Denise Shealy

STEEL garden

I came to Columbia for college to go to USC in August of 2005, and basically never left. I realized later in college that I wanted to own my own store, and I’d started working retail at other small businesses in the Five Points area, so I was familiar with Five Points, small businesses and the impact they can have.

There’s a personal touch you get if you shop here – seeing the owner and the same staff – and that struck a chord with me. Following college, I started working as a manager and buyer in small stores, and knew I was working toward ownership. Things fell into place, and I opened STEEL garden – an urban-chic women’s boutique – in February 2014.

Five Points feels like the first place you get dropped into, and it’s the place that stays with you after school that you keep wanting to go back to.

When we started looking for spaces, we looked in other areas of the city, but nowhere else has the same feeling as Five Points. Everyone is friendly, you can walk around and know everyone; wave to other storeowners.

Even in a physical way, Five Points makes sense – everywhere else is one long street, but Five Points is so compact that everything works together. It really is about the balance of having boutiques and coffee shops and bars and restaurants and different kinds of stores, which is very unique to Five Points.

  • Feel Awesome

    College is a huge part of Columbia and Five Points. With clientele, we’re hitting more of the junior and senior year, when they kind of develop their own style. They’re looking for something to go out in, and looking for pieces for their wardrobe to carry them through their twenties.

    I also love the young professional crowd: recent grads starting in the working world, still trying to find youth and a level of fun in what they wear, but still look their age. We also get young moms and workers and creative people. We’re still in the beginning stages, so it’s me here everyday, talking about the clothes that I picked that I want to sell to someone so they can wear them and feel awesome in them.

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  • Memories

    Five Points is probably the only area from being in school of which I still have really vivid memories, from walking through during the day, working and going out with friends to eating here and bringing my parents here. My husband and I actually started our relationship in Five Points – we had a class together and then ran into each other one night at Grilled Teriyaki (very romantic I know), and we kind of reconnected that way. The first night we hung out was even at Dr. Rocco’s, which is now Breaker’s.

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  • Stays With You

    I think Five Points, for so many people, is kind of the first place you go after you get to USC. Five Points feels like the first place you get dropped into, and it’s the place that stays with you after school that you keep wanting to go back to. It holds more memories than anywhere else in Columbia.

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  • Hidden Corners

    I like the little hidden corners of art in Five Points. I love the flag on Yesterday’s, and on the walk back from El Burrito there’s that Nixon guy in the alley past where Rite Aid was, before you get to Saloon. There’s also the sewing machine behind El Burrito. Those are fun to see when you’ren walking through Five Points.

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  • Diverse Makeup

    The reason I wanted to open STEEL garden in Five Points – and why this was the only neighborhood I could see opening it in – was because of its diverse makeup. I love that I can always recommend a customer go into Vestique for something affordable, or if they want something a little dressier or some designer denim, across the street to Copper Penny. That’s the great thing about being in Five Points: there are so many diverse businesses working together and bringing diverse clientele, and everyone can enjoy what’s down here.

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