Charlie Chanaratsopon was not trying to start a fashion retail empire when he founded Charming Charlie in 2004. The first-generation Thai-American was working on developing and investing in shopping centers in and around Houston and started the fashion accessories retailer, which now has over 350 stores, as a way to keep retail space filled.
It nearly folded in its first few months, but Chanaratsopon decided to keep it open an extra few weeks, and in that time its popularity with suburban moms exploded. The discount retailer expanded furiously amid the Great Recession, as Charlie Chanaratsopon and Hancock Park Associates, a private equity firm that came on board in 2007, convinced worried landlords to give them favorable lease terms. — Scott Klocksin