In Vancouver in 1986, Al Charania felt that everything was disposable. The 1986 World Expo was in full swing, and the products Charania came across were made quickly and poorly. Vancouver didn’t have much time or respect for the finer things, it seemed, and it was hard to find legacy brand goods for day-to-day use. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Charania decided to open Charals. “It had a lot to do with things that I loved but couldn’t find,” he says. “We sold a lot of gadgets initially, but the twist was that everything was really well made.”
Charals, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary, began as a gift shop—that, due to the Expo construction strike, was forced to open on Charania’s wedding day in August 1986—and has since flourished into a luxury goods and accessories boutique. Carrying brands that are hundreds of years old such as Montblanc, Cartier, and Montegrappa, as well as younger names including United by Blue, Charals has established itself as a haven for those with the most refined of tastes. “I always try to find products and companies that I believe in and respect,” Charania says. “I look for the best value for the best product, but I also try to work with companies that have integrity both in how they make their products and how they give back to the world.”
The intended slow, appreciative use of these investment pieces is echoed in the customer’s buying process. Charania welcomes each budding calligrapher into the world of luxury pens with a scratch pad to practice on and advice for choosing one’s first instrument. Far from online shopping, the true charm of Charals comes from spending time in the store, feeling the weight of each finely crafted Forge de Laguiole rosewood corkscrew, and learning to unwind and care for each pristine safety razor. Though the response to beautiful goods is often to lock them away where they can’t be harmed or lost—like fine porcelain in a cabinet—Charania insists that these pieces be used, and with the intention of enjoyment. In a world that continues to speed up, Charals asks us to find pleasure in leisure.