Patterson creates a new space for community


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Jun 12, 2023

Patterson creates a new space for community

Outdoor spaces and vibrant colors rule artist and coffee shop owner Candace

Outdoor spaces and vibrant colors rule artist and coffee shop owner Candace Patterson's downtown home near Hampton Park. Guests are greeted by a bright blue facade and a large wraparound porch decked out with large hanging ferns, comfortable macrame hammock chairs and an outdoor table.

Enter the backyard to discover more luscious greenery (unique cacti, a young fig tree), a large patio area with tiles hand painted by Patterson and her husband Will, and, perhaps the star of the backyard, an outdoor shower and clawfoot bathtub.

"We’re pretty much outside all of the time," she said. "I love to eat outside — alfresco dining. It doesn't matter if it's 100 degrees. … What I love about the backyard is it's kind of like a secret. It's hard to see from the street."

The Pattersons’ home, and particularly the backyard, didn't always look as magical and inviting. When the couple purchased the house in 2013, Candace Patterson said the backyard was quite literally a swamp. Over the next decade, she and Will converted their home from a fixer-upper into a funky little oasis.

"It needed a lot of love," she said. "The house had good bones, but it hadn't been occupied in a few years. The backyard was a jungle, just overgrown. Honestly, it's taken 10 years for it to get to this point."

Patterson and her husband's personalities shine through inside the home as well. The living room features what she calls the "small art wall." The collection is large, but each piece, mostly created by local artists, is small. In fact, the collection has grown so much, Patterson said, that she swaps out which pieces are on display as there isn't room for each one.

The couple's own artwork, which they created together under the moniker Dos Bandidos (also known as Two Bandits), is also featured in the home alongside bright walls and decor. Their home studio they built in the backyard houses their art supplies and gives them a space to create together.

"We started making art together because we just realized it was one of our love languages," Patterson said. "We’re always talking about new print ideas, so we just decided we were better together, and we should come up with a team name instead of trying to put two different names on everything."

They create screen prints of Charleston-centric scenes: iconic locations like the American Theater, classic Charleston single houses, popular haunts such as The Royal American and everyday scenes of people surfing or driving down the road on a starry night.

"Digital and analog really appeal to us," Patterson said. "Everything starts off as a pen-and-ink drawing, and then we build out layers on the computer and Illustrator, so it's really both. Once you print it out and you’re mixing colors, everything is pulled by hand. It feels really satisfying."

You can find their prints in "pretty much every Airbnb in town," Patterson said, as well as on their website and The Station in Park Circle.

Patterson and her business partner, Gregg Lambton-Carr, are gearing up to start construction on City Lights Eastside, a revitalized version of the beloved City Lights Coffee Shop that lived on Market Street for 15 years. They aim to open the new shop in October.

The new space on Line Street will be twice the size of the old shop at 1,000 square feet, Patterson said, but many elements will remain the same — like the bar from the previous location and the distinctive tin ceiling designs.

"The tin ceiling [from the original location] design came from a 1932 school house, so American Tin still has the plate — it's a sunflower — so we’re putting that back in, and we’re going to have the bench seat like we had before."

The newest addition will be a kitchen and an outdoor patio with five tables and a bike rack. Patterson said she’ll take charge of front-of-house duties while Lambton-Carr will manage the back-of-house.

"Gregg is South African, and he was a chef for a long time in South Africa, so I’m pushing him to put a lot of Cape Malay influence into our menu," she said. "We’ll still have traditional coffee shop things, like pastries and maybe acai bowls, but then we’ll have some curries and hand pies."

The menu will include vegan, vegetarian and meat options.

For Patterson, the new shop represents a major milestone. She moved to Charleston in 2008 and after a short stint at a nonprofit, she found a job at the original City Lights and started making art on the side. Over time, she transitioned from employee to co-owner. She and Lambton-Carr set their sights on opening a different location after the pandemic.

"Gregg and I were really just craving to be a neighborhood coffee shop," she said.

Over the 15 years City Lights was on Market Street, Patterson said the demographic shifted from serving mostly locals to tourists.

"[Locals] would bike down because there weren't a lot of coffee shops, so people would bike over from different neighborhoods, and I really saw it change. We have a lot of diehard locals, but it was no longer the neighborhood coffee shop it used to be."

The new location on the Eastside has a storied history. It was last commercially occupied as a pool hall in 1993. But Patterson said one of her residential neighbors remembers frequenting the location in the 1950s when it was a grocery store.

After 15 years of living in Charleston, Patterson is familiar with the city's ever-changing landscape.

"Change is inevitable," she said, "and some of it stresses me out. Some of it, I can't do anything about. I have mixed feelings. I like some of the changes, and a lot of it is painful to watch. I’m just trying to support the awesome places that have Charleston's best interest in mind."

Age: 41.

Birthplace: Chapel Hill, N.C.

Education: Bachelor's degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Current profession: Artist, freelancer, coffee shop owner.

Pets: Two cats – Jasper, 10, and Mia, 11.

Something people would be surprised to learn about you: "I was part of a 1990s hip-hop dance troupe in college. We typically opened for our friend's drag troupe called the CUNTry Kings."

Favorite thing to do outside of work: Surf, garden, create, ride my bike.

Your passion: Having an inclusive community coffee shop that is a third place for people.

Books on bedside table: Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon.

Favorite food to eat: Vegan Dan Dan Mian from Kwei Fei.

Favorite food to cook: Chana Masala.

Favorite cocktail or beverage: Orange wine.

Five foods you always need in your refrigerator: Kimchi, arugula, olives, tofu, 30 hot sauces.

Three people (alive or dead) you’d like to dine with: Dolly Parton, Billie Holiday and Frida Kahlo.

What meal would you want served to you for your last supper: Klao Niaw with green papaya salad and vegetarian Laap. Obviously, I LOVE Laotian food.

Something that you have too much of at home: Hot sauce.

Hobbies: Surfing, home projects.

Favorite musicians: Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, Kim Gordon and Patti Smith.

Describe your best day in 50 words or less: My best day starts with waking up for a sunrise surf, and then heading back home to take an outdoor shower in my backyard. After that, I want to sit in my towel in my backyard and slowly drink coffee and listen to music.

Childhood hero: Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill.

Your advice for better living: Get outside as much as possible.

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Artistic endeavors Next chapter: City Lights Eastside THE LOWDOWN ON CANDACE PATTERSON Age: Birthplace: Education: Current profession: Pets: Something people would be surprised to learn about you: Favorite thing to do outside of work: Your passion: Books on bedside table: Favorite food to eat: Favorite food to cook: Favorite cocktail or beverage: Five foods you always need in your refrigerator: Three people (alive or dead) you’d like to dine with: What meal would you want served to you for your last supper: Something that you have too much of at home: Hobbies: Favorite musicians: Describe your best day in 50 words or less: Childhood hero: Your advice for better living: Love Best of Charleston?