Wealthy At Charles

November 14, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Wealthy At Charles is a very good name for a new urban home and garden shop, especially with the store located just a few steps from Charles Avenue at 738 Wealthy St. SE.

But for owners Len Beardsley and Michael Schimpf, they'll probably be more than happy if their new venture turns out to be "break even at Charles."

"We had a couple of legal pads full of names. Some were very nice and poetic, very Robert Frost," said Beardsley, whose sister supplied the store's winning name from her home in California.

"It stuck, it seemed to work. We tried other cross streets to see how they sounded and those didn't ring the same. We have a new inside joke: that we hope we just break even at Charles," he said with a hearty laugh.

Wealthy At Charles deliberately opened for business without any fanfare last month, a move known in retail as a soft opening. But a flashier grand opening is being planned for early next year.

"It kind of gave us a chance to get our feet wet and make sure we had all our ducks in a row," said Beardsley of the quiet October debut.

"Truthfully, business has been good," he added.

The home portion of the shop is open and stocked with plenty of accents, including unusual glassware and vases, pottery, throws, pillows and leather rugs. The shop also sells fresh flowers, which Beardsley said adds a bit of European flair to the store.

"My partner has been in the retail business, and for the last 17 years he has been in commercial floral design. He did a lot of the floral design and production work for places like Target and Meijer," Beardsley said of Schimpf.

"We're featuring the grab-and-go bouquets and stemware and it's being well received — and it's been a nice surprise for people. We can show them how to use the flowers with the vases so they can leave with both in hand and really get into the gratification. We've already got regulars."

Beardsley has a background in renovation work, having restored a trio of houses in the Heritage Hill neighborhood. A chance to use those restoration talents on the store's building was partly why he chose to join his close friend Schimpf in opening Wealthy At Charles. He left his position as director of radiation oncology at Spectrum Health to make that move.

"Customer service ranks high in a hospital setting, as one of our constant goals was to make sure our patients were well taken care of. So the transition, in one way, has been pretty easy for me —  different circumstances, of course. But getting to learn the retail end has been pretty new to me," he said.

"I was a little reluctant thinking that I was going to make my living selling things to people, as opposed to taking care of people. But in just these few short weeks, I can see it's very enjoyable to see people find the perfect gift for someone."

Wealthy At Charles is part of the growing Wealthy Street Business District and is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. If those hours don't fit someone's schedule, a customer can call for a private appointment on Mondays.

"We've already had call-in requests from people who have been in our store, and already I kind of feel that this is their store," said Beardsley. "It's really been nice for being open such a short time. It's a good feeling. We really are, I guess, a neighborhood store."    

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