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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Whimsical Provisions for the Soul: The Bag Lady Celebrates 20 Years

Apr 30, 2015 01:22PM
by Lisa Moore1126208_orig

The Bag Lady is known as a one-stop shop for all things metaphysical. Offering carefully selected products to inspire creativity, spirituality, hilarity and random enchantment, this eclectic store has evolved for two decades as a haven for people seeking to expand their consciousness. The store’s mission statement is “to celebrate, nurture and affirm all regardless of age, size, sex, shape, color, astrological sign, political preference or economic status.”

Original proprietress Hope Swann opened The Bag Lady on Selwyn Avenue in 1995, as a store by, for and about women. She chose the name The Bag Lady as an opportunity to take a traditional negative stereotype of women and turn it into a symbol of a strong, independent woman who could take care of herself in the world, having all the tools she needed to survive at her disposal and all of the supplies she needed for her spiritual journey.

Swann originally sold quality handmade canvas bags of all shapes and sizes as well as books and jewelry. But the bags didn’t sell as well as the books and jewelry so they became less of the store’s inventory. She only ordered products from women-owned businesses, and the books in the store were divided into sections by age bracket as Maiden, Mother or Crone. Swann sold the store in 2003 to Teri Hawk who moved it to its present location in Dilworth.


In 2010, Karen Coffin bought the store and his since focused on building a community and branching out to all seekers. In a modernized context, the website says the name “Bag Lady” has been “redefined and reclaimed as a strong resourceful woman who travels lightly and carries with her what she needs: her favorite books, her power objects, things to beautify her surroundings or make her feel pampered. She is a woman who is not afraid to take risks, who stands her ground, who relies on her inner strengths (intuition, intention, wit, creativity, and compassion) to travel within herself and out in the world. She is a maiden, a mother, a crone. She is a Wild Woman.”

Despite the focus on women, Coffin says there are likely to be as many men as women in the store today, looking for an array of interesting items, educational classes or readings.

“We seek to provide supplies for your spiritual journey in the form of information from books, workshops and guidance, or a token to wear around your neck and one to carry in your pocket, or maybe meditation cushions, incense and a candle to help light your spiritual path.”

6187276_orig 5539288_orig 449983_orig 7651223_origCustomers can peruse a variety of books, jewelry, stones, incense and sage, candles, meditation cushions, drums, statuary, local art, essential oils, and, of course, some bags. There are also events every month – full and new moon circles, talks on spirituality or energy work, shamanic drum circles, book signings and more. Most days there is an intuitive reader available to provide spiritual guidance should one need it.

Coffin strives to buy fair trade items and tries to support as many women-owned businesses as she can. Many products come from customer recommendations and she travels to gift, book and stone trade shows around the country to find new vendors. Some of The Bag Lady’s products are by local artists and Coffin sells local art, books and jewelry on consignment to get their work out to a larger audience. And she finds ways to give back as to the community.

“We have supported the Shelter for Battered Women for all of the years we have been open. We once had an art show and sale to raise awareness of the first performance of The Vagina Monologues in Charlotte, the proceeds of which went to the shelter. It was scandalous at the time. We have held fundraisers for other things over the years, but the shelter is our main focus,” says Coffin.

At the core, Coffin is in alignment with the founding premise of The Bag Lady - to be dedicated to the spiritual evolution of women. She remains open to all possibilities to expand the ability to provide resources both as an independent bookstore and as a community center.

“In the 20 years that The Bag Lady has been open, it has gone through many changes, but at the heart of the business it has always been about providing a safe place for women to come and take a deep breath and smell all the aromatherapy and feel all their feelings.

We keep a box of tissues and emergency chocolate at the counter. We have had women come through our doors in the midst of real crisis, looking for help through the Shelter for Battered Women, whom we have supported for 20 years with our donation jar and fundraisers, because they just needed a safe place where they could get help. That is our greatest goal, to be that safe place, no matter who you are or what you believe. We are all in this together, doing our best to support one another.”

The Bag Lady is located at 1710 Kenilworth Avenue, Suite 200. For more information visit or call 704-338-9778.

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