Page 1


January 2021





At Home with


Ruta Smith

a Charleston City Paper publication

Volume 1, Number 6

Jan. 13, 2021


Kylon Middleton’s ready to zoom into action on council BY ANDY BRACK

.......... 13


Why buying local is a key for a Park Circle business BY LAUREN KESMODEL

.......... 15


Properties for sale and rentals in your area

.......... 17


How to get your winterized houseplants to flourish BY TONI REALE

SONITROL 59 City Paper 4.687x5.307 4C.indd 1

7/23/20 9:08 AM

.......... 18

Digs, our monthly home-focused publication, connects the people who make the Lowcountry special with content they’ve been missing. Digs gets up close and personal with stories on local personalities, home design and remodeling, plants and gardening, home repair and real estate. To learn more about advertising opportunities offered through Digs, contact our advertising team at (843) 577-5304 or send an email to: sales@charlestoncitypaper.com. Dig it!



Sam Spence


Lauren Kesmodel Ruta Smith


Published by City Paper Publishing, LLC Members: J. Edward Bell | Andrew C. Brack

Views expressed in Charleston City Paper cover the spectrum and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. Charleston City Paper takes no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts. © 2021. All content is copyrighted and the property of City Paper Publishing, LLC. Material may not be reproduced without permission. Proud member of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and the South Carolina Press Association.






For staff email addresses, visit us online.

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Sales Director: Cris Temples Account team: Hollie Anderson, Kristin Byars, Ashley Frantz, Lauren Kesmodel, Melissa Veal National ad sales: VMG Advertising More info: charlestoncitypaper.com

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P.O. Box 21942, Charleston, SC 29413 • (843) 577-5304 • charlestoncitypaper.com


Sponsored by

Middleton’s ready to zoom into action on council BY ANDY BRACK

Seven. That’s how many college degrees 47-year-old Kylon Middleton has earned. But now that he has joined Charleston County Council, it’s enough. It’s time to act. “I’m used to being of service to the community, but it’s broader now,” he said. Middleton, a Charleston native who grew up in Radcliffeborough, earned a bachelor’s degree in English and communications from the College of Charleston. Then as he taught school, served as a principal in North Carolina and pastored churches, he got three master’s degrees — in divinity at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia, in theology at Duke University and in administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There also are the doctorates in theology from Duke and education from UNC, plus an Ed.S., an Educational Specialist licensure from UNC. Whew. That’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. Middleton, senior pastor at Mount Zion African Methodist Church on Glebe Street adjacent to his first college alma mater, won election to council in November by garnering 13,554 votes in his West Ashley-North Charleston district — almost 10% more than his closest challenger. His first bid for elective office likely was made easier because of leadership activities in recent years with the Charleston Illumination Project, which seeks to strengthen relationships between police and area citizens. He got involved after the 2015 slaying at Emanuel AME Church of nine people, including his best friend, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator.

As a pastor, Middleton spends time in meetings, public and private. He talks with lots of people. And he works on issues that need to be resolved, such as a long-awaited $2 million renovation, restoration and expansion at his church. As a member of council, he’ll have public meetings, policies to resolve and constituents in a district to serve. “That does not differ much from what I do as a pastor,” he said, fully recognizing that taking on a new role will take more time. But he’s gotten used to it in a months-long campaign during a pandemic. In doing so, he’s become a master of Zoom. “The depth of service is no different than how I’ve served my continued on page 14

DIGS | charlestoncitypaper.com

Life will change some, but not lots

Middleton has master’s degrees in divinity, theology and administration. Ruta Smith




continued from page 13

church, my community and schools,” he said. These days, Middleton spends a lot of time in virtual meetings, services and more from his distanced control room — a home office in a comfortable West Ashley townhouse. And interestingly, he kind of likes it because he says he’s really an introvert — even though his warm smile and open manner warm a room like the best extroverted politicians.

