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This article was published 18/1/2019 (729 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Since founding Charlie’s Charmed Creations, a fashion accessory business specializing in wooden bow ties, earrings and cufflinks, married couple Eddie and Ryan Mendoza have grown accustomed to people approaching them at whatever pop-up market or sale they’re peddling their wares at and remarking, "So, which one of you is Charlie?"
By now, Eddie, a born-and-bred Winnipegger, and Ryan, a native of Mississauga, both happily answer to Charlie. Truthfully, their enterprise, recently abbreviated to Charlie’s Charmed, is named for their pooch, an eight-year-old female Havanese they describe almost in unison as "a true diva, if ever there was one."
"In October 2016, when we were trying to get into our very first craft show, there was a line on the application form marked ‘business name,’" Ryan explains, seated next to Eddie in a McPhillips Street coffee shop minutes away from their Garden City home. "We didn’t have (a name) yet and while we were sitting on the couch tossing things back and forth, wondering what would go good with Charmed Creations, one of our ideas, Charlie entered the room. Eddie looked at her and was like, ‘What about Charlie’s Charmed Creations?’ ‘Perfect,’ I said."
Ever since they tied the knot seven years ago, Eddie and Ryan, who met in Toronto in 2003, have made a point of giving each other traditional gifts on their wedding anniversary, such as belts for their third anniversary, regarded as the leather anniversary, and duvets for their fourth, often dubbed the linen anniversary. In April 2016, they attended a fundraising event in support of the Rainbow Resource Centre. At some point during the evening, Ryan spied a person sporting a wooden bow tie. With their fifth anniversary, the so-called wood anniversary, right around the corner, Ryan suddenly knew what he wanted to get his partner. He asked the fellow where he bought his tie, only to be told it was from a shop in Italy. Since he wasn’t planning on travelling to Europe any time soon, he figured his next best option would be to make one himself.
Constructed out of white cedar stained chocolate brown and coupled with vintage grey fabric for the neckstrap and centre piece, Ryan’s gift was an immediate hit; so much so that when Eddie, a financial supervisor in his "real life," wore it to the office, his co-workers said he and Ryan should consider going into the "bow tie biz."
"It’s funny looking back, because in the days leading up to our first sale, which was held at CanadInns’ Polo Park location, we were completely terrified," Eddie says, replying "absolutely" when asked if the raw edge stud earrings he’s wearing are their own design. "Because we were so green to the whole craft show world, we were afraid we wouldn’t even sell enough ties to cover our table costs. Luckily, we were situated between two other makers — Maegan Clerihew from Salvaged and Corey Golian from the Bearded Lady — who were super experienced. They took an interest in us right away, gave us some tips and kind of took us under their wing, to the point that we still bounce ideas off them to this day."
What sets their products apart from their competitors’ is their dedication to pairing the right fabric with the right piece of wood, they contend. For their "true vintage" line, for example, they spent umpteen hours combing the city in search of designer neckties manufactured in the 1960s and ‘70s by top fashion houses such as Christian Dior and Oscar de la Renta, which, as soon as they brought the cravats home, they proceeded to "deconstruct, then upcycle."
"When Mitchell (Fabrics) announced they were closing in early 2017, we ran down there and bought a ton of stuff," Eddie says, replying, "It’s easy when you’re married to Martha Stewart," when asked where their creative side stems from. "It’s not like we’re getting paid to shop — I mean, we recently did a custom order for a wedding party that involved searching high and low for merlot-coloured cloth that matched the bridesmaids’ dresses — but it is an opportunity for us to spend quality time together, and we always do our best to try and make our outings fun."
At present, Charlie’s Charmed products are available in a handful of retail spots in Winnipeg, including Generation Green, 433 Main St., the Haberdashery, 84 Albert St., and Pink Moon Handmade Boutique, 296 McDermot Ave., as well as two locations outside the city, Inspire Studio in Minnedosa and It’s Charlow, Darling! in Brandon.
"It was a bit of a balancing act at first, managing our time in order to properly stock the stores," Eddie says, noting they’ve added at least one new item to their line every six months since that initial craft show. "We’re still a young business and would never want to say no, but for sure, there have been nights when we’ve been like, ‘Jeez, I guess we better get back to work, then,’ when we’re relaxing, watching TV, and get a message along the lines of, ‘hey boys, we’re out of stock; how long until you can drop off 20 more (lapel) pins and 40 more pocket squares?’" (When pressed what their secret is to preserving a successful marriage while working together side-by-side, Ryan says, "Early on we learned as long as we shut things down by 9:30 (p.m.) or so, we’re good. Anything past 10 and yeah, you’ll usually find us fighting.")
Besides supplying retailers, Eddie and Ryan have also developed custom bow ties for a number of organizations, including Pride Winnipeg, Folklorama and the 2017 Canada Summer Games. Last June, when three members of the Winnipeg Jets — captain Blake Wheeler, goalie Connor Hellebuyck and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff — were finalists for the National Hockey League’s annual awards ceremony, they dropped off grey-stained bow ties finished with aviator-blue fabric to True North Sports & Entertainments’ downtown office, for the three to wear during their time in Las Vegas.
Also, because their venture is named for their pet, they recently donated a percentage of their regular sales to Wounded Warriors Canada’s service dog program, which trains dogs to assist veterans living with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
By the way, if you were on the North Main-Corydon bus a couple weeks ago and felt a pair of eyes boring into the back of your head, no worries, that was probably just Eddie.
"I was coming home from work the other day when I spotted the person seated directly in front scrolling through our Instagram page on his phone. I was like, this is so, so neat while at the same time telling myself, OK, maintain your cool, don’t do anything weird," says Eddie, pointing out they’ve filled orders from as far away as Nigeria, India and Australia through their website www.charliescharmed.com.
"He was holding his phone where I could see it the entire time, so I could clearly spot which posts of ours he was looking at. As curious as I was, after a few minutes I convinced myself to go back to my book, mostly to stop myself from doing something incredibly creepy like poking him in the back and screaming, ‘Hey, that’s our stuff you’re looking at!’"
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.