amount of chaos and fun,” he said of the kick-off party. “I actually have been very heart warmed by who did show up tonight,” he said, appreciating the presence of “best friends and family,” which included Southern Charm stars Kroll, Patricia Altschul, John Pringle, Danni Baird, and Leva Bonaparte. Conover even popped outside to take pictures with the steady stream of people hoping to get a glance of him and all the good inside the store, which officially opens its doors on Saturday. “There seems to be a lot of positivity and excitement around tonight and tomorrow,” he noticed, and it’s true.
There was a buzz in the store as Conover and his business partners mingled and celebrated their hard work. The Sew What wall was a big hit you’re sure to see all over Instagram soon, and party attendees sipped on Kroll’s Trop Hop beer and other specialty drinks and snacks while browsing the merchandise which includes, yes, pillows, but also bright reusable cups that say “What’s Wrong With My Sewing?” comfy hats, sweatshirts, and t-shirts, as well as candles (which Conover was especially excited about), kitchen items, and more — many of which are only available in the store.
Conover first knew his dream of a store was possible after embarking on his Pillow Party tour in 2019, making stops at stores up and down the east coast while meeting fans and selling pillows. The pillow parties were a proof of concept for him, and as he explained, “My vision was to have a boutique hole-in-the-wall shop in Charleston where you come by, limited inventory, and because of all of our hard work we were able to turn it into a massive flagship store which is going to be a staple to visit on King Street, I hope.”
He was touched that not only were his TV pals present, but other Charleston friends and “A lot of good people and positive energy here tonight,” some of which were so excited about their purchases, they were already wearing their new sweatshirts around the store.
Also in attendance was ex-girlfriend Natalie Hegnauer, who Conover confirmed, “We broke up but we’re good, we’re friends. It’s just tough. I’ve never gone through a breakup like this before but we love each other. We started dating during quarantine and that wasn’t real life sometimes. So we’re still friendly, we still love each other, but it just wasn’t our person. I’m happy she came, and we’ll always support each other.”
He’ll certainly be feeling the support during the store’s official opening this weekend, as visitors were already seen taking photos outside of the storefront before they could even see what was inside. “I think the town is excited for this and we are excited to deliver,” Conover said.
“I feel like I’m giving back to King Street where I spent so much of my life,” he said. “The first bar I went into was across the street, I lived some of the best years of my life here and I love coming back to this block.” Bonaparte joked that she looked forward to Craig frequently stopping into her restaurants on the street for lunch, which are all nearby, including Republic, Bourbon & Bubbles, 1st Place, and Mesu. He also looks forward to showing people that “retail’s not dead and we can spread positivity.”
“When you attack life like somebody who’s pure of heart like Craig, good things happen to you,” Pringle told Decider. “He followed his dream and said fuck you to all the naysayers, which is very important in life. His quality of who is he as a person, he’s somehow manufactured into a shop here on King. I think he’s gonna be really successful and I’m proud of him.” Pringle also joked that the product he wanted to purchase is still “the Craig body pillow, it hasn’t arrived yet.”
He quite astutely noted that the quality of the products is so good, “You could even pass out on one of these pillows!” when crashing on a friend’s couch. If that’s not an endorsement, then what is? In the meantime, Pringle is working on a couple of side hustles of his own, Havers Supply (check out the adorable Quackers hat inspired by his son) and Trackside Cocktails, and is looking forward to his sons coming to visit for the summer in a few weeks.
“I’ve seen Craig get patronized and ridiculed by unnamed friends of ours for a long long time,” Kroll told us, “And I just remember when we went on that camping trip to Nashville, Craig didn’t really know what he wanted to do but he knew that pillows were a thing people were responsive to.” Kroll encouraged him to “figure out a way to make 10,000 pillows and not 100 in your basement,” and here we are today.
“He figured out a way to do it and I’m looking around here and I can’t help but be proud and envious at the same time,” Kroll said. “I hope that I can do the same for myself one day. And I can’t wait to fly to his [additional store] openings in the future because I have no doubt that he will be [sold] out of all products by weekend’s end.” As for Kroll’s beer on tap at the store? “My product will be out by tonight,” he stated, also saying he was “very thankful that Craig has said he will keep it on tap and that just shows what a good friend that Craig is to me.”
And some good news for those looking for the beverage outside of the Sewing Down South store, as Kroll gave us the update that “It’s doing very well for me in that it sells out in a couple of weeks every time I bring out a new batch and it’s supposed to last me a lot longer than it does, so it’s a good bad problem to have. A lot of very exciting things happening very soon for me,” he teased, which means the product will be expanding to new states soon.
Altschul breezed into the store (looking quite glamorous!) with friends and offering her congratulations to Craig, as did Leva Bonaparte and former Southern Charm cast member Eliza Limehouse with a special customer in tow — 4-month-old son Patton.
“I am absolutely overwhelmed and proud of Craig right now,” Danni Baird said, taking a break from working on her artwork. “I’m just jealous. I never thought I would be jealous of Craig. So happy, I’m so proud of him. It actually came to fruition! And he can sew, believe it or not. There is nothing wrong with his sewing.”
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