Age: 47. Birthplace: Charleston, S.C. Education: B.A., English and Communications, College of Charleston; M.Div., Lutheran Theological Seminary; Th.M., Ph.D., Duke University; M.S. Administration, Ed.S., Ed.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A typical day


Middleton gets up early, really early. He arrives at a West Ashley gym by 5 a.m. every day but Sunday. He lifts weights, a repetitive toil that he says is relaxing. Then after cooling down, showering and getting breakfast, he’ll do personal reading before starting church work. During the campaign, election work was interspersed throughout the day, much of which is spent on Zoom calls, he said. Middleton’s weekly schedule is ferocious. On Tuesdays, he co-leads a book discussion group with members of neighboring Grace Church Cathedral, which is immediately followed by a Tuesday evening virtual church service for Mount Zion worshippers. On Thursdays, there is a Bible study. Friday mornings feature a virtual prayer call. And Sunday mornings, there is the regular church service, all via Zoom, although some are aired from the church. During the typical week, Middleton says he interacts with up to 2,000 viewers, although some of them attend more than one service. He’s had participants from all over the country and as far away as Switzerland. “It has worn me thin, but it has kept them engaged,” Middleton said. During the pandemic, the church reaches more people than the 300+ pledging members it has because the church’s leadership team, which includes three assistant pastors, works hard to engage people in the virtual experience. “It [the pandemic] has reset the ministry and ministry opportunities in ways that we may not have thought about.” He later added, “The elimination of in-person worship affected me because all of my training centered around the community of faith gathering in-person. It immediately caused me to pivot and depend solely on God for direction to lead my congregation. “Our historic Mount Zion AME Church is undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration, renovation and expansion to position us for service to the community for years to come,” Middleton said. “We are not just surviving. We are thriving in the city of Charleston.”


His friend Clem After Middleton earned his theology degree in Columbia, he and his family moved to North Carolina, where he pastored while teaching and then serving as a high school principal. In 2006, while still working in the Tar Heel State, he was assigned to pastor a church in Georgetown, which meant a lot of time on the road on weekends. After the massacre at Emanuel AME Church, Middleton, who had retired from his education career, was in Charleston a lot to help the family of

Current profession: Pastor; member of Charleston County Council. Family: Son, Kylon Joshua; Mother, Vertelle M. Middleton; Father (Deceased), James; Sister, Jamela Middleton-Wintons. Favorite beverage: A refreshing glass of water. Photos by Ruta Smith

Middleton interacts with up to 2,000 viewers each week from his home via Zoom.

Something people would be surprised to learn about you: I am an avid weightlifter. Another thing people would find surprising about you: I am an introvert and a loner. Favorite holiday tradition: In normal times, taking the younger members of the family to the movies after Thanksgiving dinner. Books on bedside table: The Bible, Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste and an anthology of African American poems. Favorite movie: The Pursuit of Happyness.

Pinckney, who he met as a boy at AME conferences around the state. “We were driven to each other by our funny names,” Middleton laughed. Eventually, Middleton was transferred to Mount Zion AME since, as he noted, he was spending so much time here, anyway. The following year, he helped start the Charleston Illumination Project.

Winding down at home Middleton says he’s trying to relax more at home. How? By vegging out in front of the television watching classic comedy shows or sporting events. He’ll cook some food, watch the news, take long walks and occasionally ride his bike. And, he’ll read the Bible and other books to help inform the words he shares throughout the week with members of his church. During the holidays, he also spent time with his son, a 24-year-old graduate student at East Carolina University. Now with his new job on council, he said he would work hard to balance his church and elected responsibilities. He knows there will be more meetings, as well as interactions with constituents. But he’ll manage them — and engage with constituents in new ways to help build the community. He’s ready to get down to work — ready to provide the moral leadership he campaigned on to win the seat on county council.

Favorite musicians: James Cleveland, Ike Turner, Etta James, Darius Rucker. Favorite new music: Ranky Tanky. Favorite food: Savory, vegan macaroni and cheese. Three people (alive or dead) you’d like to dine with: A. Philip Randolph, Fannie Lou Hamer and Angelina Grimke. Favorite comedian: Jerry Seinfeld. Describe your best day in 50 words or less: My best day is a day where I have given my best in serving others: my family, parishioners, constituents and fellow citizens. It is a very good day when I have helped others in such a way that their lives are better and our community is stronger. Pet peeve: Be on time. Quote: “If I can help somebody as I travel along, then my living would not be in vain.” Philosophy: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Advice for someone seeking fulfillment: Be yourself; you can’t please everybody; do what’s right and everything else will fall in place.


