Over twenty years ago, Robben Richards approached her father with an idea. Robben would open a store carrying only organic cotton (before organic cotton became cool) and bring exquisitely made textiles to Charleston. Her father, who spent his career working in Manhattan’s Garment District, told her, “I think that would be worthwhile.” And a Charleston institution was born.
Worthwhile, nestled between Wentworth Street and Hasell Street in the nineteenth century McIntosh Seed House, opened its doors in 1993. It is now the only remaining local business on its block. That is all thanks and testament to Robben, its founder, owner, and visionary. When asked how Worthwhile has survived so beautifully over the years, especially on an ever-changing King Street, Robben put it simply: “Stick to your vision.” True to her word, Robben has never strayed from her original dream for Worthwhile. She has been clothing and inspiring Charlestonians ever since.
With a background in textiles and an MFA in Fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Robben prides herself on the quality of Worthwhile’s textiles, which sets it apart from other brick and mortar stores. She chooses to work with smaller designers with in-house production, further distinguishing Worthwhile from its peers. Robben has worked with some of her designers ever since she opened up shop, yet she’s always on the lookout for up-and-comers who complement Worthwhile’s overall aesthetic.
Robben believes shopping should still be special. In a world of ease and instant gratification, the act of shopping has become somewhat of a chore. Robben still believes in the magic. She wants to make shopping an immersive, enjoyable experience for her customers, and she wants to do so on her own terms. Her unique style and her passion for thoughtfully made products breathes life into her store and into King Street. Even after all this time, she marvels at the work she gets to do. “It still excites me,” she says, “I’m still 100 percent in love with what I do.”
Words by Ann deSaussure
Photo by Landon Neil Phillips, The Royal Wild