Sponsored by

Park Circle has grown and evolved over the years into an innovative and creative neighborhood.

Andy Brack

Why buying local is key for Park Circle business North Charleston’s Park Circle is known for its charming eateries, growing beer scene, eclectic personality and affordable living without peninsula prices.

“In my own case, I’ve been able to employ neighbors. If we weren’t here, there would be four fewer jobs in Park Circle,” he said.

But for local Park Circle businesses and residents, it’s much more than a hip spot to live or grab a bite to eat. It’s a neighborhood filled with passionate entrepreneurs who are driven to bringing a different, hyper-local perspective to the status quo. “When I think about who lives in the neighborhood, I think of the creatives. Chefs, artists,” said Steven Ortego, owner of home furnishings shop Iola Modern. “Here, they can stand out a bit bolder. Since [the neighborhood is] so different and unique, they can explain why they’re different and people listen.” The neighborhood is innovative and

“Pat yourself on the back” when you shop locally

creative. Local businesses help to give the area its fun, quirky edge. Ortego has seen the neighborhood evolve over the last four years that he’s operated Iola Modern. “A lot of the development that has happened has been very thoughtful,” he said. “There have been many people who have done a good job at creating adaptive reused spaces.” For Park Circle, it’s not only the businesses themselves, but also the people behind the businesses that make the community so unique. For Park Circle businesses, “buy local” is more than a buzzworthy mantra, it means livelihood.

Lowcountry Local First’s Jordan Amaker said shoppers who buy through local small businesses allow local money to recirculate three times more than dollars spent at national businesses or chain stores. “Beyond the qualitative impact that supporting your neighborhood businesses has, there is an enormous economic impact happening behind the


Iola Modern owner Steven Ortego believes the personal touch and curation of products is what sets local businesses apart from continued on page 16 online shops.

DIGS | charlestoncitypaper.com



Circle continued from page 15


Celebrating Charleston Families Since 1996

scenes,” she said. “Pat yourself on the back every time you make a conscious choice to spend with a local business because you’re not only supporting that business owners’ livelihood and family, but your dollar is likely also being passed along to a local marketing firm, bookkeeper, web designer and other service providers that support that business. It goes on and on.” Ortego agreed. “Supporting these local businesses not only gives these shop owners and their employees a way to continue working, but it also pumps money back into the community,” he said. In the days of the extreme convenience of online shopping and shipping straight to home, many may wonder why they would choose to support local. The answer is simple: While prices and convenience are certainly attractive online, the personal touch and curation of products is truly what sets these businesses apart. Customers get direct access to experts in stores, helping them to make the best decisions possible when investing on furnishings.


The personal touch


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Online shopping doesn’t give people the expertise of a local team or a setting where they can see and experience retail items like furniture. “When they come to my store they get magic, experience and passion,” Ortego said. During the pandemic, people have been spending more time at home, causing them to realize they need a little magic to make their spaces better. “People were really thinking about how

Photos provided

Iola Modern aims to help people add a little magic to their homes. they lived in their homes,” he said. Other businesses in Park Circle saw changes, from offering more takeout food to filling consumer requests for more American-made products. With shipping delays and travel restrictions in 2020, many consumers enjoyed the idea of not only purchasing domestically, but also enjoying their products much sooner than imported goods. After having enjoyed designing for a few local businesses, such as Orange Spot Coffee, Fast and French’s patio and the Harbour Club’s rooftop deck, Ortego said he looked forward to the coming year’s possibilities. “We’re excited for all sorts of different [design] projects. This year we’re working on the peninsula, Kiawah and in Park Circle.”


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DIGS | charlestoncitypaper.com

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Don’t over-do it: plants need less water during the winter.

Get your winterized houseplants to flourish BY TONI REALE, ROADSIDE BLOOMS January is the time of year that South Carolina plant lovers often wonder whether they brought cold-sensitive houseplants in too late for the winter — particularly if a collection looks a bit dry, has a few curled leaves and hasn’t had signs of new growth in weeks. So here’s a bit of relief: Your plants are just fine. They’ve just gone dormant and, with a little overwinter care, they will flourish once again come spring. According to the University of Georgia Extension Service, our indoor plant friends, like most of us, feel their best when temperatures average 65 degrees to 75 degrees during Reale the day and above 50 degrees at night. Plants sense changes in the seasons, not only by temperature, but also by the amount and intensity of sunlight. In the winter, these changes signal to the plant that it’s time to enter its natural state of dormancy.


WINTER SIGNALS SURVIVAL MODE Plants’ yearly dormancy cycles are comparable to bears going into their light form of hibernation called torpor. During the winter when food is scarce and resources are limited, bears go into a light sleep state to conserve energy and avoid harsh conditions. According to an article published by the National Forest Foundation, Bears lose weight during this time and can go up to 100 days without food, water or passing waste. Plant behavior during dormancy is also about surviving and resting during the winter to regrow in the spring. They conserve energy by dropping a few leaves and by taking up less water. Don’t be fooled, however, because the energy they save by not putting out new leaf growth is going into nurturing and growing roots.


SET YOUR PLANTS UP FOR SUCCESS There are lots of things as a plant parent that you can do to support your indoor plants during dormancy. First and foremost, set them up for success with where you place them in your home. Avoid both drafty places where cold air can come in. Steer them away from air vents where the heat in your house might dry them out. Pick a sunny spot in your home by studying the light for a couple days and noticing what spot gets the most consistent sun all day. With less intense and shorter hours of sunlight, you may want to choose a south- or west-facing window as the experts at The Spruce suggest.

Olive & Co.

Another tip: Turn your plants from time to time to ensure even growth.

DON’T OVERWATER IN THE WINTER Although it may seem counterintuitive with drier conditions, your plants actually need less water during the winter. As mentioned in an earlier article, watering your plants on a schedule doesn’t serve them well. Rather, stick a finger about 1-1.5 inches into the soil and water when that depth is dry. Or try bottom watering. If your pots are on a tray, add water to the tray and the roots will soak up what they need. Note it could take a day for the roots to soak up the water. Be careful not to overdo any watering because this could lead to root rot, which will surely kill your plant over winter. HUMIDITY IS KEY Indoor plants thrive with high humidity which is scarce in our indoor environments during the winter. At the very least, you can place your closer plants together so that they can perhaps create a more humid microclimate, The Spruce said. It also suggests using a bathroom for a great spot for plants, provided it has good light. If you really love your plants and want them to succeed, get a humidifier and place it near a cluster of plants. Misting is also a kind thing to do for your plants, but the benefits are short-lived compared to a humidifier. SAVE THE POT If you received a pretty pot for the holidays, hold off on repotting your houseplants until the spring. And definitely do not fertilize your plants during this time.

You can always leave your plants in its plastic nursery pot and place it inside your new pot, taking the plant in and out to water. Both repotting and fertilizing during this time will send the wrong message to your plants. In fact, fertilizing can do more harm than good during dormancy said the editor of House Beautiful.

A LITTLE BIT OF HOUSEPLANT-KEEPING Winter is also a great time to dust your leaves on your plants. With a damp cloth or soft paper towel, gently wipe any accumulated dirt or dust off of the top and bottom of the leaves. When indoor plants go into dormancy, they are more prone to pests such as spider mites and mealybugs. Wiping the leaves not only ensures your plants look beautiful, but also helps mitigate pest problems. On the cellular level, wiping plants clears the surfaces of the leaves which is better for them in conditions with lower amounts of humidity and sunlight. CARE BUT NOT TOO MUCH This is a hard one for plant lovers. The best advice for your plants’ success over the winter is to care, but not too much. Don’t fuss too much. Be sure that their minimal conditions are met and it will all pay off in the spring when you see lots of new leaves emerging. Toni Reale is the owner of Roadside Blooms, a unique flower and plant shop in Park Circle in North Charleston. It specializes in weddings, events and everyday deliveries using nearly 100% Americanand locally grown blooms. Online at www.roadsideblooms.com. 4610 Spruill Ave., Suite 102, North Charleston.

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DIGS | charlestoncitypaper.com

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Profile for CharlestonCityPaper

Charleston City Paper: Digs - January 2021  

Founded in 1997, the locally owned and operated Charleston City Paper is Charleston’s only weekly alternative newspaper and the second-large...

Charleston City Paper: Digs - January 2021  

Founded in 1997, the locally owned and operated Charleston City Paper is Charleston’s only weekly alternative newspaper and the second-large...